Never thought I'd be sad to head to the Bay

Let me just start by saying it: I <3 Portland!  Hopefully, by the end of this sure-to-be long post, you'll know why :)

First, let's start with the hostel and all the great people I've met!  There's just been so many cool people to hang out with over the past few days, I can't wait for Europe!  I promised a few short bios (which I probably won't be able to do in Europe), so here we go:

Nick (New Jersey) - This guy has just hit 10,000 miles on his trip across the country.  He's zig-zagged all the way accross the US, visiting family, couch-surfing, and avoiding all interstates, choosing to take the ultimate "scenic route".  He's planning on working down in the LA area as an IT guy.

Benny (Oregon/California) - A very interesting guy, he used to be homeless before escaping down to Cali for stealing DXM stuff (cough drugs).  Now he's apparently found religion (in a big way, believe me) and has returned to face a judge for his wrongs.

Ian (Rhode Island) - Out on a vacation from his gf I guess, he's just in to see the city.

Mark (Minnesota) - From Minneapolis, he's been biking around the city, checking out everything to see.  He's in town for a while during some sort of conference.  He and I chatted a ton about the midwest.

Brad (Alberta, Canada) - Love ya man!  Brad's been my bud around a lotta Hawthorne.  He's current in college getting a degree in film, and man, his knowledge shows!  Everyday since I've been here, he's gone to at least 1 or 2 small films here in Portland.  He's chilling in Portland to see a few concerts.  Hope all goes well man!

Greg (New York) - After teaching English in Korea, Greg spent 9 months backpacking India, Thailand, Morocco, Europe, and a bunch of other places I can't remember.  Thanks for all the euro-advice, it's been super helpful!  He's taking a break from NY to check out Portland, and (like me) seeing if he could maybe live out here someday.  He'll be heading back out this way on a roadtrip (man, you should've talked to Nick), including a trip up the PCH (hopefully to visit with all of us in SF!)

Carrie (California) - Haha, I guess I should Pennsylvania Carrie, but you seem to be such a Santa Cruz girl now, I find a hard time say that's where you're from.  She's out here volunteering full time in SC, following here passion.  Glad to hear you had a safe flight back and we should hang out soon!

Sarah (Connecticut) - I know you're reading this Sarah, so I'll do my best to describe you :-P  Sarah decided to pick up from her job on the East Coast to work at the hostel, which she says has been an awesome experience.  She's gonna be heading out soon to travel up north, hopefully to Vancouver (which I HIGHLY recommend, along with Seattle) before she hopefully will meet up with us in the Bay.  You better come :)

I think that's a pretty short, quick recap of all my Portland peeps.  For everybody else, I'm sorry, there's just so many stories to tell!

So, what about today?  Well, I woke up later (of course) still feeling tired from the day before.  It was going to rain later, so I thought I could pull off the bike ride, but in the end, the guy at the desk convinced me that the 3-5 hour trip to just reach the start of the Columbia Gorge probably wasn't worth it today, especially in my shape from yesterday haha.  It's alright, I'm going to be doing a road trip up here to see the Gorge and a bunch more of the neighborhoods ASAP, I guarentee it!

I decided to "wing it", very un-Matt-like I must say, but it was great.  Sarah, Greg, and I headed up to Mt. Tabor Park, a park that's the site of an extinct volcano which has great views of the city and Mt. Hood on clear days.  We talked about all the places we'd like to live; I commented on my stressing about trying to move to SF.  

After words, we got some vegan for lunch (Greg and I said we'd try it, and it was really good!) and then split up.  Carrie headed back to CA :( , Sarah headed back to the hostel, and Greg and I ventured up to the NE neighboorhoods to explore based on Sarah's suggestions.  Besides Belmont/Hawthorne, we also checked out the neighboorhoods around Alberta St. and Mississippi St. areas.  We had a great bus driver from England, who gave us a lot of insider info on the neighborhoods, which was great to hear.  He pointed out houses that were around $350/400k, which looked more than nice enough to me.  Man, I forget how big a rip CA is sometimes...

Out of all the places we saw, I still liked the funky, bohemian feel of Belmont best.  Mississippi was already pretty built up, and Alberta was definitely up-and-coming (with quite a mix of houses/businesses), but I liked the little Belmont area best.  I'm always saying how much I've wanted to live in a big city and try it out once, but now I want to live in a neighborhood in a decently sized city that has some character.  I like the mixed usage feel of neighborhoods here, with a few shops or little restaurants interspersed with houses.  It reminded me a lot of Bucktown and Chicago.  San Jose to me just feels a lot more sterile; I feel like there's not as much character.

Greg and I talked a lot about what we thought about living here.  Well folks, let's just say, after this trip, my list of cities to live in has been totally changed from:
  1. SF
  2. Chicago
  1. Portland
  2. Chicago
  3. SF
I'm not saying I'm going to move anytime soon, but I definitely see myself living here someday (yes Kristen, I'll wait until you move to Europe :-P).  Like I said, I need one more road trip up to see more neighborhoods and such, but I'm fairly certain I've found my new favorite city.  Why did SF take such a dive?  After seeing Portland, it reminded me how many issues I have with SF really: $$$, no jobs for me, transit issues, the list goes on and on.  I still love the city, don't get me wrong, but Portland's got some great positives (many which I've already said):
  • Great transit
  • Cheaper housing and rent (from what I've looked up)
  • More variation in weather (still no snow thought, but I'll deal with it)
  • Super environmentally-friendly
  • Less of the valley girls, surfer dudes, exercise addicts and health nuts that have inundated Cali.  Don't get me wrong, I've become much healthier since moving to CA, but some of it goes too far.
  • To with this point ^ , more food selection that isn't super-healthy while still having enough of that health stuff too.
  • Super friendly / non-confrontational people, which can be kind of annoying at first, but I'm sure it's not hard to get used to people saying "Thank you" all the time (even when getting off the bus!)
  • Really young crowd wherever I go.  I've spent months hunting in the South Bay with not much luck; this city seems like the Austin on the West Coast with TONS of people in their lower 20s.  Now that's bad-ass!
  • Silicon Forest is right here, plenty of jobs for engineers (I hope)
Overall, I'll just say, Portland reminds me much more of MI, so I feel comfortable.  One thing that has me a little down about the city, which I just noticed is the much lower amount of diversity than Cali.  I'll admit, I feel a little out of place in the Bay Area, but that's part of what makes it great!  People seem to be very understanding and accepting up here, but I still feel like it's fairly homogeneous.  Oh well, I guess everything can't be a plus, but I'd be willing to live with it I think.

As I conclude tonight, getting ready to ship out in the morning, I feel sad about leaving.  Not only am I leaving a city that I now love, but also a great group of people.  I'll miss you guys, but hey, hopefully Facebook/phone #'s will help us out a little bit!  As I finish this up, Sarah and Greg are heading out to the Detention Bar, a grade school-turned-into-bar.  Love it lol!

Oh, and for the first time in a while I feel totally relaxed.  I'm always stressed so much before trips, but once I'm there, it's always such a blast.  I can't even imagine what Europe's going to be like!

I'm dropping down into the SJ by noon tomorrow, until my next post, thanks guys for tuning in, it's been a great adventure, both in traveling and writing :-P  This is Matt Stan, signing off!


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