As my 10-hour flight touched down in California, my gap year adventure officially began. We were greeted by the friendliest guy at passport control. He asked if my travel buddy and I were sisters or BFFs and then told me to smile more for my picture. It was a good welcome. We were staying with my travel buddy’s aunt, uncle and her baby cousin. Her uncle picked us up from the airport in one of the trucks they had offered to lend us to drive around the state. It was an exciting prospect. The weather was mild but the sun was out in full force, just as we’d hoped.
We all stopped off for a cup of coffee on our way to San Jose. For me coffee was my first American experience. I’m a tea girl and this was before I had started university and coffee became a necessity that was drunk as though it was on tap. We were then treated to a delivery pizza. Again another American experience. I live in the countryside. People do not deliver here. We were settling in quickly. Our earlier coffee got us through to the 24 hour mark and, feeling as though we had triumphed over jetlag, we slept in our new bed. On our first full day, we spent the morning playing with my buddy’s little cousin before taking the truck out to Santana Row, where we found some fancy shops. Thankfully, we decided it would be my turn to drive on the way back, so I didn’t have to worry about driving on the wrong side of the road for a couple more hours. We parked up no problem and then spent a while running around looking for a meter. We then realised it was free. That was a nice surprise.
We then treated ourselves to lunch. We walked into one place but after receiving instructions on how to order, we figured we weren’t quite ready for this yet. We looked elsewhere and found a place called Counter Burger. There was so much food. There was so much choice. America was living up to its food reputation. We snapped an inevitable Facebook-food-photo, ate as much of it as we could and then wandered over towards Macy’s. I’d never seen one before.
As we approached, we discovered an entire Westfields shopping centre. Somehow we managed to keep hold of our money, despite the shops we visited. Although we did agree to return to get rid of our remaining dollars before we left to New Zealand. The only money we did spend was at a juice shop, where we were invited to a frat party. And it was only our second day! We probably would have gone too if we hadn’t been planning on starting our road trip before the party date. Shame. We also found a Pottery Barn. You know, like in Friends.
Then it was my turn to get behind the wheel. It was surprisingly okay. Just weird. For evening entertainment, we went out to a Mongolian BBQ with the family. It was delicious. The scary part was having to drive the family car back. On the freeway. No pressure. But happily, it was a smooth ride.