So normally an 8-month adventure in Europe starts on the East side of the Atlantic Ocean, right? Not this time!
Since flying from Los Angeles to Amsterdam is cheaper than flying from Vancouver to Amsterdam, I decided to have a little California adventure first and leave for Europe from the US. A 3-hour bus followed by a 21-hour train trip later, I was downtown San Francisco. What a beautiful city, sticking out into the San Francisco Bay with lots of greenery around it! I found it very similar to Vancouver with its many people running, biking and exercising. There is a lot of environmental awareness, and people generally have a very liberal attitude.
A friend of a friend that I was staying with knew a guy with a boat and within 3 hours of my arrival I was sailing a 30-ft sailboat under the humongous Bay Bridge and out towards Alcatraz! Being a pilot, naturally I’ve always regarded sailing as second-rate but this experience changed everything. There is so much technique that goes into sailing and much to do for all kinds of situations that one might experience out on the open water. With winds that threatened to flip our boat (or at least it felt like that), the ship veered from side to side making more than 45° angles with the water at times! We hit speeds that the captain said he had never reached on this boat and at a certain point decided to head back because it was too dangerous to continue sailing out in the Bay.
Staying with my friend in Silicon Valley I saw the inner workings of a few tech start-ups – also a very fascinating world! There is so much money in the Bay Area and what appears to be a growing shortage of engineers. It is a world where people are constantly trying to beat each other’s technologies, constantly trying to be first, and constantly trying to impress the right people. All this with the ever-looming threat of the large, established tech giants buying you, developing a competitive product or blocking you in some fashion. Just walking down the street you find all the tech companies you have ever heard of: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Zynga, etc.
When I say that I started my European adventure in California I am referring to the little town of Sausalito located on the other side of The Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the town is Italian, including the writing on the garbage cans. One pizza later, I was ready to embrace Europe full on!