Tag Archives: California

Young Man Went West #43: Why I Left

Take-off from Honolulu International Airport: Wednesday, 6/6, 7:15. Local time.

It has been two years, eight months, 20 days, 19 hours, and 35 minutes since I landed at that same airport to start my nomadic lifestyle. My initial goal was to make a year, but no more than two. My time in Hawaii stretched out even longer than that, not for lost ambition nor an addiction to beach-side living, but rather for logistics. If I had moved before my road trip–as I had originally intended–it would have been less than two years but I wouldn’t have had enough money to move. And I wouldn’t have met Jenn.

I’m glad I stayed as long as I did.

But now it is time to go. I had previously wanted to move to a new city every year to fulfill my fantasy of a nomadic lifestyle, hence the one-year-in-Hawaii time limit. After a few stabs at starting anew, I would have eventually moved to New York for my finale. As it were, I found myself in Hawaii for nearly three years and with a girlfriend who’s had a decade-long dream of New York. I’m ready to fast-forward to that finale.

Jenn and I left Hawaii to arrive in California just in time for my sister’s 30th birthday and my cousin’s wedding. I know meeting a hundred family members would be overwhelming, but she has been taking it with grace. My parents love her and she formed a bond with my sister within hours. The tables will turn during our second week in California as she reunites with some of her west coast-based friends and I try to live up to their expectations of me. At least it’ll be on my turf!

We will finally arrive in New York the following Wednesday (all my adventures seem to start on a Wednesday!), where my nomadic lifestyle will come to an end. . . as will this blog. It wouldn’t make sense to keep writing under “Young Man Went West” if I’m no longer in the West. . .

Hence why I bought the domain YoungManWentEast.com!  Go ahead and type it in, you’ll be redirected back to this home page.

Be sure to change your bookmarks to “Young Man Went EAST” (because “Young Man Went WEST” will become defunct soon) so you can keep up with my next big move the best big city.  No time limit this time, just infinite dreams for an indefinite future.

Young Man Went East [dot] com

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Young Man Went West #38: HNL to OAK, SFO to JFK

And so it’s official: we have tickets.

We bought our first set of tickets–Hawaii to California–a couple weeks ago one lazy morning from my kitchen table. That wasn’t a hard decision; we needed tickets to California for my cousin Jen’s wedding anyway, so we knew we had to jump on the cheapest ones we could find. Buying one-ways gave us the ability to back out of our New York plans and return to Hawaii after the wedding.

Not that we thought we would.

6 June 2012: Honolulu International Airport –> Oakland International Airport

The more daunting decision came later. After trying to plan out what we’d need to do when we got to New York, it became apparent that everything hinged on our arrival date. We couldn’t set anything into motion until we settle that date first. So, while studying (read: eating lunch near our books and laptops) at one of Jenn’s favorite restaurants, town, Jenn started browsing the Internet for tickets from the Bay Area to New York. Much to our surprise, we found some for under $200 each. Great deal, right? We had to jump on it.

As we were filling out the plethora of information forms needed to fly through the air, it slowly dawned on us: this is it. This is the start of the Big Move. Our one-ways to California allowed us to chicken out of those plans, but buying this second set of tickets meant there was no turning back. . . without paying cancellation fees. A second before hitting “Purchase,” I paused. We looked at each other and attempted to contemplate the gravity of the decision, but laughed it off and I clicked the button.

20 June 2012: San Francisco International Airport –> John F. Kennedy International Airport

Now that the date is set, we can start contacting landlords about apartments, employers about job prospects, and friends about meeting up (and crashing on couches). Now that the date is set, we can also start planning what to do and who to see in the Bay Area for those two weeks. Now that the date is set, we can actually count down how long we have left on this island to say goodbye.

We’re ready for this move. Are you?

Aloha, New York.

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Young Man On The Road #22: Trip Stats

I know I mentioned that I was going to write about California, but eh, don’t feel like it. California wasn’t an adventure, it was a homecoming. It was full of reunions and revisits, not new discoveries. I will, however, briefly recap what I did in Cali:

I crashed at four different places: Ian’s family’s place in Covina, Olivia’s place in Santa Monica, Felicity & Taylor’s place in West Hollywood, and Leslie’s place in West Hollywood. I revisited the few places in LA I enjoy: Venice Beach, Santa Monica (Esplanade and Pier) and the Farmer’s Market. I watched the first game of the Golden Bears’ 2011 season at an unofficial Berkeley bar. I saw lots of friends and ate lots of food. It was awesome. Now you know.

