The redwoods are calling and I must go…
And not just for a hike.
I’m feeling a magnetic pull towards the trees, towards quiet friendly streets, towards community, towards open space, towards fresh air.
Ya see, I’ve never ever considered myself a city girl. I’ve always been the nature/outdoorsy/mountain girl.
So, why, you probably ask, am I living in San Francisco? Good question!
I certainly know why I moved to San Francisco, back in 2008. For I had just started my then-dream job located in the city. And only then did I consider actually living in the Big City to avoid a commute, and only would I move to the City if I found the perfect housing situation.
Well, the perfect one bedroom apartment did align, and after two years of happy living in Marin county, which in my opinion is the best of both worlds (close to SF and to nature! win-win!), I was up for the change in scenery and to see what this City living was all about. Most importantly, this move allowed me to live alone and to have a short commute. Double win again! I was on a roll!
My apartment was truly ideal. Located between the two dynamic neighborhoods of the Castro and Noe Valley on top of a steep hill which provided a great workout anytime I went out wandering around on foot. Parking was easy, and it was while living there that I found my martial arts school which has become such a huge part of my life.
Still, I rarely went “out on the town”, preferring a quiet night at home, or if I did go out, either with friends or on one of many awkward dates, it was to try out a new restaurant focused on local and organic cuisine, and in San Francisco, that’s a lot! That was (and still is) a pretty awesome part of living in SF. The eating out part, not the awkward date part!
When I quit my job and left SF to follow my travel dreams in early 2011, I had already noticed an inkling of change taking place in the City. The recession was on its way out, and there were hints of new growth.
After my South America travels, I ended up helping out on my friend’s small CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in rural west Sonoma county for four months. It was, um… rural.
I was most certainly living in the trees, but also felt isolated at times.
I spent A LOT of time outside, either doing farm work or exploring the gorgeous surroundings of the Russian River area. I was about a 30 minute drive from the closest town. And I lived in an old moldy leaky trailer with an electric hook up, but no working toilet.
There were a number of times while squatting in the great outdoors that I had a good laugh at the direction my life had taken.
I was thrilled to get extensive first-hand experience in growing food and to learn about the inner workings of a CSA farm. At the time, I thought this experience could be a stepping stone to what I would do next, job wise. I still really didn’t know what I was doing during this whole quit-job-to-travel-then-come-home-now-what situation.
But farming is fucking hard work.
The manual labor required is draining and the plants don’t take the weekends off.
Seriously, props to all you small sustainable ag farmers out there! Total admiration for what you do!
I realize I could write an entire post about my farm experience… perhaps I will. There were many layers to it.
Staying on this farm was not a long-term fit for me for many reasons, and once the weather turned cold and wet, I retreated back to the creature comforts of a non-leaky roof over my head and a working toilet in the City where I had a free temporary place to stay with my sister, who had moved into my old Noe Valley apartment when I left. Convenient, yes, very.
With ever dwindling funds, I couldn’t wait for the ideal job to fall into place. I took what I could get in SF. Then somehow managed to find decent and affordable housing with roommates. And I’m still here more than two years later.
But the trees are calling…
Don’t get me wrong, the City is beautiful and there are parts of it where you don’t even feel like you’re in a bustling metropolis. There are quaint neighborhoods, stunning viewpoints on top of steep hills, plenty of parks, and the most environmentally friendly policies in the country (something I’m passionate about). And it’s home to the best sushi in the world, hands down!
It IS my favorite city in the world.
But San Francisco has DRASTICALLY changed since I first moved here in 2008.
It’s a city of entrepreneurs, engineers, developers, social media gurus, and coders. Start-up-landia. New construction, new apps, and new shiny double-decker buses transporting Google and Facebook employees to Silicon Valley dominate the scene and become the talk of the town.
It’s been well documented too. There are many articles written about this new tech boom taking over the City. Talking about how homeowners are pricing out long-term tenants to make room for overnight millionaires. Talking about wealth inequality concerns. Like this recent article and this one too. Oh and here’s one about the Google buses.
San Francisco has the second highest cost of living in the United States, after New York City. And now the second highest level of income inequality.
I’m not advocating for OR against this growth in this post. I’m just sharing my personal story and feelings.
I feel like I don’t “fit in” in San Francisco any more. I’m not feeling the vibe. Now more than ever, I feel out of the loop and disconnected, even a bit pressured. Pressured to up my game, to be innovative, to make lots of money.
Though I work for a small company promoting sustainable tourism (something I care about), I’m barely scraping by financially. I don’t need much money, really I don’t, but it’d be so damn nice to be able to SAVE again someday. I can’t shake this feeling that I can’t keep up with San Francisco, its new growth and increased pace and rising prices. And frankly, I don’t want to.
I’m tired of having to strategize over where to park my car to avoid a costly ticket and I’m annoyed that every time I approach my car, I worry about finding my window smashed or the door lock broken AGAIN. Four break-ins and counting…
My senses are ever more overwhelmed whenever I step outside my relatively quiet Bernal Heights neighborhood.
And I almost feel guilty for not taking advantage of the city more, I pretty much go between home, work, and my karate dojo. I mean I live amongst some of the best restaurants, bars, and nightlife out there. There’s live music every night of the week somewhere in this city. And I do enjoy a good bluegrass show every once in a while.
But then I remember that I can’t really afford it.
And even if I could afford this lifestyle of going out on the town whenever I want, my introverted self is most comfortable AWAY from the crowd. My idea of a fun time is packing up a lunch, hitting the road, and leaving the city behind for a hike in the woods.
See? It’s back to the trees…
I don’t want to leave the Bay Area. The Bay continues to feel like home, even if the city does not.
I don’t want to live in the country either. Gosh, I’m picky! But I don’t want to feel isolated like I did on the farm. I still want to be able to walk to the grocery store, maybe a restaurant or two. I want to get to know my neighbors, have BBQ’s in my backyard, and be within a short drive of the redwoods.
Perhaps I’ll return to Marin or Sonoma. Or somewhere on the Peninsula. Maybe I’ll even explore the East Bay for options. Of course, it’ll partly depend on what kind of bookkeeping jobs are out there when that time comes. We’ll see what happens (nothing is happening overnight), but one thing is clear:
My beloved redwoods are calling…
And when I’m in the trees, life slows down to a more comfortable pace for me, my anxiety melts away, I live more in the moment, I have more space to process, I feel more grounded.
I’m awed by the beauty and remember why I choose to explore life.
I came across this on my hike the other day in Steep Ravine… a sign perhaps?
And don’t worry San Francisco, I’ll come visit whenever I want SUSHI!
More pictures from that incredible redwood hike I went on the other day: