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

This is the final post in my 10 part retrospective looking back at a specific trip from each year of the 2010s. Read more about the series here. Today I’m talking about the 2019 day trip I took to the San Francisco, California. Previous editions of this series include

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 traveling, but I went to three places. The only new to me destination though was San Francisco.

This was a trip that I took with two of the three friends who’d come with my to New York City back in 2014. And it wasn’t a trip I necessarily expected to take. My one friend messaged me 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. And 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 on 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 made. We wandered around Pier 39 and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, and spent some time at Fisherman’s Wharf. We did a harbor boat cruise where we went from the Golden Gate Bridge to the the Oakland Bridge (fun fact did you know there is someone on both of those bridges touching up the paint all day long…the guy on the Golden Gate Bridge saw our harbor cruise and waved). We walked down Lombard street (none of my friends or I wanted to drive down that street). The one semi touristy thing we didn’t do was spend anytime around Haight-Ashbury, but that’s mostly because we ran out of time.

A back alley of Chinatown in San Francisco.
Wandering around Chinatown in San Francisco.

I realize that 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. But 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 kind of wander about when I travel solo. This can be great and lead to discovery things I never knew about, but it’s often stemmed from this subconscious/internal monologue of me going “okay you’re broke, you can’t afford to do all the stuff you really want to do, so just wander about this park because it’s free.”

A heart with the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay in Union Square, San Francisco, California.
There are several hearts in Union Square in San Francisco, which is a free place to visit. This heart was painted by Tony Bennett, who sings the famous song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

And I’m not here to tell you to break your budget (because I’ve gone into debt for some 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. Like for this trip my friends and I stayed in a hostel because San Francisco is expensive af and my job only has part-time hours so I’m hella broke. But 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 that. And when I travel alone I sometimes get overwhelmed with everything I could do that I don’t do much of anything. And when you travel with other people you have well 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 museum to visit.

Outside of the old Alcatraz Penitentiary.
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 travel retrospective. And 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. And 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. And of course I look forward to a new decade of travel experiences in the 2020s.

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