Two days is definitely not enough time to spend in Austin if you want to see it all (esp. if you go on Halloween weekend) but it is a city to be reckoned with. My first night I actually stayed in Milano, TX, which is about an hour and a half outside of the Austin’s city center. The grandparents of an old roommate of mine owned a cabin out there and we thought it would be nice to stay and relax outside the city before entering the mayhem.
I fully admit that I am a city girl, so when her grandparents told me that the only things in the town were the Church and the Post Office, I laughed. I had heard once that the only thing you needed to be recognized as your own town was a post office, but I never thought towns like this existed. It was awesome! At 10pm we went on a night hike through the hills where I saw not only the brightest constellations (Cassiopeia, Orion’s Belt, and Ursa Minor to name a few), but also millions of other constellations that I had never seen before. We walked for about 2 miles and then turned around and came back to homemade pudding with ice cream. They weren’t my family, but it felt like home.
That was the calm before the storm. Austin is a mixture of intellectuals and artists in a combination unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We started (drinking) at a restaurant called Cedar Door where I discovered that Austin does not tax alcohol. Trouble had arrived.
A couple of beers and a bus ride later, we found ourselves on 6th street. The most popular street in Austin for, well, pretty much everything. Before I go any further I would like to say that I am not ugly, but I’ve never been considered “hot” either. But the moment we hit the strip, free drinks came flying at us from bar promoters and I felt like a million bucks.
Our journey in and out of bars can only be described as speed dating on crack, except it was with both men and women. Everyone was friendly and complementary in such a way that we never once felt uncomfortable. I’ve never been in a city before where total strangers felt like acquaintances.
The next day our friends took us to a secret spot along the Colorado River where we wadded waist deep and watched people kayak downstream. We were smack dab in the middle of Austin and yet it felt like another city. Our shoes off, we walked along the river learning about each other until we stumbled upon a scene that reminded me of Venice Beach. Glow sticks, circus acts, hoola hoop girls, elaborate costumes, puoy balls, and glitter – a day time rave.
With our busy 9-5 schedules and mapped out lives, it’s a rarity to happen upon something cool by accident. Yet, so many of my most amazing memories were found created in unexpected places.
So maybe the lesson here is to loosen up and break as many daily habits as you can, as often as you can. If you walk down Potter St on your way to work, maybe go one block further along a parallel street and check out something different.
My time in Texas has been a bit of a social experiment since nearly everyone I come in contact with is a stranger. And Austin was no different. In a span of 2 days I probably talked to 10 different people (not counting the drunk debauchery) by catching their eye and smiling or answering a simple “hello” with genuine interest.
Ask questions, lots of them, all the time. Ask someone what time it is, or to help you out with grabbing something out of reach. Ask someone for his or her opinion. Ask, because if you do, strangers can quickly become acquaintances who morph into friends.
While I’m living in Texas, Austin has become my home away from home. A taste of the eclectic world I used to roam. Delicious restaurants can be found in abundance and pretentious d-bags are left at the door. If you’re looking for a young, cool, hip city that is bursting with creativity and economic growth, this is the place to go.