Escapism at its best

The best part of traveling is exploration. You need to know where you’re going of course, but the actual route of getting around and finding your way is pure awesome. Watch where the crowds are heading, listen to what people are saying, talk. Ask for directions, get some recommendations of where you can get the best deal.

Challenge your less than perfect pseudo-American articulation as you ask bus drivers and passerbys for help, it’s part of the fun actually. Sometimes, you’ll get a weird facial expression as a response because your natural accent got the better of you and the poor chap has got no clue what you just said. Sometimes, you meet really nice people who tell you not just how to get around but even share a piece of their life story during your quick chat. Follow directional signs as they take you from place to place, or just roam the streets like a random stranger and walk into the first restaurant you see for brunch.

The little surprises that delights every waking moment, the adventure that awaits you at every corner. Loving it.


I’ve got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine

First day of the year, last day in San Diego.

Woke up today and impusively decided that I shall ditch all my plans for the day and just bum around. Supposed to go to Sea World but from read ups and photos I see online, it seems like one of those classic iconic city attraction that all the kids would bug their parents to bring them to and the poor parents would have to fork out $73 per pax to appease the pestering. I think of all the cities I’ve visited thus far, I have done the least in San Diego and chillaxed around the most. But then again, I think it’s a good juncture to bum around since it’s about midway through my trip; don’t wanna burn out by combing city after city.

I think the more legit reason for the high propensity to bum around here is that I love Point Loma too much, haha. I just can’t seem to like anywhere else in San Diego, and I’m biased so I kinda don’t have the interest or mood to see any other parts of San Diego. Sea port village area is probably the second favourite area I’ve seen, awesome place to go to for a stroll under the hot morning sun. I checked out the famous Gaslamp Quarters and sort of saw a bit of Old Town San Diego, but weren’t really that spectacular. I knew that Gaslamp probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea, given that it’s an area packed with pubs/bars/clubs with a well, very happening night scene. But I went there anyway, just in case I would be proven wrong — but nope, it’s just as I expected. Dressy people, party animals and alcohol junkies. Too much clutter for my threshold.

San Diego zoo was, to be very honest, so-so. I think I had too high expectations to begin with, being the #2 zoo in the US (and being so damn expensive), so I was thinking well this better be good. To be fair, it has tonnes of animals and a very wide variety of them too. Most zoos in US will probably pale in comparison. But I guess maybe zoo visiting isn’t really my sort of thing. You’d see the standard animals and some really cool special ones that are rarely seen, but overall I couldn’t say that it was a visit that blew me away.

And so I just decided to stroll aimlessly along the streets of Point Loma today. Too bad it’s still pretty foggy, else I would get to see the nice clear blue skies once more before I go. It seems that almost every family in this neighborhood owns a dog, especially those handsome large breeds like retrievers and huskies. Every other person you meet on the street is walking his/her dog, and every other car that passes you by has a dog (or dogs) peeking their head out of the car window enjoying the nice Californian breeze. Every dog I see makes me miss mine. Wonder how he is doing now, and I wonder where he is. At least I’ve gotten over the grieving and taken it as a rite of passage.

This will also be the last night I’ll be staying in a hostel. Quite glad that I chose to do a variety of accommodation – both hotels and hostels, and picked different hostel chains to stay in. Every hostel has its own unique flavour, and all three I’ve stayed in at Seattle, San Fran and San Diego all had their nice bits. I think that the quality of your experience depends a lot on your dorm mates (if you’re sharing a room with other backpackers/travelers) and the other people living in the hostel in general. I stayed in dorms at all three cities — in Seattle, people in the dorm kept to themselves, no one really talked to each other but everyone really respected each others’ privacy and were very zi dong. I kinda liked it that everyone quietly minded their own business and didn’t bother about others. In San Francisco, there were tonnes of people (mainly students) staying in the hostel (being a rather big one) and people really made themselves at home. Hostel facilities were very elaborate and impressive, and what was really nice was that the staff went around on Christmas Day cheering people up with Xmas greetings and surprise candies (lots of people were just bumming around the whole day because nothing’s open on Christmas Day). I had rather rowdy dorm mates in San Francisco though — two Australian girls that were crazy shoppers (they were traveling for two months all over Canada and USA and doing NOTHING BUT SHOPPING). Seriously, I don’t even think you can even wear every clothing / pair of shoes more than 3 times with that many pieces. Sorry, I’m a girl that just cannot wrap my head around extreme shopaholism.

