30 June 2012

Starbucks and Pool with Isabel

The day after the Jazz night with the new friends was tough! After my 4 hour nap in the hostel common room I walked the couple of blocks to my new hostel.

Reception lady after I checked in: "Ok you are all set, here is your key, you will be in a 4 - bed room"

No worries. Grabbed my stuff, went upstairs, open my door...

I cannot calculate the amount of win here!
... and find that she has mistakenly given me a key for a 2 - bed room, win to the max! Better yet was that no one else checked into the room, so I had it for myself for the night! It, was, magical. After 11 weeks of living in hostels you can imagine my joy.

The next morning this dream life was shattered as some idiot in the room next to mine decided to chat loudly on his phone, thus waking me up. Are you kidding me! I tried my best to fall back to sleep but he stayed on the phone for ages... sigh. I pick up my phone to check my emails, only to discover it is 12.30 in the afternoon! Ha! Ok, I guess the guy isn't such an idiot after all. I had slept for 11 straight hours, yikes.

Went to my usual haunt of Starbucks to enjoy their sandwiches and search for jobs (wow it is terribly boring). Not long after, Isabel found me which was a very welcomed surprise as it is always great to have company. We hung out there for a couple of hours at least (Isabel is planning the next stage of her America trip), then she needed a new jacket so we went out shopping. For hours. As girls do I guess. Normally I hate shopping but with the right company I can definitely enjoy myself. It was a great day.

Then that night, a legendary memory was formed.

So back at my new temporary hostel they have a pool table. Isabel came over and we played for a while, despite her consistent claims that 'she is terrible' at the game, Yeah... that was a lie, she was clearly pretty good! It was a lot of fun.

Isabel taking a shot
She makes me laugh so much. While playing she often times barely even looks where she is hitting and doesn't take her time whatsoever, at one point she was talking to me as she was about to take her shot, and I swear her eyes were looking at me and not at the table, yet she still manages to sink them ha!

Mitch came to join us soon after (he was present at the hostel pub crawl the other night) so that was awesome, he is a really great guy so we had a good time. Not long after we start chatting to a guy at the hostel, Sergio (Bolivia), thus teams were formed!

It was pretty intense as Mitch is competitive thus wanted to win, a challenge I welcomed. Isabel and I were a team and won the first two games. The third game however, we were not going well in the slightest. Mitch was on fire sinking them with ease, while Isabel and I just couldn't make anything happen. It reached the point where Mitch and Sergio were on the Black ball, and Isabel and I still had 6 balls on the table... embarrassing.

It was my turn to hit. Sunk one. Sunk another. Cool. Sunk another. Three in a row, nice. Sunk another! Four in a row, I was on fire! With only two balls of ours left, I was single-handedly going to win thise game! Mitch and Sergio were nervous! Haha this is amazing!... and then I missed the next shot...


I just couldn't believe to be 6 balls down, to sink 4 in a row in what was some of my best playing of the night, to come so close to winning, to simply fail at the pivotal moment... I was pretty annoyed with myself. The remaining two were easy shots too which made it even worse.

Sergio stepped up to the table to take his shot at the Black ball in a very ideal position to take out the game... Isabel didn't really care if we won or lose, but I felt bad for failing her like I did... although these fears of losing were baseless however for Sergio somehow missed sinking the Black! Oh we couldn't believe it! Sergio was kicking himself! Mitch was already mid-way through the air to high five Sergio when he saw the Black ball miss by mere millimeters! Isabel and mine hearts were elated with hope!

Can we still take the game?

I had complete trust in Isabel. She lined up for her shot. She sinks the first! This is intense. A few nervous seconds later... she had sunk the second! We were now on the Black ball! If she sinks this, we have come back from behind for an incredible win.

Mitch and Sergio were statues while waiting for the next shot. The Black ball wasn't in the best of positions, but we had seen her complete similar shots in the past. At the time I wasn't too bothered if we won, mainly because I was just happy to be having some great times with some great new friends... but to come back like we had a win would have been damn nice too! I looked at Isabel's face, you couldn't see any stress showing at all. Impressive. She contemplated her options, placed the cue on her resting hand, hit the White ball and away it went... to be right on target and sink the Black ball for the win! We'd done it!

Now that was some great fun =D

My favourite part wasn't the winning, I much more enjoyed the fact that it was a team effort. For me to fail only to have Isabel have my back. Which yes I know I am talking about a game of pool here ha... but you get my point.

