First Solo Vacation - Three Days in Oakland, CA
The beginning of my trip was full of doubts. Doubt about whether I should go, doubt about finishing all my tasks before leaving, doubts about spending $350 on myself to take a "just because" trip. But this trip was so liberating. I think I broke free of a lot of doubts and what ifs.
Then after I landed in Oakland I had doubts about renting a car, and not sticking to my public transportation idea. (Boy would that have turned out to be a completely different trip. This was much better.)
I spent 45 min in the airport after I got off the plane researching what I want to do while here, while charging my phone. I spent 20 min researching transportation options during my connecting flight. I was sad to discover that the train does not have an unlimited day pass. The bus does and it is affordable. I didn't want to pay $9 every time I need to go somewhere. Public transportation would be better here when I want to see things in the city, Oakland or San Francisco. Since this trip is geared towards nature the $60 car option made more sense. A one way lyft to the hotel was $20. There is direct access to the train and bus system from the airport.
When I left the airport in my rental car, I headed straight for the first natural looking place on Google Maps in the area, the Redwood Regional Park. I hiked into the beautiful trees and noticed the gorgeous views of mountains in the distance. I was breathing in the fresh air and I felt as tall as the mountains that I was trekking. I had finally done it, made it on a trip alone, and I was doing something that I really was enjoying. About half a mile, maybe more, into the hike, I was not seeing any other people. I thought to myself, "This is the woods, and I could disappear and no one ever know what happened." It doesn't help that I had been reading "The Shack" where the girl gets taken in the woods. So sadly I turned around.
I went to the next most interesting place on the map, Sibley Volcanic Preserve. On the way I saw a breathtaking view and I had to pull the car over to get out and take a picture. I was driving through the hills or mountains and it was actually a neighborhood full of wealthy houses built on the sides of the hills. Some people wake up to this wonderful view of the bay everyday. I tried to hike the Sibley park but there were even fewer people here, so that didn't last too long.
Next I went into the city of Oakland to Lake Meritt. I walked around the entire thing, 4 miles I walked. I was reading a book while I walked and a guy approached me about my reading and walking. I was surprised he was talking to me but he walked with me to talk and it turned out to be a fun conversation that ended when I walked past where I parked and halfway to where he approached me.
getting a great appreciation out of the simple things
Next, I sought to see some water, so I went to 2 places on the map where I was able to see the bay, but one didn't have people around, except a few men in and out of their cars, so I didn't get out of my car. The other on MLK had more people but it was not as impressive. By this time I was ready to finally go to my room. I wanted to be in before nightfall. The guy at the front desk was totally flirting with me. He was a young Indian guy who happened to be the first person ever to say, "nice ring" to me, referring to my wedding ring. In my room I sat for a few minutes to plan the next day. I learned that the first Redwood place was having a meetup group there to hike the next morning! I didn't care that I was not a "Grieving person over 35" I was just going to join. The hike was at 10am and I put it on my calendar, despite my unscheduled nature of this trip. I also found a tour at a different natural park and both were added to my calendar. I ate tuna for dinner that night, because I was determined not to spend any more money, and part of my plan in booking the room was to save food from breakfast for the rest of the trip.
Next morning, I got up as planned, saved food as planned, and headed out. I actually arrived to the place for hiking 30 min early. It was chilly this morning, and I drove back up the mountain past those neighborhood houses right into the clouds. While waiting for 10am to arrive, I observed so many people out there and being active in the morning. There was an annual bike race going on and many other people out at the park. 10am came and I never saw anyone from the meetup. The last lady that I asked if she was a part of a meetup said that there are plenty of people out now, and I should just take the hike. I'm glad I talked to her, because I don't think I would have come up with that on my own. My mind had switched to finding a new group of people to hike with, but I knew I was attracted to walking alone, so I did! I enjoyed hearing the sound of the wind, and the crackling of the rain on the leaves of the trees when there is no rain. The moisture from the clouds on the trees has collected and is falling from the tall trees like rain. There was a lot of activity on this hiking trail, and there were people in front and behind me. There was one lookout spot that I stopped to gaze and take pictures. When I continued down the trail, I noticed that I didn't see people anymore. That nervous feeling came again and I turned around. I started back down a different trail, figuring that the people must have taken that loop, but it went down hill into more trees and I was not seeing anyone. I began to have a conversation with God at that point. It was quite an experience to see how quickly an enjoyable hike became a scary and intense situation. I looked around for any possible weapons against a person or an animal. I decided on a big rock that had sharp edges and I carried it around. I kept hearing my dad's voice in my head talking about people harvesting organs, and that became my reality for the moment. I had turned back up toward the main trail and ran into a black girl who said it is safe and there should be more people ahead, so I turned back around down the trail that I really did want to finish. Then, somehow, she wasn't behind me anymore...so I turned back around again! But then I heard a child's voice ahead and I walked towards the family, asking them if there were any more people in the direction they just came from. They said no, so I told them I would walk back in their direction. Along the way there were two women walking in the direction I really wanted to go and so then I was finally able to finish the trail through the redwoods. I hiked 4.3 miles in those woods.
I had about 2 hours until the next scheduled thing on my calendar and I made my way to the other location. It was a tour of plants in the botanical garden and it was a conviction of how I am not growing and nurturing plants as I should be. It was enjoyable and educational.
Next, I just explored more places on the map that looked interesting until it started to get dark. I gave myself enough time to get into my room before night. The guy at the front desk was friendly again and I talked in there with him for a little to keep him company. I learned that he has only been in the US for 4 months. I also took time to plan out my next day, more time than before because I planned on going into San Francisco, and that would require some knowledge of the public transportation.
Things I picked up from this trip: 1) I MUST get outside more.
I parked at Old Navy near Ikea since I thought that would be a safe place to keep my car all day. Lucky me, I didn't account for the free parking meters on a Sunday! I went to China Town to checkout the Moon Festival festivities. I had not spent any extra money on this trip until I went there. I saw something for the kids and I had this inner desire to eat in China Town, so I did. While there, I decided to go to Golden Gate bridge. They had a welcome center and a whole park with walking trails. I walked across the bridge, a 45 min walk. I was sorely disappointed when I got to the other side and discovered that I was not in Oakland, but near a place called Sausalito, and that in order to catch a bus back to Oakland where I parked, I would have to wait 59 min for a bus that would take me right back over the Golden Gate bridge, which I'd just hiked. I decided that it didn't make sense in my mind, so I made a plan to "beat the bus" and run (jog) back across the bridge in less time than it took me and I would catch a bus 30 min earlier. And I did, and I got to the bus stop in 30 min.
Things I picked up from this trip: 1) I MUST get outside more. I love it. I formed an entire trip doing nothing but walking and sightseeing, and I loved it! This was surely what I wanted to do, and I did it. Of course it helped to have excellent weather for hiking, clear blue skies and the sun shining on you that doesn't even make you sweat, but these outdoor opportunities are out there in so many places that I am not taking advantage of. I need to do it for myself and for my family. This trip I hiked and walked more than 19.25 miles, and I'm still elated over it all. 2) There are so many trips and vacations just waiting to be had out there. If I can get this excited over traveling like this, doing all these free sightseeing activities, surely I can make a habit of it. 3) I can travel alone! No more wondering or waiting on anyone. This was so liberating. I think I broke free of a lot of doubts and what ifs. I had a fun time traveling with myself, making plans on the fly, spending time and money on only the things that I wanted to do, and getting a great appreciation out of the simple things.