So we took off to the skies from Seattle to San Francisco. The whole way I listened to Phantom Planet’s song ‘California’ on repeat (the soundtrack of The O.C.) I was SO excited. California was always a state I wanted to see along with New York.
I studied Geography until A Level at school and I remember studying case studies of cities that experience earthquakes – of course San Fran was one. I remember first laying eyes upon the golden gate bridge in a textbook and learning about how the bridge had been adjusted to better resist major destruction when an earthquake hits. I said to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever get to stand in front of this bridge and see it with my own eyes.” I genuinely thought the textbook picture would be the closest I’d ever get to it.
I wish I could tell my 16 year old self that I would indeed be standing in front of the golden gate during an epic journey around Canada and the USA. When I was teacher, I used to always tell my students, “you are going to do so many great things in your life that you can’t even imagine doing right now.”
During our stay in San Fran, it just so happened it was gay pride. Yep… as expected it was CRAZY. The streets fill up at 8am and people start partying. Despite gay marriage being legalised in 23 countries to date, people are still being subject to homophobic remarks in public or on the internet. It was therefore so refreshing to see people feeling confident and openly flaunting their outfits as an expression of who they are. With so many people parading the streets celebrating gay pride, there was a real sense of unity and acceptance. No one was battering an eyelid or passing negative remarks about other people.
Down to pure luck and timing, we also managed to grab last minute tickets to Alcatraz island. The history of the island is so fascinating. From 1934 to 1963, the island was used as a federal prison, home to the most ruthless criminals in America. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, the tour is a must.
On a serious tone, San Fran was unable to hide the effects of an economic crisis – poverty and unemployment are rife and the evidence is on its streets. I have never seen so many homeless people on the streets… ever.
We stayed in a less affluent area of San Francisco and I really did have to stay vigilant on the streets particularly at night. We had some very strange and unfortunate experiences during our stay but luckily, I had never been wandering about on my own.
I saw the governments attempts to try tackle poverty by providing portable toilets and giving out warm food to the homeless. Although helpful in the short term, the core of the homeless problem lies with the high living costs and unemployment that the city is experiencing.
In the past ten years, prices have rocketed in the city that was once considered as the hip and trendy city that welcomed up and coming artists. Locals and artists are now being driven out and being replaced by only those rich enough to live in the once affordable and bohemian city.
I therefore had a love hate relationship with San Francisco. However, this was the city where I met so many amazing people in the hostel I stayed at. I simply love hostels for this reason. Whether you are travelling alone or in a group, you’re always going to meet so many different and interesting people.