The rest of the night was rounded out with a few more games of pool, then a 2 hour long conversation between Sergio, Isabel and I about where the world is going wrong, why, and what should be done about it. Interesting stuff.

And that was another day in San Francisco.

27 June 2012

Jazz night with the new friends

As I discovered while chatting with Phil at Starbucks yesterday, he is extremely lucky because he can do his job from anywhere thus still gets an income while he is traveling, therefore has the luxury to get out of a hostel and into an apartment for a few months! Damn him. He just got accepted into a new apartment, and it turns out his new roommate is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G... he is like 40 and has turned his huge garage into a jazz bar that he hosts every Friday, getting local musicians to play, and throwing a BBQ while he is at it! Woah!

Phil promptly invited Isabel, Thiago (apparently I met him at the pub crawl the other night... I don't remember) and I over for the show. It was in a suburb called Berkeley (the same place that Berkeley University is), which is across the bay from San Francisco, about a fairly easy 30 minute train ride away. We'd never gone that far out of the city at night before, nor were we familiar with the neighbourhood, nor even knew precisely how to get home, but Phil said it was going to be epic so that was good enough for us.

And It. Was. Epic.

The bands were unreal! Seriously these guys were like professionals. I think most of the bands were simply students from the local Berkeley University, but wow, they absolutely rocked.

The music and atmosphere was amazing, a very cool place indeed
These guys had a xylophone! Brilliant!
Phil and Thiago watching intently... ha.
This jazz place has been named by its creator as 'Birdland'. The reason for this is easily apparent when you see that the walls of the garage are literally lined with rows and rows of birdhouses that this guy has created from scrap material over the years. There would have been easily over a 100 all around the garage and further out into the backyard... it was a little creepy...

You can see them on the wall in the photo above of Phil and Thiago, and you can see in the photos below of the backyard. Crazy. 

This could easily have been a screenshot from a horror film...
By this stage we'd already been listening to the bands for an hour or more, which easily flew by really. Afterwards we had a quick tour from Phil of the place (it was sweet) and finally it was time for food, yay! We were terribly starving... aww man, the food isn't ready! That sucks...

Isabel and I fought our way through the crowd to stand right next to the BBQ to be first in line, win! While waiting we had the most amazing conversation about all things; life, travel, dreams, jokes, people. I can't exactly remember all of it but I felt that she was pretty much on the exact same wavelength as I, something that was a very welcomed relief as it isn't too often that I meet someone who is! It was pretty amazing actually. And I remember at one point cracking up laughing completely at random (to her surprise) because I had just had another 'I have just realized where I am in the world' moments. She asked what I was laughing at and after some thought, this is what I told her:

"It's Friday night, roughly 11.30pm, the sky is clear and the stars are out and here I am in the backyard of a house in Berkeley, California, America, standing next to a BBQ while listening to jazz in the other room. I'm a million miles away from my home of Australia, and you're a million miles away from your home of Portugal, yet here the two of us are sharing a beer, having one of the best conversations I've had in quite some time, having an absolutely amazing time, and it was all brought upon by complete chance simply because we just happened to have become friends in our hostel, then to be lucky enough to become friends with Phil by chance, a guy from Canada who is visiting for a few months who just happened to get himself an apartment that happens to host jazz nights that he invited us over too. 

6 months ago I could never have dreamed I would be in a situation like this. Or better yet, even 6 days ago I couldn't have known this is where I would be right now. 6 days ago I hadn't even met you or Phil yet!"

Times like this is what makes travel the exceptional journey it is.

Isabel digging into some food... we were all insanely hungry...
Finally the food was cooked. We we're happy.

So... as mentioned we were not in San Francisco but in a neighbourhood that is across the bay, with the only reasonable way to travel to and from is via train. No worries. On the way to the place we originally planned to catch the last train, at 1am, back into the city to return to our hostel, expecting the night to be pretty chilled and easy to depart. 1am came and went easily without notice however, there was no way we could leave with the food and great bands around! At around 2am however the bands finished, the BBQ got turned off, and everyone went home...

Ah... not so fun now.

Ok, so when's the next train? Oh... what's that? At 5.25am you say? Oh, but tomorrow is Saturday of course... so it is at 6.30am instead now, correct? Lovely...

We had 4 hours to kill, and we are all already absolutely exhausted. Although I can't remember why we were all so tired... did we do something the night before? By my lack of memory it must have involved drinking ha.

I found something to do for a while =D

Me on piano. With all the instruments now free I jumped at the chance to play them all! Isabel took this photo without my knowledge.
 Oh man, playing the drums and piano was such a blast! I miss playing them very much.

