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Published: August 8th 2007
There's no feeling in the world, the lovely reader, to compare with heading overseas for the first time, away from family and friends with no real time frame in mind for returning home. It can feel a bit terrifying but is also an exhilarating experience, full of anticipation for what lies ahead laced with a degree of apprehension due to fear of the unknown. The period of preparation leading to a long trip overseas galvanizes a prospective traveller like little else can, and it was with all these conflicting emotions swirling around in my head that I boarded a flight over the Pacific ocean destined for the land of opportunity, the United States of America. To paraphrase the famous song ... California here I come!
I arrived at San Francisco airport after clearing US customs formalities in Hawaii. There to meet me at the airport was a family friend who had worked for my father many years ago while completing his university studies in Sydney. He'd certainly come a long way since those days, and worked as a professor of nuclear physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and was married to an American with two young children. I
was grateful to have a friendly face to greet me on arrival, and we headed from the airport to his home in the Berkeley hills above the university. I was wide eyed like a puppy on my first visit to the mighty US of A, and stunned by the size of the Bay bridge which stretched for kilometres over San Francisco bay, it's a true marvel of engineering. When flying into San Francisco the size of the Bay creates a strong initial impression, because the shoreline is barely visible on the opposite bank so it feels like flying in over the ocean.
My friend's wife made me feel very welcome in the family home, and her two young kids are absolutely adorable. Americans are famed for their hospitality, and I couldn't have wished for a warmer welcome. They kindly offered me the use of their big old American sedan, and I cruised the streets of San Francisco as if I was on the famous TV show. The streets are so steep as I drove down from the Berkeley hills, it felt like a vertical drop till they level out briefly for a cross street, then you plummet down another
equally steep road. San Fran is a beautiful city, and a ride on the famous trams is also a must for visitors. I was impressed with the BART train system which serves the Bay area comprehensively in a country that often struggles to provide quality public transportation. Generally speaking the philosophy of the locals means the car is king in the United States.
I cruised around the university campus during the days, and chatted to students about their experiences studying at Berkeley. I quickly learnt that I needed to tone down my dress sense as some guys shouted abuse at me one day from across the street. As I was no longer in Oz it didn't pay to stick out like a sore thumb, and some of my fancy clothes didn't go down so well. That early lesson made it clear to me early on it´s best to keep a low profile while travelling. My friends took me to a major league baseball game and involved me in social occasions with their university friends. My kind hosts also put me in contact with friends from other southern California universities.
Visiting them was originally one of the main reasons
At the airport
With my brothers and sister.
for my trip to the United States. However, my thoughts were turning to further travel as opposed to further study. It didn't take long for me to figure out the fees and the grades required to study in the States were out of my league, but I still enjoyed visiting the campuses. I was starting to get into the swing of overseas travel, and my Americans friends proved to be gracious hosts. They were interested in Australia thanks in part to Crocodile Dundee, and I think California is a great part of the world.
I farewelled my friends at the end of an enjoyable stay in San Fran, and took a flight to Los Angeles to sneak a peak at the City of Angels. I checked into a hostel close to Venice beach, from where I took in the sights of this world famous city. It's quite difficult to get around in American cities without having your own transport, particularly in LA but it is still a great travel destination. I rode the hostel bike down to Venice beach, where all the muscle men coat themselves in oil and flex their muscles before pumping weights at the outdoors gym
My parents raised me well, and provided the opportunity to travel the world!
for the crowd. It's great fun to walk along the promenade at Venice beach, and then walk along the beach where Jim Morrison squatted down on the sand and sang his songs shyly for Ray Manzarak; songs that were to become classic worldwide hits later for The Doors. I also visited UCLA while in LA, then went to Hollywood and Sunset boulevards to be suitably dazzled by all the beautiful people!
From LA I boarded a bus to San Diego to meet a university friend of the San Francisco couple. This jolly big bear of a man kindly put me up in his house and showed me around the University of California San Diego campus, as well as taking me out to restaurants and visiting other sights in this beautiful southern Californian city, which is only a few hours from the Mexican border. Travel in the United States is great fun and the first month of my inaugural overseas trip has fairly raced by. My friend asked me if I'd like to pop down to Baja California for the weekend and I was looking forward to the trip. It was an exciting prospect to be about to visit Mexico but unexpected travel opportunities are the beauty of travel. I had a wonderful introduction to overseas travel during my month in southern California. The United States is the real deal,
basically all of you should be here now!
The only trips I regret are the ones I never took." Paddy Palin
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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