The Californian Escape: Why the Americans don’t need passports

Stepping off the plane at San Francisco international airport this April, I felt cheated. Robbed, bamboozled and utterly cheated.

Why? I was most certainly not met with what I’d been promised after trawling through the various alluring ‘California’ snaps on Google images, far from it. I’m referring, dear Boar reader, to the weather – it was shit. Think, less golden sunshine and more golden rain mac.

But fear not all you California dreamers, after a few days, the weather sitch improved. After all, what was I expecting? San Fran ain’t no Malibu. What I was the left with, however, was the most memorable (and if you’ll excuse the cringe-worthy Americanism), awe-inspiring two weeks of my recent years.

I should probably explain what I was doing jetting solo across the Atlantic. It’s that classic story of boy meets girl, girl goes to Paris on her year abroad, boy goes to California to spite her and they foolishly try that long distance thing for a while. Surprising enough for us, it worked.

So there I am, suitcase in one hand, croissant in t’other, about to experience a trip of a lifetime. We were based in Berkeley, a hippy come tea-party town just east of San Francisco; it was, to my fresh Parisian eyes, bizarre. While the streets are lined with more homeless people than you could shake a corn dog at, the average housing price reaches over $730,000.

The university itself, grand, impressive and with the self-assurance of an institution that boats 70 Nobel Prize winners amongst it’s alumni, fitted the American stereotype to a tee. Fraternity and Sorority houses filled the surrounding streets and in terms of academia, you could almost taste ambition in the air.

From Berkeley we made our way to San Francisco. Across the rainbow-flag strewn Castro district to the ‘hipster’ hangout of Mission, the city is a wonderfully diverse and eclectic melting pot of different people and cultures.

To sample those beaches Google had guaranteed, we hit Santa Cruz, where the people are almost so damn good looking and tanned that it pains the feebly pale Brit to behold.

And then there was Yosemite National Park. A place so utterly breathtaking that even after passing the umpteenth mountain, valley or waterfall you still have to pinch yourself with amazement.

According to statistics released by the U.S department of Sate in January 2011 only 37% of Americans hold a passport. Scoff if you will, I certainly would have pre-trip, but I’m now shocked to hear myself admit that I can begin to understand why.

Snow, sun, and sand… the state of California has it all. And there are 49 more to boot.


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