The trip was planned fairly meticulously yet allowed space for adaptability, if that makes sense. I had no idea how it would go, travelling with a baby. Times zones, stuff, navigating subway systems, even a new pram for the trip took a ridiculous amount of research.
So I planned for three weeks, which would give us over a week in SF, a week road-tripping and a few days back in SF to bookend the trip. I also factored jetlag into the mix and allowed time to take time, so we could sit in a park and watch the world go by if the mood took us.
On another occasion I’d like this to be literally just riding the tram system and seeing what happens. Their trams are amazing! Recycled from various worldwide locations, mostly vintage, vehicles of beauty!
Being on one is like stepping back in time, yet with everyone on their phones or whatever…wood panelling, rounded mechanical bits of chrome, lovely typography on signage. I digress…
I made a rough plan of where to be when so I could book our accommodation through Airbnb and see to our flights. I decided to stay in Oakland as it was cheaper, interesting and still in the San Fransisco Bay Area.
Travel insurance I was dreading. America, with a recognised mental health condition? Some of the quotes were as suspected, jaw-dropping; though I eventually found a great deal.
In the days before travel everything starting coming together, the excitement was tangible and not fraught with nerves like I’d imagined.
All the stuff at the airport was good, I allowed loads of time as it helps ease the worry out of an already anxiety-ridden place. A friend took us there and helped with our stuff and generally be a calming presence whilst checking in. All that along with some deep breaths and aromatherapy oils on pulse points, it was all good.
Master McDuff nodded off just as we went through security so I had a bit of time for browsing the airport wares. Result. Then we had a leisurely breakfast before getting on the plane.
I’d read that breastfeeding a baby on take off was a good idea to help with the air pressure. It worked. Master fell asleep again, another result. Short lived though, as he was awake again after twenty minutes and didn’t drop off again until we were queuing at customs on arrival, over eleven hours later.
I relished the whole experience. I enjoyed listening the conversations of progressively drunk young men also embarking on a road trip. I was inspired to talk to my neighbour who had, with her husband, made a move from Sussex to California a few years before.
I was very grateful for the connection to the lovely, Polish air stewardess who took Master for me to the crew at the back of the plane for hugs and giggles (he was a hit!) so I could have a few moments to myself.
I learnt so much in that say, 18 hours of airport and flying experience I’ll need to write a separate checklist of advice and tips for people travelling solo with an 8 month old.
Master was excellent, reluctant to sleep (which is normal) but there was a lot of stimulation for him, bless him. People commented how calm he was and that was reassuring, when I’d wondered about the opposite.
The most sensational part of the journey was towards the end. Where you could see from the TV screens how we were flying across American states, peeking out the window and everything becoming so clear and visceral. This feeling of return, of renewal. The feeling of joy. The feeling of adventure.
The skies were blue and it was sunny and clear. I gasped as I saw the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. My neighbour told me that she had made this flight numerous times and not once had she seen the Bridge flying in as it was always shrouded in mist. She said I was very lucky. I looked at her, tears rolling down my cheeks and said with a smile “patience is rewarded”.