First Week Impressions and My Time in Pittsburgh

Wow, it’s been just over a week since I started my travels.  I wanted to write down my thoughts and impressions of events so far.  Overall, there’s really nothing else that’s ever happened in my life I can compare this experience too.  I mean, I’ve traveled around the US on vacation, but this is so completely different.  Here’s what I’m noticing:

1.  By far, the number one thing I’m noticing is that time has slowed down.  In the months leading up to my trip, I just felt like the days and weeks kept flying by faster and faster all the time.  I think not having a time constraint where I have to be back to my normal life the following week has created a new reality where I just simply enjoy what I’m doing, when I’m doing it without worry as to how much longer I have.  I’m also spending 4-5 days in each place I visit, so that allows for enough of a break between transits to relax and explore the city.

2.  Staying for more than a couple days in each place leads me to miss my hosts when I leave.  In Chicago, I stayed with a couchsurfing friend I met in Columbus.  I got to hang out with her, her friends, and roommates.  After 4 days, I felt sad leaving, and really wished I could have extended my stay.  In Pittsburgh, I stayed at this new donation based hostel run by a couple.  I felt like I was at home there, and we even prepared a meal together for a community dinner they were hosting.  Even though I always look forward to the next destination, it’s sad to part with new friends.

3.  Taking buses and walking is a freakin’ awesome way to experience a city.  You see so much more, talk to people who live there, and get a better sense of what it would be like to live there.  I recommend ditching a car and figuring out the local buses/metro to anyone.

4.  Couchsurfers are pretty cool every where.

As for Pittsburgh, my time there was kind of low-key compared to Chicago, but this is exactly what I was looking for.  I ended up staying in Pittsburgh’s one and only hostel of sorts.  It’s actually a donation based hostel where there’s a suggested amount, and you can pay more or less depending on how you enjoyed your stay.  The place is called Not Another Hostel, and it’s run by a young couple who wanted to give back for the hospitality they were shown while on the road.  When I got in, there was a French family of 5, an Aussie, and another American staying there that night.  We stayed up late talking about European travel and the US cities they were planning on visiting.  After two long bus rides from Chicago, it was a pretty cool vibe to come into.

The other highlight from the trip was meeting up with a friend and former coworker of mine who moved there a couple years ago.  We spent the day having lunch and then walking around downtown, checking out the bridges, and the strip district.  They invited me over to a get together they were hosting that night and suggested I just stay the night with them.  It was a good way to wrap up my first week.  We had a good meal, drank a lot of wine and had some laughs about things in Pittsburgh and travel in general.  They also let me do my laundry, which I was incredibly grateful for.  So, Kevin and Michelle, THANK YOU VERY MUCH… YOU ROCK!!

Other tidbits from my stay… I rode the buses quite a bit and found them to be a breeze in navigating the city.  I also got to meet a lot of couchsurfers when the place I was staying at hosted a community dinner where we invited everyone to make their own pizza.  We’ve done a couple of these in Columbus, and they’re always a huge success.  I made dough and sauce with my host, and we had a pretty cool evening hanging out.

For touristy stuff, I checked out the Cathedral of Learning which was awesome.  It’s the second tallest building in the world devoted to education.  They have these nationality rooms which each represent a given country.  I also checked out the Andy Warhol museum and Point Park.

All and all, good stay, and hope to make it back again some day.

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