Shortly after breaking off my physics study I went on a journey through North America in August and September 1993, during which I kept a diary. After a visit in Baltimore I travelled across the US with bits of Canada and Mexico by Greyhound bus. It was a life-changing experience. Names and details have been changed to fit the medium.
Baltimore – DC – New Orleans – San Antonio – Juárez – San Francisco – Detroit – Toronto – NY
Part 4: Feeling alive
In the bus from San Antonio to El Paso, Texas, Saturday 28 August 1993, 21:20 local time
In the bus from San Antonio to El Paso, where I will arrive at 5 in the morning (this is a night journey within one state).
Feeling great now. Today was my last day in San Antonio. Yesterday and today I spent my time with Irene (Austrian) and Silke (German), who seems really well educated. I didn’t meet up with Nicole, the girl from San Francisco who I met in the bus to San Antonio, but I did speak to her on the phone, I gave her my address. I’m now walking around with the addresses or phone numbers of 6 people. Travelling is great! It is so easy to make contact, experience stuff, getting new impressions in such a way that you have to rely more on your feelings and instincts. Feeling more alive! Especially with Silke I had talks worth a lifetime. One can tell one another a life’s story in a short time and learn from each other’s experiences.
Wisconsin (when writing this), Friday, 3 September 1993, 19:00 local time
On way to Chicago from San Francisco, left two days ago. Met up somewhere in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with two Polish girls, Ewa and Monika. Passed through Nevada and Utah earlier and had a short stop at Salt Lake City where I had a walk around at night. Very quiet, nothing special in walking distance.
A recap from before. In the bus from San Antonio to El Paso I was sort of hit in the face by a black guy with a thirst buster (a big drinking cup) after I asked him something about the route. When I asked him what I had said wrong he hit me again and said I should ask someone of my own “species”. Another passenger came to my rescue and told me to avoid this crazy guy. Later I saw him talking to his drink.
Stayed briefly in El Paso and walked across the border to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. From the barb-wired bridge over the Rio Grande you could see the low riverbank covered in graffiti with stuff written in Spanish, something about Saddam Hussein and George Bush.
The streets in Juárez were suddenly quite different, no skyscrapers and it smelled like a mixture of spices and waste. The buses looked really old, robust and colourful. I walked around for a couple of hours, saw some off-centre streets, stretching out a long way, took some pictures and went back via a square in the centre and some uninteresting tourist street near the border.
From El Paso I went to the place that was promised to be the most beautiful place in the US by my initial hosts, New Mexico (even though they hadn’t been there themselves), but when I arrived in Albuquerque it was actually raining, so I decided to move on. I didn’t have that much time after all and I still had a long way to go to my end goal of New York.
Leaving Albuquerque at night, I went to Los Angeles. Approaching the city took forever, with fields of oranges and windmills, but mostly suburbs, very boring looking. LA didn’t seem like a place to walk around so I made a transfer to the next stop: San Francisco. The route along the Pacific Ocean has some lovely scenery, reminding me of the Mediterranean coastline.
In San Fran I stayed at a youth hostel where, for the first time since travelling by bus, I washed my clothes, and on seeing several groups of young people together that I couldn’t really connect to, it was the first time I actually felt lonely and homesick. It was the first time in a while I called home, and hearing the news that my sister had given to birth to a baby boy, making me an uncle for the first time, was a reason for me not to talk about feeling lonely to my mother. I walked around the hills of the city a bit and took that famous old-fashioned tram up the hill and enjoyed the view over the city and the bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz island/prison.
A long journey lies ahead.
Ciudad Juárez (Mexican side of the Rio Grande):
El Paso (US side of the Rio Grande):
San Francisco pictures:
To be continued…
Part 4: Mexico and San Francisco