First USA Trip Diary

My first USA trip has been so amazing and eventful that I am finding it hard to put everything in one post, in one style.

So I have decided to split up things into different parts. Today, I will post about events in chronological order. I will write more about my observations about America and also post some tips for other travellers.

Note: All date & time values refers to local timezone only!

Oct 15 – Left Pune to catch USA flight from Mumbai

Reached Mumbai in daytime only though I had flight late night flight. (TODO: my experience of finding flight)

International SIM

In Mumbai, I had purchased a Reliance USA-SIM for Rs. 4000/-. But they couldn’t activate it on time, so I returned it before leaving. I am still awaiting refund for money. Avoid Reliance at any cost. As usual they are jerk!

I already had international roaming active on my regular Idea number so I didn’t bother much.

On Mumbai airport I found UniConnect counter just after I got my boarding pass. They had one more counter near gate no. 69 (yeah its easy to remember gate number!)

Free WiFi

On Mumbai airport, there was free wifi. Once you connect to open wifi, you need to input your mobile number to get verification code by SMS.

Oct 16 – Landing in Los Angeles

I reached Los Angeles in morning 10AM. Flight landed almost 1.5 hours earlier, but it took me almost two hours to complete immigration and come out of airport.

I got taste of American sense of humor during immigration only.

Public/Shared/Ground Transport

I booked a shuttle via shuttletolax.com for $20 only to reach my friends place which was almost 40 miles away. All other shuttle services charges 2x more.

I haven’t used any shuttle service but shuttletolax.com was good enough that I will use and recommend it.

Carpool Lane

First thing I noticed when shuttle hit the road was carpool lane!

I was surprised to see that American highways has a dedicated lane for cars in which 2 or more people are traveling together. So while other 3-4 lanes moving slowly, shuttle in which I was traveling zoomed past with all other cars, inclduing a sports car! 😀

I reached my friend Harshal’s place. He was ready to take day off but I thought its better to have some rest and bath.

In evening, I, Harshal and his rommie Satwik went for dinner and drink to BJ’s. Beer from this brewery tasted much better than what we have here, atleast in Pune.

Oct 17 – Client Meeting

International Sim

In morning, I went for a walk in neighborhood. Basically looking for a store from where I can purchase Lyca Mobile SIM.

They had a great $29 plan but bad reviews about their shipping service.  So preferred to buy it offline. I had to pay $10 extra for SIM.

Later Nirav Mehta (from StoreApps) ordered it online without any problem. Online ordering saved $10 and he got two SIM – nano and micro SIM.

I got only micro SIM and for cutting it to nano SIM size, shopkeeper was asking for USD 15 extra. I was carrying spare Xiaomi MI3 handset and SIM adaptor. So I preferred using Micro SIM with new handset.

Client meeting

Can’t tell more about client meeting but I will remember their hospitality for lifetime. 🙂

After work, in evening they took me for dinner and entertainment at Medieval Times. I liked this place as it felt connected with rtCamp. rtCamp is all about King Arthur’s Round Table and knights.

I am not sure if the choice of place was coincidental or made specially because of our “Round Table” connect. In any case, it was amazing day!

Wait, it did not end at dinner. When I came back, Harshal was ready to go out for dinner with his old college friends from their. I joined them and kept wandering past midnight.

Oct 18 & 19 – Weekend

Me, Harshal and Satwik spent weekend traveling. It was a great weekend with nice memories.

On weekend, when we stopped for lunch at at sbarro pizza, I had to choose between beef and pork. I got confused as I usually preferred chicken/meat or fish and veg option did not look appealing.

Harshal recommended Pepperoni Pizza for both of us. Sensing my confusion, Harshal ordered a Pepperoni Pizza and a Veg Pizza saying that I can taste Pepperoni Pizza and if I don’t like it, I can have Veg Pizza. But if I like Pepperoni Pizza, I can have that and Harshal would eat Veg Pizza instead.You don’t make so caring friends once you are out of school/colleges! 🙂

On Oct 19 (Sunday), I had to sleep early as I had 6AM flight to catch on Oct 20.

I woke up Harshal at 4AM to drop me to airport which was again 40 miles away from his home. I feel bad now as I could have booked another shuttle. It took time for me to realize Americans are very punctual and professional. As I was new there then, I panicked and decided to trouble my friend rather than missing my flight.

