Today was a travel day, but not just any travel day, this was a time travel day. The journey across the Pacific would take me back in time, as I was leaving Auckland in the evening and arriving in the morning of the same day. It’s obviously no different to any other long haul flight, but to think you have time travelled is pretty cool.
Kicked out of the hostel at 10 (figuratively speaking), I hopped on the Skybus to the airport, and in case I wasn’t already awake, this preliminary journey made sure I was. As the bus speakers played a selection of chart-topping tunes, the driver threw the bus around the streets towards the airport, rattling my bones and making me look forward to the relative comfort of an economy class long haul flight seat.
Auckland airport was mildly snazzy, although lacking in seating I found. Contenting myself with a perch rather than an actual seat, I made the most of the 30 mins free WiFi (why WiFi should be a paid for service in an international hub baffles me), before taking a wander around. I ended up buying one of those curved travel pillows; not just for the flight but for hostels, as often hostel pillows can be of varying quality, ranging from the structural stability of a Mars bar on a hot day to military grade titanium. At least with my new purchase, consistency was assured.
As I people watched and thought ahead to my new destination, I was a mixture of anxiety and excitement. When you think about it, new people are everywhere. Each one walking by has a life, family, dreams, hopes, and desires. To become good at and comfortable with constantly meeting new people is to open yourself up to lots of new worlds. So even if it can be draining at times for introverts, it’s always a positive thing to do. As I looked ahead to America, I was curious as to what it would be like during election year. Looking back, I’m so glad I got in and out prior to the orange gibbon.
The flight itself, with Air New Zealand, was relatively uneventful, apart from the mad time travel aspect. Upon arrival at San Francisco international, I was looking forward to wearing cold weather clothes, as I had heard the weather was known to be very changeable. However, the Bay Area had decided to make my week there a scorcher, which was appreciated to an extent.
Immigration was rather intense, as I suspected it would be. Interrogated by an unimpressed woman, who looked at me as if I had just thrown her dog off the Golden Gate, I was asked where I had got the money to come to the USA. Shakily replying that I had worked at a thing called a job like lots of other people do to get money, she went on to ask if I knew anyone in the States. Giving the answer that my uncle lived in New York, I answered a few more standard questions (business or leisure etc.), until I was finally given the all clear to proceed. This confirmed my suspicions that the United States was a slightly nutty country, as I would find out many times over the next few weeks.
I caught the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city, and then caught a bus from Montgomery Street Station. To say I was thrown into the deep end of the public transport system would be an understatement. Boarding the bus by dropping a few quarters into a slot, I found myself on a crowded classic American style city bus, surrounded by people of all colour, age, and ethnicity. It was about 1pm, and here I was, awkwardly standing with my huge backpack in an iconic city ready to be explored. It seems like a banal experience on paper, but I remember this part of the trip so well, and it was simultaneously stressful, exciting, and energising to find myself there.
Eventually reaching my stop, I hopped off and completed the short walk to my hostel, HI Fisherman’s Wharf, an old fort and barracks located on a hill overlooking the bay. It was an ideal place, slightly out of the way, great views, clean, INCLUDED BREAKFAST, and not too busy. A famous icon glinted red in the distance, and I was struck by how impressive it was. It’s much bigger in real life.
I was quite tired by now, and as it was early evening I headed out in search of sustenance. Luckily there was a food truck night on at the bottom of the hill, so I headed down to check it out. It was a really cool setup, lots of different foods and a good crowd, despite the shitty DJ in the middle ruining it. Filling up on steak strips and chilli, I topped off my evening with a monster doughnut (when in Rome). I had become very aware of my accent during the past few hours, and my British awkwardness was baffled when the cashier asked my name followed by asking how I was in a weirdly genuine fashion. I was confused, as in Britain myself and a lot of people generally try to carry out transactions with the least amount of syllables possible. I think Britain is one of the best places to be an introvert – unless you live in the North, whereby it seems they will chat to anything with a pulse.
Clambering into my top bunk after watching the sun set behind the bridge, I made a nest with my new pillow and enjoyed the ‘new city to be explored’ feeling.