When I was 18 years old, I had my first taste of corporate India. It wasn't as delicious as my friends and family had cooked it up to be. After 6 months of making up balance sheets, I put in my papers and decided to do the most spontaneous thing I'd done in a while, to rid myself of the bitter aftertaste- I went WWOOF-ing on a farm in Sonoma County, California.
For the uninitiated, WWOOF is a platform that connects organic farms with people looking for opportunities on such farms. You put in a few hours of work on the field and in return you're provided with food, lodging and experiences that seem like a distant dream in our urban beds (you know, like horse-riding lessons, swing-dance classes, scrambling for dry wood for your campfire and learning how to make the most scrumptious pies from recipes handed down to your host over generations).
To say the least, my trip was full of adventure and the occasional surprise. The nerves of arriving at the house of a person I've only ever spoken to over the internet (after googling: axe murderers in Sonoma County) to getting soil- and the odd insect- stuck up my fingernails, there were always new things coming my way. The other WWOOFers, as we were called, on the farm were quite the sporting bunch who were always up for something new. So when our weekend arrived, we decided to spend it in San Francisco, since it was only about 55 miles from us. Of course, taking the bus there would've been too ordinary so we did something everyone's parents tells them not to: we hitched a ride from a stranger!
No, it wasn't as simple as that for multiple reasons.
a. We were 5 people
b. We had big backpacks
c. Sonoma County is famous for vineyards and fancy cars with a very limited 'hitchhiking culture' (if that's a thing)
5 people with big backpacks weren't getting a ride in any of the swanky coupes passing by so we made a competition out of it. Splitting into teams of 3 and 2, whoever made it to Pier 39, San Francisco, first, would win. Win the pride and glory of having made it there first without having been kidnapped or mugged at gunpoint.
Our very nervous host dropped us near the highway exit, asking us to inform her once we made it safely, from where we split into our teams and went our separate ways. Along with us, we had a sign that read "San Francisco" and another that read "We've got cookies" which we really did, as a treat for the wonderful person who would give us a ride.
The 3 of us waited by a traffic light for an hour and a half. Stationery. Holding up our sign. We got a few laughs, a number of helpless smiles and the odd glare from passer-bys. We realised how unusual it was for them to see a bunch of people (who looked like they had the combined age of 13), asking for a ride on the side of the road when a man came and handed us $5 telling us to "help ourselves" (a single bus ticket costs $10.75 but we'll take what we get). I think there's a fine line between the 'broke traveler' and 'homeless person' look. I also think we might've crossed it. We wouldn't have been surprised if we'd made it to the news on their local radio channel.
We'd lost sight of the other team and were ready to break for a second breakfast when a lady at the stoplight motioned for us to turn the corner and wait for her. A part of me was elated. The other part wanted to channel my inner Milind Soman and make a break for it. Luckily, my legs stop functioning when I'm nervous. The lady stepped out of her car and said "You girls are crazy! But you know what? That's why I'm going to take you." Her car was bursting with luggage that we moved around to make space for ourselves and packed in for our ride.
Josephine spoke to us about everything on our way to the city. She was going to her brother's at Berkley. She's a dental hygienist. She's been happy rich. She's been happy poor. And she even went out of her way and dropped us right into the city, past the Golden Gate Bridge. For once I was glad I hadn't listened to my parents. Strangers are wonderful people. Oh and she only accepted 2 cookies. Dental hygiene and all that.
We did the walk from the Bridge to Pier 39 where we met our teammates. They'd reached Pier 39 first but we'd made it into the city earlier. While our ride had been smooth, their rides had been quite different. Their first ride was a man on his way to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting who kept insisting that the two were married. Their next ride was a pseudo-hippie/musician who gave them a music CD and the third was a lady with no particular eccentricities. Each ride laster no more than 15 minutes, luckily. They were just glad to have made it alive. Well. They can save reaffirming their faith in strangers for another day.
The city was worth the hard ride. From pub-hopping to jumping on the street with strangers, dancing in Golden Gate Park and lying on the grass looking over the sea, there were fewer things as wonderful in the world at that time.
To many more such adventures...
#takemetosandakphu #TakeMeToSandakphu #TripotoTakeMeToSandakphu