Oh yeah! The creepy guy! I almost forgot to mention him. So after all of the above happened Phil, Isabel, Thiago and I went inside Phil's apartment (which is connected to the garage that holds Birdland) to chill out until our train. Although we weren't alone as friends of Phil's roommate kept coming and going, one of whom being one of the biggest douches I have met on my entire trip, perhaps in my entire life, that awesomely decided to stick around with us. I hated him as soon as he said hello really... although hey, don't think I am far too judgmental, you would have disliked him also with a greeting like this:

Douche: "So where is everyone from eh?"

Everyone answers.

Me: "Australia"

Douche: "Ah! Australian eh? Mate eh! Mate! Yeah that's what they say yeah? Mate? Maaaaaaaate! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatee! Maaaaaaaaate! Haha! Yeah mate? How's it going mate! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaateee! That's what they say yeah? How's it going mate! Hahaha!"

I was not amused...

Me: "Something like that..."

He then spent the next hour trying to hit on Isabel in the absolute worst and sleaziest way I have ever bore witness too. One of the worst parts was when he asked her to teach him how to say numbers in Portuguese (remember she is from Portugal) because 'he was interested in learning how to count to ten', which was simply his very poor and embarrassing attempt at trying to get her phone number.

It. Was. Painful.

And terribly annoying.

Especially at 4am in the morning.

Phil and Thiago dying ever so slowly while listening to the douche 'work his magic'
Eventually it was time to try and get some sleep with still another hour or two to go. We all crashed on the couch, Isabel and Thiago falling asleep before they had even sat down. Phil, as this was now his apartment, was lucky to have his own pillow and mattress to lie down on. I couldn't sleep so I simply pretended to do so while actually just watching the douche in his drunken state do the most weird and random crap. At one point he just stood in the middle room for literally like 10 minutes just staring at the wall. Then after that he looked around the room, checked to ensure that we were all asleep, then proceeded to sit down on the floor next to Isabel's face and stare at her... yeah... that's not right. I made a big shuffling noise with my feet to startle him. It worked and he scurried away for a while.

A bit over an over later (and more weird crap by the creepy guy) it was time to go. I was surprisingly wide awake, much to the annoyance of Isabel and Thiago who both looked completely dead on their feet ha!

The sun beginning to rise as Isabel, Thiago and I made our way to the train station. It was damn cold.
I laughed at this moment as it had been quite some time since I have stumbled back home in the morning hours after a night out, bringing back memories of nights back home in Australia. After a boring train ride by 7.30am we were back in San Francisco, unable to feel our fingers in the freezing morning air as we walked the couple of blocks back to our hostel. The worst part was that I had stuffed up my hostel room booking and had to check out of my current hostel at 10am and move to a different hostel that same day... come on! Sigh. I crashed into my bed at 8am... then woke up at 9.30am, packed my bags, checked out of the hostel, snuck back into the hostel, and fell asleep on the common room couch for 4 hours surrounded by my bags. It was brutal.

But wow, what a great night! The way fun pub crawl on Wednesday, chilling at Starbucks with company on Thursday, followed by Jazz the following night, this week was going sweet! And it really was made all the more sweeter because of Phil, Mitch (who couldn't make it to the jazz sadly) and Isabel.

I have a good feeling about what the next couple of days may bring.

25 June 2012

Pub Crawls bring new friends closer

Last week was an absolute blast, Vincent turned into one of my best friends on the whole trip and with him had some really awesome adventures. We met Peter, Miranda, Gersende, Chloe, Cameel, Johanna and Luisa, all of whom were just some of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet. All these people have since moved on however, with Vincent being the last one of them to still be around but even he gone now too. The curse of travel.

I have had so many highs and so many lows on this trip. Hmm, actually, that truly is an understatement. No matter if I wrote the most vivid of writing nor took the most informative of pictures could I ever come close to expressing to everyone what being here has been like. The highs have by far exceeded just about any I have had ever had in my life... and that too can be said true about the lows. Knowing Vincent was about to leave, bringing to a close a really great week of great times and stability, was a low. Not an extreme low (far from it), but it was still disappointing. But it wasn't simply because of his departing, it was far more deeper than that, it's traveling for 2 and a half months solo now starting to take its toll. Whenever something great is happening you know it won't last long (because that's what travel is like, forever shifting), but you don't think about it at the time and you truly feel that (and want it to) last forever and when reality reminds you that it is all so fleeting, it can be shattering. Almost as if you are scared that it won't happen again.