Oct 20 – Reached San Francisco for nginx.conf

I landed at San Francisco International Airport around 7.20 AM. I directly went to nginx.conf which was hosted at Hyatt Regency. I used free shuttle service from Airport to the hotel. Such free shuttle services are common for all big hotels in USA.

nginx.conf workshop day

Through out the day, I attended Nginx Workshop which was a nicely designed course by Johnny Tu. I saw Igor many times but couldn’t speak to him. I still find it hard to initiate conversations.

I met other people from Nginx team Patrick, Sarah and Erin. They all had been nice. Very nice! 🙂

Towards evening, when workshop ended, Kunal Pariani from Zimbra offered me to drop me to my AirBnB accommodation at Jocelyn’s house (also known as “HackerHouse”).

I was only going there to drop my luggage and needed to go back to another venue for dinner. Nginx Inc, was hosting dinner for speakers and sponsors that night. When Kunal got to know it, he offered to wait for few minutes and drop me back at the dinner venue.

Kunal offered to came to pick up me in morning for next 2 days of conference. But as my accommodation wasn’t on his route, I preferred to not trouble him. I was already surprised by his nice gesture as my AirBnB accommodation was in opposite direction.

Nginx Dinner

At Nginx dinner, I received one of the best gifts of my life. Something I will cherish forever.

At dinner event, Nginx Inc gifted romper for my newborn son. They were glad to know that I nicknamed my son Nginx. 🙂

IMG_5820

It was a fantastic dinner with fine folks from HP, Intel, ARM, New Relic and other big companies. The things these guys were discussing are amazing. I felt like I was seeing future firsthand. 😉

After dinner, I came back to my accommodation. It was already late and I had to wakeup early next morning. So I directly went to sleep without socializing much with roommates.

Oct 21 – Nginx.conf Day-1 (Big Day)

As I was getting ready, I met my roomie Ishan from India. He came there as part of Google Summer of Code (GSoC). He informed me that another guy Gaurav will be coming later in evening for same event.

As I was getting late, I couldn’t speak at length. Plus our small conversation disturbed another roomie Norm’s (Roger) sleep.

There were few more geeks in the house. I guess presence of such geeks made naming home “HackerHouse” sensible.

Big Day!

Towards second part of the day I presented my WordPress-Nginx + EasyEngine session at Nginx.conf.

The audience was less in number than anticipated. I guess webinar I did earlier reduced it. Because few people asked me earlier if I was going to present anything different than webinar. The answer was no!

Response to the event was good though. Most attendees met me later to discuss more about EasyEngine. 🙂

After the event, I took almost half-mile walk and took a bus to my place. This was to save few dollars and also explore neighborhood.

Back home, me, Ishan and Gaurav went for dinner at In-and-Out burger. Being vegetarian, Gaurav couldn’t eat anything.

Oct 22 – Nginx.conf Day-2 (Big Day)

Today, I met Igor Sysoev. We chatted for few minutes. I also clicked my first picture in USA today. 😉

image1

 

with-igor

Things I learn about Igor is – He still lives in Russia and he doesn’t drink. 🙂

I interacted with few people who discussed about EasyEngine from yesterday session.

I also met AgentZ (Yichun Zhang). I always admired his contribution to nginx ecosystem. I wanted to take a picture with AgentZ but he and Igor were discussing something so I did not find it appropriate to disturb two great folks!

Night Out!

I rushed home back early as I wanted to go out with my roomies. Norm offered us to show around San Francisco city area.

Me, Norm, Ishan and Gaurav took BART (metro train) from Millbrae to 16th street. We had spanish dinner with Sangria (some wine based cocktail) at Picaro restaurant.

Gaurav was having problem ordering as he was only vegetarian. Norm decided to give him company by eating vegetarian. Isn’t it so nice of Norm? We just met him and each other like a day ago!

sf-group-selfie

Oct 23 – Meeting Harsh @San Jose

In morning, me, Ishan and Gaurav left our Millbrae accommodation.

Coincidentally we all were going to San Jose, on same day, in same area! We decided to share am Uber ride which after USD 30 first ride discount and divide by 3, cost as as much as us public transport would have cost us!