Take a look back at my second “Young Man On The Road” post. You can see that right off the bat, we’d already strayed from our target cities list. A late start meant we spent our first night in Eugene, Oregon, instead of Portland. Let’s look at a condensed look at how our trip shaped up after that.

CITIES/PLACES (italics indicate a day trip city, a “>” indicated a day trip within the span of the previous stay)

  • Eugene, Oregon (6/20 – 6/21)
  • Portland, Oregon (6/21)
  • Mountlake Terrace and Seattle, Washington (6/21 – 6/24)
  • Boise, Idaho (6/24 – 6/25)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (6/25 – 6/26)
  • Littleton, Boulder, and Denver, Colorado (6/26 – 6/29)
  • Fort Collins, Colorado (6/29)
  • Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota (6/29)
  • Deadwood, South Dakota (6/29 – 6/30)
  • Twin Cities, Minnesota (6/30 – 7/2)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (7/2)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (7/2 – 7/3)
  • Chicago, Illinois (7/3 – 7/6)
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan (7/6 – 7/7)
  • Detroit, Michigan (7/7)
  • Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (7/7 – 7/12)
  • >Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (7/9)
  • Plainville and Boston, Massachusetts (7/12 – 7/16)
  • >Plymouth, Massachusetts (7/15)
  • New York, New York (7/16 – 7/24)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (7/24 – 7/27)
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey (7/27)
  • Washington, DC (7/27 – 7/30)
  • >Baltimore, Maryland (7/29)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (7/30 – 8/2)
  • Columbia, South Carolina (8/2)
  • Atlanta, Georgia (8/2 – 8/5)
  • Savannah, Georgia (8/5)
  • Orlando, Florida (8/5 – 8/7)
  • Kennedy Space Center, Florida (8/7)
  • Miami, Florida (8/7 – 8/9)
  • Gainesville, Florida (8/9)
  • Tallahassee, Florida (8/9 -8/10)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (8/10 -8/15)
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana (8/15)
  • Houston, Texas (8/15 – 8/16)
  • Austin, Texas (8/16 – 8/20)
  • San Antonio, Texas (8/20)
  • Lubbock, Texas (8/20 – 8/23)
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico (8/23 – 8/24)
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (8/24 – 8/25)
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona (8/25)
  • San Diego, California (8/25 – 8/28)
  • Los Angeles, California (8/28 – 9/6)

BY THE NUMBERS

-Those 44 locations spanned 31 US states and one Canadian province. A “province” is the Canadian version of a state, just like “curling” is the Canadian version of a worthwhile pastime.

-Of those 31 states, we only spent the night in 22 of them. Of the remaining states, one was a day trip (New Jersey) and eight were drive-through states (Wyoming, Indiana, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi). You couldn’t pay me to spend the night in some of those places.

-Of those eight drive-through states, we only stepped out of the car in six of them for gas or food. No love for Indiana or Delaware.

I spent 80 days on the road. Ian spent 79. The difference is because I went up to Sacramento the day before we officially started (June 19th) and spent the night at my sister’s place. Ian picked me up the following day. Bottom line: I win.

-I brought with me around $3,400 on the trip. Of that paltry sum, $1,800 was put into a joint account that we used solely for gas and split meals. That, plus the $100 my gracious sister gave me in New Orleans, was all I spent for three months. Thank god for free housing!

-Speaking of free housing, I crashed in 39 different places. 22 of those places were with friends and family, 12 of those places were found through CouchSurfing.org, one of those places was found through Reddit (go figure), and one of those places was a room in the New Orleans Sheraton that my sister paid for. The remaining three places were motels that Ian and I gave in and paid for (Eugene, Deadwood, and Tallahassee). Why give in to paying for motels? No free Wi-Fi in Ian’s car.

-By the way, Ian’s car–a blue 2008 Honda Civic–was just the reliable steed we needed for our trip. We drove it over 13,000 miles and it didn’t break down once. Ian takes care of his car; he treated it to two oil changes. It was towed once, but at least it was never broken into or stolen. I think with the bug-covered exterior and all our blankets and food boxes in the back, it looked like bums were living in it.  Grade A security system!

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM!  Live musical acts I saw on the road (click the links!)

Fitz and Tantrums @ Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI

Dangermuffin @ Surf Bar in Folly Beach, SC

Lee “pLink” Floyd @ Musical Legends Park in New Orleans, LA

Yojimbo @ Maison in New Orleans, LA

Los Lonely Boys @ Blues on the Green in Austin, TX

The Airborne Toxic Event @ Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, CA

PHOTO OP LANDMARKS Sometimes, you just have to play the tourist.