Anyway, the dorm rooms were really nice in SF, but those two girls were amazingly messy people. Their barang occupied more than half of the room space and was really quite an eyesore to be honest. Most travelers tend to head out early in the morning and sleep early. But they were kinda the reverse so it was pretty annoying at times when they came back late at night or in the wee hours. Disclaimer: they were nice and friendly people, just with habits that didn’t really go well with other travelers (another traveler from London couldn’t help but started bitching about them (in a nice way) after one night of staying in our room cos she’s a real light sleeper).

In San Diego, this hostel’s really one of a kind — typically you see students and youngsters staying in hostels but in this one you find a lot of families with little kids staying here. And I think some people stay here for quite long periods of time (in stretches of weeks). It’s more of a chalet feeling than a hostel — low-rise, near the sea, very homey feel.

Well on a side note, at least I wouldn’t be banging my head against ceilings anymore for the next few cities since I’ll be staying in hotels and not sleeping at the top bunk bed in dorms (somehow I keep getting the top bed) and having to dodge the low ceilings.

New year resolution: bang less walls and table legs, bump against less ceilings. Oh and one more important one: fix that old stupid knee injury for good.

Point Loma

I found my zen city. Or at least a zen part of a city.

Point Loma’s a tiny neighbourhood harboring the coast. It’s just a stone’s throw (okay more than that) away from the airport, just within one afternoon I’ve seen at least 5 planes taking off and close enough proximity to figure out that at least 3 of them were Virgin America (purple planes, lol).

After a good hour of walking around the area, I concluded I found my happy spot. Peaceful neighbourhood that gives you enough quiet moments to hear your thoughts aloud in your head. Yet not the spooky/dead-town kind of quietness that you would give you the immediate creeps. It’s almost like a huge beach resort area — shops and residential housing not running higher than 3 floors, moderate traffic, cool breezes and sunny (till the fog came in) skies.

People here feel down to earth and real. You don’t find anyone clad in dressy clothing or expensive accessories. You see parents walking down the sidewalks with their kids in tees and sporty shoes, youngsters biking down the street or taking their skateboards out for a spin. You see a father playing baseball with his teenage son at their front porch; you see schoolkids running across the street, laughing.

Despite being a small community, it’s pretty much self-contained. There’s a school, public library, convenience stores, dental clinics, places of worship, a post office (sent my Starbucks cups back!), and practically every other kind of amenity you’d ever need. And I thought there wouldn’t be much apart from a touristy sorta beach area and stores out there to rip you off. Seems like there’s not a lot of tourists but more residents and the local community people, which is really cool. Staying in downtown or touristy areas sometimes (most of the time, actually) don’t show you the true colours of a city or town area. More likely than not you’ll probably be greeted with a commercialized facade that’s there to tell you, oh this is how awesome our city is! Sure, most cities have their awesome bits, but you’ll never get the real stuff till you sink yourself into the local scene. I’m glad that I’m seeing some of it already.

Without the clutter of a bustling city, your thoughts can find so much more space. Need a reason to convince yourself to travel solo? Here’s one: no one’s next to you to distract you from yourself. I realize that I don’t pay attention to tonnes of details when I travel with others because as great a multi-tasker you may be, you can’t be focusing on a conversation and catching that scenic moment at the same time with equal intensity. Silence can be very deafening, but solitude can be very beautiful. We spend so much time and energy listening, talking and involving ourselves with others; we spend so little time listening to ourselves and our inner voice that’s been dying to speak. I think that listening to yourself is an important part of understanding who and what you are. Don’t neglect that.