My 2019 San Francisco Trip, and Why It’s Okay to be a Tourist

Goodbye 2010s | My 2019 San Francisco Trip, and Why It’s Okay to be a Tourist

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This post is part of my 10-week retrospective looking back at a specific trip from each year of the 2010s. Read more about the series here. Below are links to every post in this series.
My 2010 Toronto Trip and Why I Love a Quest
My 2011 Vancouver Trip and Why Repeat Visits Are Nice
My 2012 Denver Trip Was Weird And I’m Gonna Try To Explain It But Fail
My 2013 Thunder Bay Trip and How a Statue Made Me Cry
My 2014 NYC Birthday Trip and Why I Like Traveling with Friends
My 2015 Madrid Trip and Going Somewhere You Never Expected
My 2016 Tokyo Trip and Why Challenging Travel is Worth It
My 2017 Connemara Trip and Why A Quick Break Is Good
My 2018 Belfast Trip and My Love of Day Trips
My 2019 San Francisco Trip, and Why It’s Okay to be a Tourist

This is it, the final trip I’ll be talking about on my 2010s travel retrospective. In 2019 I didn’t do a ton of travelling, but I went to three places. The only new to me destination this year was San Francisco.

This was a trip I took with two of the three friends who’d come with me to New York City back in 2014. It wasn’t a trip I necessarily expected to take. My one friend messaged me on New Year’s Day 2019 and asked, “wanna go to San Francisco?” I looked at the airfare, saw I could afford it and booked a ticket right away.

There are some places I visit where I just kind of wander around and do whatever, and then there are other places I visit where I want to hit the tourist spots. This isn’t a post about traveller vs tourist. The entire dichotomy of that debate is based on a false premise that the two things are different and that you have to choose one, which isn’t true. Anyway, when it came to San Francisco my friends and I wanted to do a lot of the “tourist” things.

We took a hop on hop off bus tour. We went across the Golden Gate Bridge (it’s very windy, particularly at the top of an an open-air double-decker bus). We rode the cable cars. We went to Alcatraz (something I really wanted to do). We had sourdough bread at Boudin Bakery. We wandered around Chinatown and went to the place where fortune cookies were first made. We wandered around Pier 39 and had lunch at the Hard Rock Café, and spent some time at Fisherman’s Wharf. We did a harbour boat cruise where we went from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oakland Bridge (fun fact: there is someone on both of those bridges touching up the paint all day long…the guy on the Golden Gate Bridge saw our harbour cruise and waved). We walked down Lombard street (neither of my friends or I wanted to drive down that street). The one semi touristy thing we didn’t do was spend any time around Haight-Ashbury, but that’s mostly because we ran out of time.

Wandering around Chinatown in San Francisco.

I realize that the above paragraph is just a boring dear diary list (you know, dear diary today I did this then I did this and then this, etc) of my time in San Francisco. I’m pointing all this out because if I’d gone to San Francisco myself I probably wouldn’t have done all this stuff. I tend to just wander about when I travel solo. This can be great and lead to discovering things I didn’t know about. Often though it’s stemmed from my internal monologue going, “okay you need to watch your money, you can’t afford to do all the stuff you really want to do, so just take a walk in this park because it’s free.”

There are several hearts in Union Square in San Francisco. This one was painted by Tony Bennett, who sings the famous song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

I’m not here to tell you to break your budget. I’ve gone into debt for stupid reasons and I don’t want to encourage that mindset, but sometimes it’s worth paying a little bit more when you travel. I always try to balance things out. For this trip, my friends and I stayed in a hostel because San Francisco is expensive and my job only has part-time hours so I’m hella broke. However we splurged on some of the experiences we did, like taking that harbour cruise, or visiting Alcatraz. If there’s something “touristy” that you’re interested in seeing you should budget the money out to do it. When I travel alone I sometimes get overwhelmed with everything I could do that I don’t do much of anything. When you travel with other people you have other people’s opinions and preferences and ideas of things to do. I likely wouldn’t have gone to the California Academy of Sciences if I was in San Francisco on my own, but both my friends wanted to visit the museum, and it was actually a pretty cool.

One of the places I wanted to visit was Alcatraz. It’s pretty popular to visit and tickets are limited, so it’s best to buy the tickets in advance. Alcatraz is run by the National Park Services, so be sure to buy tickets from because they’re the only website where you can buy official tickets for the ferry to Alcatraz Island.

I feel like I should have some grand epiphany when I travel, and particularly with this post being the end of this retrospective. I do have realizations when I travel, usually about the places I visit, sometimes about the people I travel with or the people I meet on the road or about myself. I don’t want to say you have to travel, because I know that not everyone has the means to travel, or even wants to travel the way I do. For myself, travel is the best learning experience I have, and I am so grateful for all the travel opportunities I’ve had in the 2010s. I look forward to new travel experiences to come in the 2020s.

Things To Know
While in San Francisco my friends and I stayed at the Orange Village Hostel in a 4-bed dorm that had a small ensuite bathroom. The hostel is close to the Powell Street Station, where you can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to the airport.
If you’re not on a budget there are plenty of other accommodation options you can book here.

What was your favourite trip of the last decade?

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