Top of the Seattle Space Needle

-Mount Rushmore

-Top of Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)

-Top of Toronto’s CN Tower

-Plymouth Rock

-The Statue of Liberty

-Top of New York’s Rockefeller Center (“Top of the Rock”)

-Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

-Top of the Washington Monument. . . and pretty much everything else in DC

-The Alamo

-The Grand Canyon

EPIC LOG

I guess I should wrap up my last Young Man On The Road post with some sort of declaration about life-changing lessons and finding myself on the road. That’s how all big adventures end, right? But I still feel like the same guy who partook on this road trip in June. I may have a few less dollars, a few more friends, and mental images to associate with cities that were no more than names on a map before I left, but did it change me as a person? I don’t know, I don’t think so. It didn’t change my outlook on life. If anything, it reaffirmed how I’m living it.

It also narrowed my focus on what could be my next big adventure, but I’ll save that story for my next Young Man Went West post.

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YMWW #23-B: California Chronicles, Part II

Part II: Camp Counselin’

The main reason I flew back to California was to return to Camp Milagros in Sonoma County for my third year as a counselor.  In 2008, a college friend involved with the Arthritis Foundation asked me to be a counselor, and I loved it so much I thought it worth flying back to this year.  Camp Milagros is a wonderful, week-long summer camp for 8- to 13-year-old children with juvenile arthritis.  Though these kids have special needs–and the program does a fantastic job catering to those needs–the camp’s greatest attribute is that it is so completely normal.  That’s what I love about it.  The campers run around, play sports, swim, do arts and crafts, and goof around like at any other summer camp, and because everybody deals with arthritis or other related conditions, nobody is singled-out.  Everyone is just normal.  What’s more, Camp Milagros also has a low camper-to-volunteer/staff ratio, about 2:1, so these children are able to receive a lot of individual attention.  If you want to learn more, visit the Arthritis Foundation’s page about juvenile arthritis activities, and/or watch this video.  Maybe you can be a counselor with me next year!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I was pumped to be back at camp.  To be honest, my first year was fun, but being a newbie, I was a bit self-conscious.  Would the campers like me and respect my authority at the same time?  Did the other counselors think I was doing a good enough job?  What did the girl counselors think of me. . . ?  The second year was better since I was returning with confidence.  I knew I could do the job well, so I didn’t worry about everything as much.  This year, though, all I could think about was having fun with the kids I knew and who already knew me.  There were a few new people, both campers and counselors alike, but the majority of the people were Milagros veterans.

Out of the eight boys (yes, out of 29 campers, only eight were boys), two of them were first-timers.  The first newbie had arrived at camp before everybody else, even me.  Standing under four feet tall because of the medication he takes and requiring the use of a wheelchair for long distances, this boy was understandably nervous about his first time at camp.  He sat silently next to his foster mother while the other counselors and I took turns asking him questions, receiving nothing but one-word answers and no eye contact.  This will be a tough nut to crack, I thought.  The two bus-loads of kids pulled up some time later, and I tried my best to introduce him to the other guys.

The second new boy came right as everyone was shuffling into the dining hall for lunch.  He seemed like the camping type as he was dressed in a fleece jacket and a giant bucket hat.  He gave his dad a long, sentimental hug goodbye, and the dad reassured his son that he loved him and everything will be alright.  It wasn’t long before I realized his bucket hat was pulled down low to cover the tears in his eyes.  Alright, I thought, here’s tough nut number two.

During lunch, the first new boy slowly started to open up to the other boy campers, talking about video games and whatnot.  Halfway through the meal, after realizing the other kids wouldn’t treat him differently because of his size, he was dominating the conversation, cracking jokes and asking a billion questions.  Though small in stature, he easily had one of the biggest personalities in that room, and that’s saying something.  Everybody gravitated to this new superstar.

Bucket Hat, however, just kept crying to himself.  He didn’t even get a plate to eat because he claimed he ate before he got there, which may have been true, but I also think he was too shy to get in the buffet line.

(Sidenote: the food at camp is all-you-can-eat amazingness.  One of the reasons I go back.)

By the end of the day, the boys were fighting over who got to push Superstar in his wheelchair, while Bucket Hat was telling me he wanted to call his dad so he can go home early.  I pushed back his request with the promise of awesome activities to come.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Every year, we spend a day with Challenge Sonoma Adventure Ropes Course, conveniently a short hike and shuttle ride away from Camp Milagros.  The campers learn to trust each other and their selves while scaling giant redwood trees.  It’s a ton of fun and, in addition to the camp food, another reason I return to this counseling gig.