The future is terribly unknown.

So once again I was on my own, uncertain of how long this would last or what my next step was to be. Little did I know at the time that despite the week I had just had, an even better one was about to begin!

When I think about it, I guess it all started the day before Vincent was to leave actually. In my hostel room I met Isabel (Portugal), she was super friendly and really cool, then not long after that I met Phil (Canada), a very easy to talk to guy. With Vincent still around I didn't really talk to either of them at the time for at least another day or two as I was still having the great week that I talked about in my last post. Wednesday nights is pub crawl night at our hostel, and after the three of us chatted away in our hostel room we figured it'd be a cool idea to give it a go, with Vincent coming to meet us later on for his last night in San Francisco.

And wow, what a night that turned out to be!

Beers were cheap and the laughter was a plenty, by the end of the night we were awesome friends.

Me, Isabel, some random creepy guy, and Vincent (not pictured; Phil and Mitch)
During the night there was an ongoing Paper-Scissors-Rock tournament, but we didn't really pay any attention. The beers and company were far more entertaining I'd say. Phil, Isabel and Mitch (a guy we met on the night. I couldn't find a picture of him) were really cool, it felt great to have a group to call friends again so quickly after the last one, especially ones to share a great night out and some beer with. After some late night pizza we all stumbled home at... some time in the morning.

Reminds me of times back in Australia really! Although none of these travel nights could ever really replace my friends and nights out back home =)

The next day I had mentioned to Isabel that I like to spend my days at Starbucks with my laptop, looking and applying for jobs while eating their awesome sandwhiches. She loved the idea so tagged along, cool. Amazingly we find Phil already there, great! I always love company.

So Phil lives in Canada but after a break up from his long term girlfriend he decided he needed a change so has come to America for a few months. Luckily he has a job that he can do from anywhere (damn him!) so he is free to stay with ease. He is actually wanting to find an apartment instead of staying at a hostel (sounds amazing!) so was to be spending his day emailing potential houses.

Isabel has been in America since January on a volunteer program working at nature parks (wow!) for the last three months, but has since finished that and is spending her remaining month trying to see as much of America as she can before returning home. She is very smart and actually manages to make me laugh a hell of a lot, a very cool girl indeed.

I had a feeling at the time, after the great time we had had at the pub crawl the previous night and the chilled hang out at Starbucks for literally the whole day, that this little group of ours was something special and that great things seemed to be in store for us.

I was excited on where this could lead.

22 June 2012

San Francisco with Vincent from Belgium

My last post left off detailing that I had met a guy named Vincent on a travelers and backpackers website and that he had wanted to meet up in San Francisco, then after not hearing from him for a while he randomly checked into the same hostel as me and asked the manager if I was there... ok then. I really wasn't looking forward to meeting him at the time, it wasn't that I had something against him (I didn't), it was simply that I was just really happy at the time to just do my own thing for a while. I contemplated hiding but he was bound to find me eventually. About 5 minutes after I wrote my last post, he found me in the kitchen.

And wow am I glad that he did =D

The proceeding week was one of the most fun I have ever had on my entire trip.

Firstly, a little about Vincent. He is from Belgium, speaks Dutch, English, a little Spanish as well as French (wow), and has been traveling solo for nearly 1 and a half years! That's awesome. He has spent 3 months in India, 8 months in Napal, 3 months in Thailand, a few more places that I can't remember, and has even been to the base camp of Mt Everest! He is now in America despite never originally even planning to be and only came because he met his girlfriend months ago when in Napal and followed her here (very cool), and is now just traveling around and is playing it by ear. Although he greatly disliked how expensive America is and was definitely starting to think it was time to head back home, so I guess we would see how we go right?

The very next day after meeting him I had to change hostels again, so Vincent decided to tag along and change hostels also. I still didn't really know him yet but he seemed cool enough, so I didn't mind him coming also, so we both agreed to meet up again later in the day once we had both checked in and got ourselves organized. This turned out pretty funny because by that same afternoon when we organized to meet up again he had already become friends with a whole group of people ha! There was Peter (Australia), Miranda (Russia) and Gersende (France)... and Brian (America) who was completely insane and weird and we mostly tried to avoid when we got the chance.

So without realizing it I was now part of a whole group of friends, cool. They were all really great and we had an awesome couple of days together exploring the city, cooking meals, having drinks and just chatting away. Miranda was such a cool and interesting girl, she is a lawyer in Russia and had the most intriguing and informative stories to tell of what her country is like and how it differs from the rest of the world.

