Go West My Friend

It’s raining outside. Of course it’s raining, it often does when I’m leaving for a long journey. In the quiet early morning I do a last laundry round, have a shower and breakfast and then I’m ready to go. Just like last year, Uber isn’t working and there is no driver showing up. This’ll be the last time I’ve tried that in the Netherlands. I walk through a drizzling rain with my heavy luggage to the train station, but fortunately about halfway there is a bus stop with a bus scheduled in a few minutes. With just a few minutes left I arrive nice on time at the station to catch the train.
At the airport it’s very quiet. It takes only a few minutes to check in and drop off my luggage. Going through security also goes really fast and that’s when I start to relax. I have a nice chat with the security guy who wishes me a good travel time and to take care of myself. I like it that I meet friendly people everywhere.
With still a few hours left before take off, I get myself a cappuccino and a table to work at. I do some last website support work and then choose to stow my laptop and wait the last half hour before departure. After another nice chit-chat with the security people at the gate, I’m happily walking into the gate to the airplane and find my seat by the window.
There is no rush today, because the plane waits about an hour before we take off. Fortunately my first layover in America is more than three hours, so this doesn’t matter to me. Just when I’m starting to wonder if we’re actually gonna depart, the plane starts to move to the runway. It’s nice to see the planes that I normally watch from the airport now from the other side. It’s still gray and rainy weather outside, so it looks like a typical Dutch day. I’m feeling ready to trade that in for some Californian sunshine. Sitting in the plane and looking at the airport I realize how long I’ve been waiting for this moment. Leaving the Netherlands behind for a while and going on an adventure.
I’m feeling happy as we’re taking off and enjoy being above the clouds again. I want to make my flying time productive for a change and buy WiFi access for the whole flight. It feels good to spend my time in the air useful instead of only watching movies and series. I manage to set a website live that was actually planned for later in the vacation or when I’m back. Fun surprise for the client and the first website I’ve launched from 10km high in the sky. When we’re flying over Greenland the connection drops and I decide to use that time for a break and watch some comedies. The flying time is passing by really quick with this combination of working and relaxing. It’s also very nice to be able to stay in touch with family and friends while flying. One of the cool aspects of modern technology. After a bit more work we’re heading towards the Canadian Rocky Mountains and I decide it’s been productive enough for today. I enjoy the beautiful view of the enormous snow covered mountains. Before I know it, the captain announces that we’re getting ready for landing. This flight went really fast. While we’re flying lower and lower I enjoy the views of the beautiful mountains between Seattle and Vancouver, another city I’d like to go back to some day.
The lines for passport control in Seattle are very long. I estimate the waiting time to be over an hour, so I’m happy to have a few hours before my next flight. If you fly to America and have a layover, make sure it’s at least 2-3 hours, because you might need that time to enter the country. I was right about my estimation, the total waiting time turns out to be 65 minutes. That’s probably good to know to manage your expectations when traveling to America. I’m blessed with a friendly customs guy who only asks a few brief questions. Before I leave him he wishes me a good time and tells me jokingly not to stop in San Francisco. I reply by telling him that local people already warned me for that on my last roadtrip here. Many years ago I really enjoyed visiting San Francisco. It’s a pity that it has become such an unsafe city. It wasn’t on my list for this trip anyway. I’m happy that passport control was so easy this time and then I can wait again in the next line for security. Security in America is usually a lot more old-fashion than in Amsterdam. Where at Schiphol Airport you can leave your drinks and electronics in your bags these days, here you still have to take them out and there are very old scanning machines. The whole process takes very long and feels very inefficient.  While I’m writing this I’m wondering if these waiting stories are interesting to read, but at least they let you know what to expect when traveling here.
The security takes another hour and leaves me just enough time to walk to the gate. Beforehand I had expected to have some time to relax at the Seattle airport, but only a few minutes after I arrive at the gate they start boarding. I thought it was a three hour flight from Seattle to San Diego, but it’s just over two hours, so I’m arriving an hour earlier than I had expected. That’s a nice surprise.
I’m getting more tired during the second flight, but want to stay awake to force myself into the day rhythm here. I watch a show from Gabriel Iglesias, a fantastic comedian that I discovered recently and who makes me laugh out loud. Great way to stay awake. Arriving after a domestic flight always feels like a relief compared to the international flight. No more security, just walk downstairs and grab your bag.
When I walk outside the airport I breathe in the fresh Californian ocean air. I love this so much. It’s a perfect temperature today and I walk to the bus stop. It’s a bit different than usual, because the last few times my local friend was waiting for me at the airport, but she’s out of town and so I’m by myself today. That also works out fine, the bus to the city turns out to be free and only takes about 10 minutes. I enjoy seeing the familiar skyline of San Diego again. I got myself a hostel in downtown, so I can enjoy one of the breakfast restaurants in the morning. When I’ve dropped off my bags at the hostel, I walk through the city for a few errands. Somehow it feels super normal to be back. It helps that I’ve been here several times now. My first stop is a phone store to get a local sim card so I can go online here as well. I go to the same ATT store as I went last year and just a few minutes later I walk outside with an American number. I call my grandma for a moment, so she has my new number and then go to a healthy restaurant that the guy at the phone store recommended me. That was a good idea and I enjoy a delicious strawberry-chicken salad. The first meal of this trip was a healthy one. After dinner I walk to a familiar grocery store a few blocks away to get some water for tonight and tomorrow, because the water from the tap here is not so nice. I feel like a local, because I know the area so well and can just do my groceries like the people here. I’m heading back to the hostel for a shower and an early night. The journey felt quite short this time, but still I’m tired now. It’s been a long day and I’m happy to be back at the West Coast.

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