I don’t know exactly when I decided I wanted to visit San Francisco.
I remember being obsessed with the US pretty much as soon as I learned what streaming was. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl… you’d think I’d be obsessed with New York. In a sense, who isn’t?
I wrote a blog post when I was studying in Spain about wanting to go to Seattle. You know: Seattle, Washington. The birthplace of Starbucks, its museum of Science fiction, a Jimi Hendrix statue, hipsters. Dr. Derek Shepherd (I had to google his name) (he wasn’t dead yet). Ferry boats.
I guess the obsession with SF came some time after that.
I remember trying to explain the concept of fog over the Golden Gate Bridge to a Cambodian friend in May 2014. By that time I had been seriously settled on SF for a while. Posts about it made it to various blogs of mine in 2013 and 2014.
When and why exactly, are a mystery. The whole city just fascinated me. The pretty pictures you see on Google, as my tattoo artist put it so well. The fact that everybody said San Francisco was different from the rest of the US. The strong counter culture and the blooming of LGBT peeps and ideology. Maybe my subconscious can trace it back to when I was 5 and watched Full House with my grandma, I dunno.
Anyway, my heart sang San Francisco and as in all matters of life, I followed my heart blindly.
I first made a concrete plan and budget in January 2016, a week before I started my first real job in Belgium. I started saving up a month after that. I received unfailing moral and financial support from my family and friends, and only mild bafflement that I wanted to do this, and do this alone.
I bought my plane tickets in July 2017 and cried. It is still unreal to me, that I got to do this, a thing I really wanted, and that I got there mostly by myself. That this thing, this bright beautiful imperfect thing, is my own and no one else’s.
When I had to postpone my trip in October because of work, it was… brutal. I only had to postpone for two months, but still.
Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting to find here. A long-lost, deeply-hidden secret about myself? A chunk of bravery? A place where I would find kindred spirits, soulmates of sort? A place where I could be myself, whoever that is?
I’m not sure. What I found is a real place. Real-life situations, and me in the middle of them. Unpleasant realities and amazing treasures of books and people and blue skies. No big revelation, nothing that changed who I was. Still just me. Pictures and books and bling and memories.
There’s a bunch of stories I haven’t told here. People I’ve met who have been kind enough to share their own stories with me. Personal failures and disillusions. There are stories I am not ready to tell, some I don’t even know about yet. There are a bunch of small wonders I want to keep all to myself. But this is the gist of me, Mandooks, a 30-year old Belgian with a lot to learn and a hunger for the world to open up and show her its belly, in the city of her dreams, for a measly, unending thirteen days.
Thank you, if you made it up to here, for reading. I hope you find that thing you really want to do, that thing that is your own, and make it happen.
SONG CREDITS: I Want To Break Free – Queen