Oh yeah, I am loving this city more and more everyday.

Me, Peter, Gersende, Miranda, Brian and Vincent in the front. San Francisco is damn cold too!
Alas, the curse of travel continues with Peter, Miranda and Gesende all heading off on their separate ways soon after (Brian just kind of disappeared, which was fine). Thankfully though Vincent was to be sticking around a little while longer despite every single day telling me that "tonight I am booking my flight to Denver for sure!". So with it being just the two of us once more we spent a day or two walking around the city and chilling out at Golden Gate Park on the nice weather days.

Now, when you are with Vincent you are never alone for long for somehow he manages to meet new people, organize a day trip together, and become great friends with them with whom you feel like you've known for years, all before I've even woken up and had breakfast in the morning!

On our way back from the Golden Gate Park to our hostel one day while walking down the street we see this nice girl who appeared lost. Vincent says hello, works his conversational magic and before long the three of us are friends and had organized for that night to meet up to go see the Golden Gate 75th birthday celebrations, sweet! The girl was Chloe (France) and she bought her friend Cameel (France) along too.

For the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge the city had planned to celebrate with a huge fireworks, sound and light show on the actual bridge itself. I felt pretty damn lucky to just happen to be here the very week this was to be on so I was already really excited for the night, and now with Vincent, Chloe and Cameel with me it really added to the occasion =D

Fireworks launched off the Golden Gate Bridge

My usually superb camera sucks during the night, so what you can't see is the Golden Gate Bridge itself lit up with lights and fireworks. In addition was a whole theatrical performance of music being blasted around the entire bay area, dozens of helicopters and boats zooming around the harbour and I would guess easily over 20,000 people around our immediate area to create a really electric atmosphere!

Me, Chloe and Vincent after the show had finished
Cameel joined us for this next photo, a great way to mark the night
Afterwards Cameel suggested we go out for beers (read my mind!) so we met up with a few others who are also staying at the same hostel as us and went out to a pub. A very killer night indeed!

They were both really cool, but Cameel I'd have to say was easily one of the coolest people I have met on my entire trip so far, she was extremely down to earth, casual and fun to be around. It was a shame that she was to be leaving the following day, but I guess that's travel.

Found this on the way to the pub which I thought looked cool at night
Again there was talk from Vincent of "Ok, when I get back to the hostel tonight I am booking my flight to Denver".

Yeah... I don't believe it until I see it mate ha!

Of course Vincent stuck around for a few more days (how can you leave really?), and I am glad he did else I wouldn't have received a phone call from him a few days later telling me to come hang out with him and his newly acquired friends, Johanna (France) and Luisa (Germany)! Count me in! That night was a really great time of just the 4 of us hanging out by the wharf, sitting down for some nice dinner, and exploring the city at night. San Francisco is just such a great place, and when you have awesome people to share and explore it with it makes it all that more memorable.

We had heard about this really tall tower where you can go to the very top of to see the entire city, so we set out to find it! Our quest came to a stand still however when the girls came across these puppies sitting outside a restaurant with its owner... 15 minutes we were here for! Haha! I am 100% convinced that Vincent and I could have walked away then and there and they wouldn't have been none the wiser.

"Ohhh Emmm Geee look at the puppies!!!"
Luisa was the happiest I had seen her all night I reckon haha!
Johanna contemplating if there is enough space left in her suitcase
It was a great unexpected night, but like all great things they always come to an end.

Luisa, Vincent, Johanna and me
Johanna actually was really incredible, she had such a fiery and free spirit that I really admired and I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent walking through the streets at night trying to find that illusive 'tall tower' that we had been told about, just chatting away the entire time without pause about all the silly things we want to do in life someday. And I remember standing next to her and listening to what she wants to do in life and thinking that it made even my crazy ideas look boring in comparison. It was really inspirational to meet someone with a similar outlook and direction in life, I really hope to see her again someday.

Vincent had now been here for over a week, but eventually he finally did book his flight to Denver and left a day or two later. It was such a killer week, easily one of the best I have had on my entire trip. With Vincent I managed to meet so many people I know I wouldn't have if I wasn't with him, and even on the days when it was just me and him simply playing card games, exploring the city or having a beer, were some really great times. And wow it must have been pretty epic actually because it has now been about 10 days since my parents left and it honestly only feels no more than 4! Time really has flown by in a haze of cool people, unique sights, interesting and fun conversations, and amazing adventures.

It was a hell of a week Vincent, you'll be missed friend. See ya in India perhaps!