I reached Harsh’s place in San Jose in noon. They were 10 people staying together in 2BHK flat. Sounds like chaos? Well certainly not! These 10 buddies are managing things at their place using well documented processes and protocols. Kudos to all of them for this! 🙂

After lunch, which was prepared by Harsh himself, we went to his San Jose State University (SJSU). We talked about his course content at length. I realized quality of US education first hand!

Oct 24 – Back to San Francisco

Around noon, I left for San Francisco to attend WordCamp. Though station was just 0.2 miles away, Harsh insisted to come to drop me. We clicked some pictures at bus stop!

Pacific Tradewinds Hostel

I reached Pacific Tradewinds Hostel around 4PM. I made many new friends there! No wonder this hostel is so most famous for it’s community spirit.

I liked following artwork on one of wall! 🙂

pacific-hostel

Oct 25 – WordCamp SF (Day 1)

I woke up early and reached WordCamp SF 2014 venue.

This was my second WordCamp altogether and first one as attendee only. Last time I attended WordCamp Mumbai 2014 as speaker.

I first met Nirav Mehta (from StoreApps).  Nirav was also my roompartner at Pacific Tradewinds Hostel. I learned a lot from his experiences. I also met Akshat (from blogvault), AsifTareq and many entrepreneurs.

Most memorably, I met Bryce from WooThemes. He is using EasyEngine from some time and I am glad to know he likes EasyEngine. 🙂

Meeting Matt

I thought Matt Mullenweg might be off limit to general audience! Considering his popularity. But it turned out to be opposite. He was so easy to approach! 🙂

IMG_5768

Unexpected Good thing!

I was not expecting much from WordCamp SF. I had no other agenda except meeting Nirav, Bryce and few more people. Just to say hello!

But I came across many users of rtMedia and EasyEngine projects and they expressed their love and thanked rtCamp for making this projects. Some even thanked us for our tutorials and free support forum. 🙂

I met more users at automattic lounge later at the night during party.

On way back to hostel, I was feeling like this guy! 🙂

freddie-mercury

It’s really encouraging to know that your work is used by people halfway across the globe. Google Analytics always showed USA as #1 country for rtcamp. But I used to think it’s just search engine traffic. Did not know so many people know rtCamp for it’s contribution! 🙂

Oct 26 – WordCamp SF (Day 2)

Today, I met more users using EasyEngine. 🙂

I also met Vladimir whose managewp.com service I admire a lot.

Towards evening, when I was leaving, I ran into Matt Mullenweg again. I was taking his picture with my friend Nirav. Earlier same day, after his “State of the Word” keynote address, I asked him a question during Q&A round. He recognized me and offered to continue discussion about same question.

I wasn’t expecting a busy person like Matt Mullenweg to remember a question from audience and later offering his time to discuss it again! All by himself. 🙂

Last Night

As it was my last night, I choose to skip other business related meetup in eve. I decided to rather visit Apple store. For an Apple fan like me, it is no less than a shrine! 😉

We (Me and Nirav) reached store at 07:02PM but it was closed at 07:00PM. We were just 2 minutes late! Anyway, I had a look from outside. 😐

IMG_5776

Then me and Nirav parted. He suggested me to go to Chinatown which was very close to our hostel. I did some shopping for my wife and returned to hostel.

At hostel, I spent time with other travellers. We kept chatting till midnight and shared some food and beers together.

Oct 27 – Flying Back Home

I reached airport early anticipating long queues.

Just before departure,Cathay Pacific informed that return flight will be diverted to Seoul in South Korea, before it can reach Hong Kong. They had some stupid reason. Stupid enough for me to blacklist Cathay Pacific forever.

Because of this diversion, I missed my connecting flight to India. It was last flight of the day so I had to spend night in Hong Kong.

I was in rush to come back home, as I was missing my son a lot. So I requested them to give me early morning flight for which they said they are no alternative. I must thank Kayak as I found an alternative on it. It wasn’t present on ClearTrip (my favorite till that day).

I showed Cathay staff about alternative fight via Bangkok, Thailand. It was reaching India 6 hours earlier. But Cathay staff took more than 2 hours to give me new alternative travel booking. It exhausted me so much that I couldn’t explore Hong Kong even though I got Hong Kong Visa. By the time I reached to Hotel it was 11PM. Also, I couldn’t take my luggage as it was checked-in from USA for India directly. Cathay told, it will take more hours to get that bag! 😐

Oct 29

I reached India! 🙂