If an year ago, somebody had told me that I will visit USA in 2018, I would have just fake-laughed at them in denial. The chances of me getting to visit USA in my lifetime seemed even slimmer than threading a needle in the first try. But life has its own way of playing out – and it played out well in this case for me.
Like last year, this year I got invited to Google’s Product Expert Summit ( previously known as Top Contributor ) at Mountain View, California – that’s the headquarters of Google! However, an invitation was not the most important part to be able to actually attend this event. Unlike Singapore, getting a visa to enter the USA was much harder and expensive. Also as a young unmarried Indian guy, almost every Google research I did had told me that the chances of me getting a visa to visit the USA was zero!
Many of the fellow Product Experts ( previously known as Top Contributors ) from India and other South-East Asian countries like Indonesia, Vietnam etc had their US Visa application rejected. I knew statistically my chances were close to zero, yet there was a little glimmer of hope in me which made me to take a chance and spend over 10,000 INR in visa application and another 10,000 INR to fly over to Chennai for the visa interview. It was the best bet I have ever taken in my life and it paid out well.
I started my journey on the night of October 30th from Cochin Intl Airport and it was the longest flight journey of my life. I flew in Singapore Airlines via Singapore and it took me roughly 24 hours to reach San Francisco Intl Airport. If you would like to read my flight experience, you can find them here: From Kochi to San Francisco via Singapore: My First Journey to the US and Singapore to San Francisco 15 Hour Flight : My First Journey to the US.
After the immigration at the airport and I walked to my taxi, the chilly wind in San Francisco was such a refresher after the long journey. I knew right then that I would love every moment of my stay in the US. Having explored USA in some of my favorite video games like GTA, Flight Gear, Midtown Madness etc, I was so happy to experience and see them in real life.
The event at the Google campus in San Jose was just amazing. There were thousands of Product Experts from all over the world! I met many new faces and also rekindled friendship with people I met at previous events. I also got to ate lots of marshmallows, m&m’s and other American sweets which I had only heard of.
After the event at Google, I and one of my friend took a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. The bus ride was a little underwhelming and it was honestly the worst bus I have been in. But we eventually reached Los Angeles just fine. We stayed at an Airbnb in a suburb in North Hollywood and explored places in Los Angeles over the next few days. We went to Downtown, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica pier, Venice Beach, Long Beach, LA Zoo, Griffith Park, Hollywood Street, and a lot more.
Though we had to rely on Uber at times, the public transportation in Los Angeles was quite reliable. We were able to explore most of Los Angeles very cheaply.
I don’t think I got to spend enough time in Los Angeles. I really want to go back to Los Angeles some day and explore it in a luxurious way – maybe even rent an RV and explore all of the USA!