Vincent and me. One of the best mates I've made on this whole trip.

And now a new week begins, who knows what it has in store! Although I worry I won't be able to top the last one anytime soon.

19 June 2012

Chilling in San Francisco

It has only been two days since my parents left San Francisco to head to Los Angeles, leaving me to stay in this city on my own, yet already I am having some really great times and know that this is by far one of my favourite cities in the world so far.

My first hostel I was to be staying at was pretty awesome, within my first hour I hit it off immediately with Brendan (Australia), quickly deciding to grab dinner at the pub, then getting a game of poker going with a bunch of guys once back at the hostel. While playing we had a great diversity of cultures in that one room alone, guests from Australia, Spain, Canada, Sweden and many more. While we were playing our very close game of poker we could over hear another group of people chatting away, talking what I believed to be Spanish. We could hear him easily as he was talking loud, and while obviously we couldn't understand what he was saying (as most people in the room didn't speak Spanish), every now and again however you pick up a word that you do understand:

Spanish guy to a group of people: "Holla blah blah por favor blah blah blah signorita blah blah spanish spanish blah Victoria's Secret" 

The words cut through the air like a knife, immediately drawing a huge round of laughter from the entire room haha!

"Now that's some Spanish I do understand" shouts Brendan over the roar.

Great times indeed!

It was there I also met some simply awe inspiring people, one guy called Clifford (Canada) loves riding his bike and rode from Vancouver, Canada to San Francisco, America! By bike! On his own! He was telling us stories of times where he slept on the side of the road or in a park in below zero temperature! That's amazing. Then there was this Swedish couple who had ridden their bikes from Florida to California... that's nearly the length of America! Brilliant.

I only stayed at that hostel for one night however and was forced to move on to a new one the following day, which turned out even better than the last! It was a smaller one, but had a great warm and homely feel to it. In my first day I became great friends with Andy (Korean) who surprisingly spoke practically flawless English (from experience Koreans aren't usually the best at English). We somehow got talking about Baseball and them bam! before you know it we've bought tickets and the next day we're at a game!

Not before checking out the city on the way to the stadium.

Andy posing for the camera in downtown San Francisco
Bay Bridge, very cool indeed

Watching the Oakland Athletics and... Los Angeles Angels (I think?)
Yeah... baseball is pretty boring. Ha! But it was still fun to just hangout at the stadium soaking up the sun and the atmosphere of the crowd so that was cool. So that was a pretty sweet day.

Although that was to be Andy's last day in San Francisco and he was to be leaving the following morning to head back home, so once again I was to be alone on my travels. Or so I thought, but more on that soon.

Right near my hostel is Golden Gate Park (the park that I talked about in depth in my last post!) so as I was alone for the day with Andy gone and no new friends as yet I decided to explore it on my own, exactly what I was looking forward to doing.

It was absolutely beautiful, my favourite places were the lakes.

Come on, how cool are ducks!
Despite the park being absolutely huge most of it is completely over-run by people, which was the absolute opposite of what I was after as I had some work to do and simply wanted to find a nice quiet place to be able to sit down and listen to my music in peace. It could not be found. Well, by normal means that is! When no one was looking I went off the footpaths and clambered my way through the thick trees and shrubs, eventually coming out of the foliage into this awesome little grass clearing with not a person in sight, win!

Travel Buddy was pleased with the find I think. Although he didn't make great conversation.
Thought this made for a pretty cool picture, the blend of my tattoo and travel bracelets
The sun was shining, the freshness of the grass and trees around putting me completely at peace, and with some music, my notepad and paper, and the knowledge that I can literally spend the entire day here with no deadlines to meet or places to be was pretty cool to say the least!

Three hours later it was time to go home, another great day complete. I got terribly lost on the way back out, but it was fun.

The best places to see are always off the main tracks
So I mentioned before that with Andy leaving I was to be alone again, although I am pretty used to people coming and going these days as is the curse of travel. This state of loneliness however somehow never seems to last long and without fail I manage to meet a new person with ease and when I least expect it.

This was no exception.

Over the last few weeks I'd been emailing this guy named Vincent I met on a traveler and backpackers website, and he informed me that he was to be in San Francisco around the same time I was and that we should meet up when we do. I'd never met anyone in real life whom I have talked to on the internet before but cool, if it happens I'll roll with it. We hadn't spoken for a few days however so I didn't know where he was at the time to, nor was I really that fussed if we didn't meet up to be honest, which had nothing against him of course, I was just happy to do my own thing for a bit and couldn't be bothered having to change plans because of another person.