Superstar was physically unable to participate, but he was content watching his new friends climb the courses while he did watercolors (his paintings, by the way, were quite impressive).  Bucket Hat, on the other hand, wasn’t even down to harness up.  I think it was a combination of nerves and. . . what’s the opposite of being out-going?  In-coming?  Yeah, that.  He instead did lanyards with one of the doctors who was also too nervous to do the ropes course.  We did see a spark of hope, though, when he taught another camper a card game.  This other camper was a second-timer who, last year, was very shy.  He didn’t open up until the second-to-last day when I bonded with him over comic books.  Since then, he wore a giant, ear-to-ear grin.  He came back to camp smiling, ready to play with everybody else.  He even put on a harness this year before backing down halfway up the ladder.  Still, he tried, which was more than I could say for him last year, or for Bucket Hat this year.  If anybody could turn this Bucket Hat, it’d be Smiles.

Alas, after we got back from the ropes course, he closed up again.  He once again asked to call his dad.  “Why don’t we wait just a little bit?”  I suggested, “Tomorrow, we get to write letters home!”  That didn’t do much to convince him.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday was a bit less hectic than the previous day.  There was a lot of free time to goof around, play sports, and prepare for the second No-Talent Show happening that night.  The No-Talent Shows are like regular talent shows, but because of the name, encourage the kids to get up and do whatever they wanted without feeling a need to be “talented.”  Even still, there was definitely a lot of talent to go around, with kids running up to sing and dance and perform skits they made up.  Superstar proved to be quite the entertainer during Wednesday’s No-Talent Show, winning the audience over with his dance moves and great comedic timing.  He spent a lot of time Friday preparing more skits and performances with the other campers.

I wanted Bucket Hat to do more than just make lanyards (even though I made quite a few myself) so, after finding out he was pretty much a soccer superstar, grabbed a soccer ball and played a little one-on-one with him.  He was fast and skilled and totally in his comfort zone.  The entire time we were playing, he was laughing and smiling.  I eventually got a bunch of kids to play a big game, and he impressed everybody with his skills.

Still, though, after the game was over, he didn’t do much to connect with the other kids.  They weren’t ignoring him at all; it was he who didn’t open up to their interactions.  He admitted to me that his only friends were the counselors and I thought to myself, Well, no duh! He still wanted to call his dad and Emma, the camp director, finally allowed him to do so.  Bucket Hat’s dad agreed to pick him up the following evening.  We did what we could.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Knowing he was going home later that day, Bucket Hat subconsciously allowed himself to have fun.  We organized a huge game of Capture the Flag and, just like in soccer, he rocked at that.  When a couple of the other kids were mattress sliding (a camp tradition where they stack up the vinyl mattress and slide across the hardwood floor while counselors nervously watch), Bucket Hat joined in.  Sometime after lunch, I was playing ping pong doubles with him and two other boys when he turns to me and said, “This is kind of hard; I think I want to stay now.”  I immediately threw down my paddle and yelled, “We’re telling Emma!”  I ran up the porch with Bucket Hat trailing and interrupted Emma’s conversation with, “Emma!  Emma!  He wants to stay!”  She immediately left the group, got on her phone, and called Bucket Hat’s dad.  She was able to get a hold of him before he left and Bucket Hat got to stay until the end of camp, which, a bit anticlimactically was at noon on the following day.  Still, victory!

The night ended with a surprise b0y-girl dance party, a first ever in Milagros history.  While some of the younger boys retreated to their cabin, Superstar, Smiles, and the other older boys relished in the opportunity to dance with the girls.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

As part of Camp Milagros tradition, our last (half) day consisted of breakfast followed by a giant shaving cream war.  Named the Prank War, they developed this morning-long battle of shaving cream, silly string, and water balloons in an attempt dissuade campers from pulling pranks on each other during camp.  If you didn’t do any pranks all camp long, you were rewarded with a shaving cream can and a chance to cover your counselors in white foam from head to toe.  Good trade off, yeah?  Bucket Hat definitely had a good time running around throwing shaving cream on everybody.  Even Superstar, being pushed around by another counselor, participated in the fight.  Despite the fact that the morning fog hadn’t lifted by battle’s end and we had to hose off with ice-cold water, it was still, as always, a messy good end to the camp activities.

I had a great time seeing all the returning campers, all of them funny, smart, cute individuals whom I didn’t get a chance to mention in this post, but my best memories were of the great time the two new boys had at camp.  This year, sadly, would be Superstar’s only year at Camp Milagros seeing as he’s 13-years-old.  No worries, though, he’ll be able to turn his charm on the ladies at the Juvenile Arthritis Teen Retreat in San Francisco next October.  9-year-old Bucket Hat, on the other hand, despite having a rough time getting into the grove of things, reassured us that’ll he’ll be coming back next year.  I hope I’ll be around to see his triumphant return.

