This blog was originally posted on photosandblogs.com on June 28th 2016
I'm currently lying in my room in Hotel Zico, Mountain View, California. It's Thursday 16th June, 11:25pm. The room next door comes complete with a couple having a domestic. My nosiness to find out what's going on is preventing me from sleeping, so now seems as good a time as any to start this post.
This is my first time in America, in fact, it's my first time out of Europe. I think I've dreamt the 'American Dream' since I was around 14 years old - when me and my friend decided to freeze a bar of Hershey's chocolate (it wasn't as easy to find over in the UK back then) and promised not to open it until we made our fortunes in America. I think the idea back then was to take our guitars and make our mark in America when we turned 18. But at 14, we didn't take into account that we would need money and a Visa to actually do that. Plus, the chocolate got stolen from the freezer around 6 months later. We never did find out who took that!
But here I am. In America. Alas, no guitar, but a lot of excitement all the same. I'm 26 now and kick myself for not coming over here sooner. Who knows when I would have got here had it not been for my amazing new role with SmugMug. A bit of procrastination and an evolved hate for flying could be reasons that I haven't been here sooner... But forgetting that life moves quickly and doesn't hang around waiting on decisions is probably the main reason.
So here I am on a working trip in Silicon Valley to meet my new teammates. The past month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind. I had to make a decision on what direction I wanted to take my career in. Fast forward a month and I am working with a team of people who are some of the friendliest I've ever met and I'm sitting in a hotel room in North California.
After a 20 hour (ish) journey from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and then on to San Francisco airport, we finally landed on Sunday. I felt completely dazed once we arrived. Partly due to tiredness and partly because I couldn't actually believe I was finally in America. I turned my watch back 8 hours and laughed at the idea of it only being the afternoon AGAIN that day.
I know that America is famous in the UK for large portion sizes when it comes to food. But I didn't quite expect a 'small' salad to be the size of 2 salads back home and a side of sweet potato fries to be a meal in itself. Cue night 1 learning that: Sharing is Necessary in the States.
Monday evening came complete with a fantastic team meal and thus began my new interest in the Golden State Warriors Basketball team. Go Dubs!
Skipping forward to Tuesday evening. I was invited out to a Baseball game, which, of course, was a no-brainer. Hot dogs, beer, and what seemed like an intense game of Rounders. It was the San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers. We arrived at the stadium via the Caltrain - another new experience for me - a double-decker train, who knew?
The atmosphere was superb! I didn't follow the scoring system too well but the crowds, people and views made this a memorable part of the trip. Thanks to Chris and his amazing family for inviting us along!
Wednesday came complete with a workshop from Elena Shumilova, which was a real privilege to be a part of and a truly incredible evening at Hidden Villa.
June 27th - So it's now 10pm on June 27th back in Scotland. I've been home for a week now and I'm missing California and the people :-(. I did intend to finish this post long before now but I've only just overcome the jet lag today. I've had 4am rises this week, worked, slept and been awake again for 10pm. Not good! The trip was well worth it though and I ended up getting some OK sunrise/sunset photographs back home due to the lack of sleep. Silver linings.
Anyhoo... I guess I started this post as a sort of diary of the week so it makes sense to pick up where I left off. Friday. After a day in HQ, the intention was to head up to San Francisco to get images of the Golden Gate Bridge by night with - the very awesome - Sarah. That didn't happen. We didn't leave Castro Street. Friday night turned out to be a true highlight of this trip and the laughs we had are properly stored in my memory bank now. Dinner with Sarah, Clay and Hunter resulted in Margaritas and me showing them the beauty that is a Baby Guinness shot (and them returning the favour with a shot that can only be described as horrific!)
Clay gave his best rendition of the Braveheart speech - he knew every word (I don't think there's even any Scot that can claim they know every word?) Mel Gibson eat yer heart out!
While we spoke about the differences between the Scottish and Irish accents (apparently there is no difference?) and danced to Latin music, Alex and Aaron joined us and I knew by that point that I was in for a sore head on Saturday (referencing the alcohol - not the people that joined!)
Asking the barman for a round of their 'good whisky' to fit in with the Scottish stereotype, I was given Jameson's for the table. Really? I said good whisky! Not Irish whiskEY ;-)
Summing up Friday night? Amazing laughs. Amazing friends. Amazing memories.
Saturday arrived and I decided to catch the Caltrain up to San Francisco to take in some of the sights.I was desperate to see the Golden Gate Bridge since I failed in doing so the previous night so I walked 6.5 miles and finally seen it! I decided throughout this trip that I would just do the tourist snapshot routine as opposed to spending too much time setting up photos. There was too much to do and too little time to do it. There's a slight bit of disappointment now that I'm home because I didn't get the iconic 'sunset' image of the GGB but there's always next time :D.
I met up with Alex and RJ on Saturday evening for dinner - thanks for hosting :-).
Sunday came around too quickly - it was our last full day and night on the trip and the sadness of leaving was setting in. Lucky for us, we had some amazing company to show us around the streets of San Francisco. We soaked up the Californian sunshine - quite literally, I have the burnt shoulders to prove it!
And on this final night, one of my favourite parts of the whole week happened. Kayaking at sunset in California. Does it get any better than that?
Monday arrived and after a brief visit to say our goodbyes at HQ, we were on flight number one of three en route home.
I've always had a bit of an 'American Dream' and this trip lived up to everything and more. Sidenote: have you ever seen the movie 'Pretty Woman'? The part where the guy goes on about the dream... I keep hearing it every time I go on about this 'American Dream' of mine haha! (I realise I wasn't in Hollywood but you get the idea). This trip has been a bit of an eye opening experience that has given me a real travel bug to see more of America.
Lots of love to the SmugMug family, who made this week so special. But more than that, thanks to Sarah and Alex for taking time out of your own personal weekend to spend it showing me around and for introducing me to some amazing new music! You girls are true friends :D
Check out the videos on my YouTube channel. I'm away to listen to the rain batter off my window and sob into my pillow!