Things took a surprise upon my return from Golden Gate park and step into my hostel as I am told by the manager that Vincent has checked into the hostel and was looking for me! Woah, what? He's here? That's random. Now I feel obliged to say hello... he knows I am here so I can't exactly hide. Ha!

Let's go see what happens shall we?

15 June 2012

Another annoying 'Birthday' happened again

So... it was my birthday... again... the other day. As much as I try to resist having them, time just keeps on moving forward and before I know it I am another year older! My age this time? 24 years ancient.

I don't like getting older, I don't think I ever have. Getting older enforces responsibility, less time in life to do all the things you plan to do, the reminder that you are mortal, and a big shock to the 'have I done enough with my life and am I happy where I am heading' internal debate. Although if my current location is anything to take into account, then I guess this year I can answer that debate rather positively.

My actual birthday was two weeks ago, I was still in Los Angeles at the time. Although today as I write this I am currently sitting in a Starbucks in the very center of San Francisco... cool. Oh man, I love this city so much, and as I contemplate my newly gained '24 years old status' I can look around the room and be rather proud of where I am for it signifies what I have achieved.

Looking for jobs... kind of, in San Francisco a few days after turning 24 years old
But that's enough of my achievements, what I'd like to focus on is my goals, because as always I like to assess where I am and where I am heading and turning another year older is the perfect benchmark. This time last year at my last birthday I was beginning to enter a rather positive place in my life; working fulltime at a great job, enjoying the freedom of living out of home without any University studies to take up my free time, and starting to really strengthen my friendship of newly acquired friends. My goal I set myself for the year? To work full time, save money, and plan my trip of backpacking around America.

So yes, the fact that I can now look around this very moment as I type this and see that I am sitting in the heart of San Francisco, does signify quite a lot as it means I truly did achieve the goal I set out to do! It is nice to have a win every now and again. Although I am far from finished in my backpacking trip, but more on that in another post.

The problem however is that I don't see myself as being 24 years old. Well, I am sure I physically look like I am to others, but I don't see myself as being so (both inside and out). When I see other 24 year olds, I don't know, they seem more grown up, and wiser, and perhaps even just plain cooler really.

On the bus into town this morning I saw a very pretty girl, and I don't know about you guys but sometimes when I see a girl I without thinking start to imagine how the pair of us would look together, as I believe the best couples I meet always seem to just look great together. And no I don't just mean 'the girl is a model and the guy benchpresses cars at the gym' type of looking good together (I am not that shallow), I mean that good couples have a complimentary style, trait and persona that just seems to mesh really well when they stand together. Anyways, I did this imaginary pairing with this girl, and I immediately disregarded us because in that little pairing up scenario I imagined she looked older then me. Upon looking at her again however I realized she is most likely 24 also (the same as me), yet when I envisioned us, I seemed far too young for her. Why is this?

Perhaps it is the line of 'you are only as old as you feel' or 'young at heart'. I guess while I do physically look 24 years old, I certainly don't feel like I am. I am still as erratic, immature, random and clueless as I was when I was 19... and while I know I certainly need to start acting like an adult soon, I certainly can't see myself wanting to anytime soon. Is that a worry? I guess if I am not wasting my money, and not getting into trouble, and am actually doing stuff with my life, then there is no harm done?

Although I know my mum would disagree with that last part haha. "Get a full-time job and buy a house" is her motto of the year. Although to be fair, she does support my current traveling 100% =)

Well, this post turned out quite a bit more in-depth and larger than I had originally intended. I think with my constant traveling I haven't done as much contemplation and reflection about life as I usually do, so there was a bit of a backlog. The quest to find ones self seems to always to just out of reach. Well, at least for me.

11 June 2012

Typical tourists of San Francisco

After our epic day yesterday of seeing Kings Canyon National Park and then finally arriving in San Francisco, and with my parents only having 4 days left of their holiday before returning to Australia, we were eager to get out and about immediately. Already we knew San Francisco was going to have a great few days ahead for us.

To get the most of our limited time we took a sight seeing bus that drove around the entire city, hitting every classic landmark, with one of the coolest tour instructors I've ever had. She was hilarious and highly informative, making for a really great day. These were the best photos I managed on a moving bus.

Union Square... I think.

Such classy looking streets

Our brief drive through Golden Gate Park.
This park, according to what I heard from our guide, is bigger than Central Park in New York City, which I thought was rather impressive given the rather small size of the city. It is almost half the length of the city in fact at 3 miles across, with the city itself only being 7 miles by 7 miles.