***

I’d have felt weird ending this post with photos of Roxy models, so here are a couple photos of the kids I mentioned.

Superstar (left) and Smiles at the dinner table.

Bucket Hat picking and eating blackberries from a bush.

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YMWW #23-A: California Chronicles, Part I

Part I: Back in Town

Monday, August 2, 2010

After an uneventful, five-hour flight, I was finally back in the Bay Area.  (Edit: I say “uneventful” like a bad thing, but it occurs to me that “eventful” flights usually mean catastrophe.  This flight was perfect.)  My parents picked me up at SFO, but seeing as it was past nine o’clock and near their bedtime, we skipped the restaurants and went straight home to Livermore.  After a meal of leftover ribs and rice, I gravitated towards the digital cable and 60-inch HD TV and got caught up on Entourage.  One hour into my vacation and I was already playing couch potato.

‘Round about one in the morning, my good friend Ian came by to pick me up.  Everything was closed by this hour, like any decent suburb, so we drove around just to drive around.  He pointed out a few new additions to Downtown Livermore—such as the newly-expanded First Street Ale House, the type of pub-slash-restaurant prevelent in Berkeley but lacking in Honolulu—but for the most part, the city entire was just as I’d left it.  Still, we drove.

We drove and we didn’t stop talking.  The conversation was continuous and seemlessly slipped from one topic to the next.  We discussed everything from girl problems to the possible city infrastructure of San Jose.  Before we knew it, it was three o’clock in the morning by the time he took me back to my place.  The car stopped in my driveway, but the conversation did not.  It was not until an hour and a half later did I finally head upstairs to go to sleep.

I took that first night of shooting the breeze in a car with my friend as a good omen, a foreshadowing of the fun, easy time we will have during our roadtrip around the country.  I will go into detail of this later, but basically, Ian and I plan to drive around the continental United States for an entire summer next year, starting in the Bay Area, going up through the Pacific Northwest and then across the northern states, working our way down all the essential cities of the East Coast into Florida, and then back through the South.  The theme of the trip (besides avoiding Middle America) is frugality; we will couchsurf, crash in the car, or camp before considering a hostel, our last resort.  Seeing as three hours flew by during our tour of Livermore, I truly believe our roadtrip will go off without a hitch.  Well, without many hitches.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ian picked me up the next morning for more car-wandering.  This time it wasn’t as aimless; our plan was to drive up the Peninsula for the sake of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.  Before heading out, Ian and I stopped at Safeway to buy ingredients for a pack lunch.  We spent about half an hour deciding between this sandwich and that before realizing we were both already hungry.  We ditched Safeway for hot food and beer at First Street Ale House.  I love that kind of spontaneous decision-making.  I live that kind of spontaneous decision-making.

Bellies full, the two of us continued on our trip up the Peninsula.  It was a comfort to once again see familiar golden hills, wide open spaces, and highways that made sense.  When we reached the Bridge, I whipped out my camera and started snapping away like a tourist.  It was narrower than I remember, but than again, I don’t really remember the one other time I crossed the Bridge.  I guess it was narrower than I expected.  Shorter, too.  I’ve found monuments are usually smaller in real life than in pictures and expectations.  Still, the familiar orange towers shrouded by grey fog forced a giant smile upon my face.  We pulled around to Vista Point on the other end so I could take an unnecessary amount of same-angle pictures of the Frisco icon.  Dressed in shorts, slippers (read: “flip flops” in CA), and a zipped-up hoodie, I fully indulged my Hawaiian tourist persona.

Fifty pictures later, Ian dropped me off in Berkeley so I could meet up with my friend Olivia, who just happened to have the day off.  I hadn’t seen Olivia in a year, but we quickly got caught up on what we’ve been doing since graduating.  Basically, nothing.  We were both too proud about it, too.

Olivia and I made all the necessary Berkeley stops: Upper Playground, Rasputin, Brazil Cafe, Beckett’s, spending money we didn’t have on things we shouldn’t have bought.  Along the way, we met up with my friend Ben who also—surprise, surprise—was working entry-level jobs solely to pay rent.  There the three of us sat: Berkeley graduates.  Minimum-wage warriors.  Twenty-somethings with uncertain futures but no worries about them.  We should be the poster-children on the post-recession University of California brochures.  Go Bears!

Another beautiful double-exposure photo from my friend Daeja Fallas (www.daejafallas.com) feature the one and only Golden Gate Bridge

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