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A conference trip to Austin, Texas and my experiences.

This was my first trip to the USA, mostly to attend a conference in Austin, Texas. And then I took a week to go around and explore the place. I managed to visit Houston and San Antonio as well.

As a first time visitor, the first thing you notice is just how massive everything is. The cities are huge, so are the streets and houses and people and portions of meals. You can’t just get out of your hotel and decide to walk to get somewhere. You won’t get anywhere. I feel like things are spaced far apart. If you need to get 5 things from 5 different stores, it could easily take you a whole day if you took the bus. So having a car is almost a necessity. So I rented a car to make my life easier. And then God said, let there be traffic.

I was in Austin for my stay due to the conference. Texas gets seriously hot in summer. The day time temperature was around 37°C. But I am still going to complain about how cold it was inside J. W. Mariott. Austin has loads of good places to eat and reasonably priced. Street food like burgers and tacos are simply delicious. I visited Houston for one and only one reason: Johnson space centre. And I was not disappointed. Yes, you get to see loads of real space memorabilia including a space shuttle. This place is just awesome if you are into space stuff. Houston and Austin both seem to have bridges with high density of mexican free-tailed bats. Watching hundreds or thousands of bats take off into the dusk is quite spectacular. San Antonio is even more interesting. The river walk promenade is exceptionally beautiful. You could just hang around and watch the river taxis go about for hours. The whole city centre is lively and vibrant. I also visited the limestone caves at Natural Bridge Caverns and  Medina lake. The limestone caves were pretty cool but it’s a shame that you can’t explore by yourself. You have to be in a group with a guide.

I stayed at Motel 6 in both Houston and San Antonio and I was quite pleased. They are not as shady as they sound. The rooms were clean and equipped. I used to think that outlets were places where brands got rid of last year’s models or unsold stuff. Now I understand that outlets can be a whole business model. I have come across entire shopping malls with just outlets. They are not really cheaper than regular prices and even if they are, the items are manufactured for the outlets. Outlets are such a scam. I ended up buying a lot of electronics, because BestBuy is like heaven. The fuel prices in the US are dirt cheap which is probably why most Texans drive ridiculously large vehicles for no good reason. Back in Sweden, my 4 km 15 min taxi ride from the station to my apartment cost close to my whole 800 km fuel cost in Texas.

About the author Roy Francis

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