It's history was also highly interesting, which I have the desire to tell you all about right now. Note that this is going entirely off my memory so is probably off but whatever.

To begin: After a massive earthquake in 1906 which flattened most of the city, the city council demolished the rubble and wanted to turn this area into a park (perhaps to remember the day?). Immediately however they encountered the problem of the soil and ground being too acidic (or something) and mostly sand thus restricting substantially the growth of foliage, so they hired the same guy who developed Central Park to come in and turn the place around. He agreed and got straight to work, however after doing some tests and evaluations he basically declared that it can't be done and quit the project soon after. The city then turned to two other botanists for help, whom after many tests and investigations discovered that there was the perfect solution rectify the soil's health: Eucalyptus Trees! (Go Australia!). Those trees do something to the soil that allowed for the fertility needed for plants and grass to grow, allowing for the amazing richness and diversity you now see in the park today.

All of which I found very interesting!

To further provide you guys with some interesting facts about the park, I shall continue! (Hey, it's my blog, I can ramble on if I want). So while one of the two botanists who originally worked on the park moved on elsewhere, the other loved it so much that he decided to stay to work on it further so he built a little house for himself in the park itself and would spend day after day tending and improving the park. During his work he was met with challenges however, especially from the city who (like all councils who for some reason always like to ruin things) wanted things like roads in and through the park. He fought against roads as he believed that if people drove through the park they would miss out on all the parks beauty (which makes sense to me), but the city wouldn't budge and he eventually lost the case. But this story is not without hope, for this man was very crafty and as such he ensured that all the roads were narrow and curved thus forcing motorists to slow down when driving through, brilliant!

His other battle with the city was his strong reluctance towards having statues into the park. I can't remember his reasons, but he absolutely hated statues and hated the idea of them being in his precious park. The city refused to budge on this issue and came in and placed statues all around anyway. Again, being the clever man that he is, he didn't accept this decision without retaliation and came up with the idea to plant trees and grass around the statues that could grow large to eventually cover the statues entirely, another great idea! It is believed that even now no one truly knows how many statues there are in the park because many of them have been lost in foliage. Ha! This battle continued however, and reached a peek in intensity when the city, despite his continued crusade against statues, went ahead and put a statue of the botanist himself into the park to honour him as the parks creator. A few days later after the statue had been erected however it mysteriously went missing! It wasn't until decades later when the botanist eventually died and the city were cleaning up his house to turn it into a monument of the park's existence that they stumbled across the missing statue of the botanist buried in the botanists own backyard. Ha! Classic!

Anyways I thought it was a fantastic story. Here are some more pictures.

They are all rather random and spread out photos because we never really stayed in one place long, nor did we have the luxury of exploring as much as we would of liked. Although already I am really starting to love this city, it is friendly, cool, modern, clean, small (yet big at the same time), is highly diverse and I feel is somewhat unique in every aspect, it really is a city that has everything.

Now skipping ahead in time a little bit, the above pictures and stories have taken place over a really great 3 days here in San Francisco with my parents. We saw all the major sights and had some really good times together, alas it is time for my parents to head back to Australia so tomorrow they will be taking a flight to Los Angeles where they will stay for 1 day, then head back home the following day.

It was really awesome having them here, despite the impression that my pictures and blog posts and Facebook updates may suggest, traveling solo is damn hard, stressful, and can at times be extremely lonely, so having them with me for over a week was really refreshing and just what I needed. We saw some absolutely amazing sights, with our few days spent in Las Vegas, flying over the Grand Canyon then our really awesome road trip from Las Vegas to a town called Bakersfield, to our absolutely legendary day spent at Kings Canyon National Park and driving onwards to San Francisco, to finish up with seeing, what I believe, is one of the best places America has to offer.

It already feels a little weird to be on my own again, while traveling solo is absolutely amazing in that the freedom I have is unparalleled to anything I have had before, there are of course very many drawbacks also. I have absolutely no idea when I will see them (or home for the matter) again, so it was a bittersweet goodbye.

So, yep... wow, what an amazing week it has been. It wasn't too long ago that I hanging out in a hostel in Los Angeles, and now so much has happened in such a short amount of time.

I am not entirely sure what my next step will be, I can either stay here for another few weeks and look for work, or fly over to the East to Atlanta, Georgia to visit my amazing friend Vanessa, or go straight to New York City... which was the original goal and plan of this entire trip.

For now I am going to relax, reorganize, see some sights and just see what happens.