When I left New Zealand in 1984 at the age of 24 I left with feelings of excitement but also uncertainty. I remember vividly the drive from Dunedin to the Airport with my grandmother in the back seat with me. We were both a bit upset because my grandmother was 80 and we were very close. There was a sense of maybe this being our last time together. As it turned out that was the case. On the plane I was somewhat anxious and was wondering what the future had in store.
I had a one way ticket to San Francisco with no onward journey. I had US$1500 and the plan was to travel across America finishing in New York from where I would fly to London. I took a 3 day excursion with the Green Tortoise Bus Company to Yosemite. We slept on the bus which was a new experience. Quite comfortable as the bus had fold out beds. An incredible place of remarkable beauty that I was fortunate enough to revisit with my family a few years ago.
During my time travelling in America I met some wonderful people who put me up and took me places.
I had some scary moments such as going for a run in Los Angeles having left all my valuables at a person's house I had only recently met. In horror after a 20 minute run I realised I was completely lost without an address. Thankfully after a while the lady I was staying with drove her car around the neighbourhood and rescued me.
I lived with a father and daughter in Atlanta for a short time. We were the only white people in the street which was quite weird for me coming from a place like Dunedin. I had had an extremely sheltered life to this point. Bus journeys into the city were interesting. I met a man who owned a red corvette who drove me around and introduced me to his family and running friends.
My longest stay was in Little Rock, Arkanas of all places. I met a couple who owned a health store called Beans, Grains and Things. We shared an interest in alternative music such as Joy Division. They were most friendly and kiwis were an unknown breed to them. In fact few knew where New Zealand was and some thought it was attached to Australia. Strangely my future wife, Jo was also living in Little Rock and shopped at Beans, Grains and Things though neither of us were aware of each other's presence there. How peculiar that we should meet up several years later at my dad's work. In Little Rock I was looked upon as a novelty item. The locals loved my accent and I always had a captive audience. I found I didn't have to pay for many drinks.
As much as I loved being in America all good things must come to an end. Also money was running out and I missed some basic things like watching cricket and eating Fish and Chips out of newspaper.
Just before leaving New York a rifle shot passed me into a shop window near Time Square. A frightening experience! Finally I got on the plane and headed for London. To be continued.