Wild Young Minds: An Ode to San Francisco

Monday, December 21, 2015

An Ode to San Francisco

While I'm sitting here in my room on Oak St., listening to my San Francisco list on Spotify with the sound of raindrops falling on the window on the background (yes, it does rain in California), I cannot help but feeling nostalgic. For the last couple of weeks, I've been paying extra attention to the beautiful pink sunsets, to the friendly storekeepers and to the colorful houses on the never-ending San Franciscan streets. My California Dream is almost over, right at the moment that I discover so many new places, meet so many cool people and get so many new insights. I guess that's always the way it goes, though, and I'm 100% sure it's not gonna be a goodbye, but an '' until we meet again ''.
San Francisco, you've been surprising. You've been overwhelming, disappointing and double. So many people have had the luck to live in you already and so many more are going to in the future. You've hosted all these Asians after the Gold Rush and you still provide wonderful houses for them in Chinatown and Japantown. You've hosted so many Hispanics in the Mission, LGBT people in the Castro and hairdressers in Lower Haight. Even though you've turned into a goddamn expensive city, you are still authentic, progressive and diverse. San Francisco, you are awesome.
It took me a while to see this, though. I've read so many books Beat, I've read Janis Joplin's biography and I've read about Ken Kesey & amp; The Pranksters. Each one of them provided me with an insight or how you were, fifty to sixty years ago. And I could not help but feeling sad, while running through the Panhandle to see that the place where all the free music festivals were held, has now turned into a home for hobos, shooting heroin and sleeping in the bushes. I read how Ken Kesey hosted all these electric kool-aid acid test at the campus of San Francisco State University and I could not even imagine how colorful and festive the gray, boring and cloudy campus once had been.
San Francisco, you're definitely no longer the mecca for hippies and artists. Tech has taken over and turned you into an unaffordable city where the gap between rich and poor is terribly big. But if there's one thing that I experienced during these four months, it is that the eyes of the people on the street are still sparkling. For some, it might be because they're high on acid, but for many, it's because they're alive. You fill them with energy, they're constantly moving and they're talking to each other. Why italicize this word? Because I'm gonna miss this communication so much.
I do not mean to offend my own culture, but Dutch people can be so stiff, distant and fixed on their own business. If a crazy guy is sitting opposite of you in the tram and asks you if you're a rock star (based on real experiences, yes yes) in the Netherlands, you would frown your eyebrows and wonder what the fuck is wrong with this person . If a guy does so in San Francisco, you would smile and say: 'Yes, I am. Do you wanna start a rock band with me? "" That's what California does to people. Or maybe, it's what Californian people do to citizens or other countries. I appreciate their friendliness so much. Of course, the '' Hi! How are you? '' is a bit superficial, but you just have to see it as their way of greeting. People give you friendly smiles if they pass you by. Not in a flirting manner, but genuinely and honestly. And often, they are actually interested in you, when they ask you how your day has been, or when they say: '' I hope you have a wonderful day. '' In the Netherlands, we only talk about the weather, which mostly means: complain about the rain.
On the other hand, you can say that the grass is always greener on the other side. And it is. As I said, San Francisco has been disappointing, with her stupid closing hours (2 am, come oooon), $3 avocados and insane education system. Living in the States has made me appreciate certain things more in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam. I love all the culture we have, the night life and the peanut butter (Calvé, wait for me, I'm coming home!). I also realized I'm way more Dutch than I thought I was. I appreciate our directness, our down-to-earthliness and our humor (my sarcasm can still count on looks confused). But I've learned a lot from the openness here too, from the fluent conversations and willingness to help.
Interviewing people for Humans on the Road has shown me how different cultures are, but also how much people from different backgrounds can look alike. I've interviewed South American, Australian, Asian, European, African and American travelers, and they all shared the same free spirited vibe. Exploring life like a local, enjoy the moment and don't set your expectations too high - for unplanned moments are always the best ones. From seeing the sunrise at the Chinese wall to helping out in Nepal. Such awesome experiences. I'm definitely gonna continue meeting those travellers in Amsterdam and hosting Couchsurfers. And who knows, hitchhiking. Because I vote for a world where we trust other people instead of a world based on fear. Go team humanity!
So yeah, these are my last days in San Francisco. I'm not going back to the Netherlands though, I've got three weeks of travel ahead of me. Exploring cool areas, strolling the streets, surfing on American couches and meeting so many more people. I'm not done yet! The plan is: LA - San Diego - Phoenix - Austin - New Orleans. So if you have any recommendations, feel free to overload my message inbox. I want to know where to go, what to do and what not to do. Tijuana? Yes or no? :)
It feels weird that this is going to be my last post in America, since I'll probably write the next one from my parents' house or - who knows - my new room in Amsterdam (those recommendations are very welcome too!). I know this all sounds super emotional, but I really, really enjoyed all the feedback I got from everyone. It's super cool to know that people enjoy reading your stories, and I'll definitely continue writing about my travels in the future!
As for now, I'd like to give a final ode to San Francisco. I've felt at home since I arrived,  realized how special it is to be able to study abroad and live in a different country, instead of being a tourist, and I've always felt happy to be back in the city after my adventures. Don't get me wrong, the trips were amazing. Santa Cruz, Big Sur, Sequoia, Yosemite, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. Digged them all :) But there was no place - except for Portland maybe - I felt more in love with than San Francisco.
So here's to you, San Francisco. To your lively lanes, your beautiful beaches, your friendly folks, your big ass book stores, your liberal locals, your pricey peppers, your terrific tattoo shops, your great great Goodwill stores, your hippie history, your nice nature, your mystical fog, your annoying West Coast accents (sorry) and your splendid sunsets. I'm gonna breathe it all in one more time and hopefully sweat it out back home (sorry once more). There's so much to learn from your spirit and I hope everyone who was or is visiting you will spread these vibes. From east to west and north to south. Thank you, San Francisco! We'll meet again.

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