Is my heart in San Francisco?

Is my heart in San Francisco?

I’ve seen the San Francisco skyline come into view while crossing the Bay Bridge countless times: as a kid, I loved watching for the Alcatraz spotlight and trying to spot the office building where my grandfather worked. Now, I gaze at the city built on seven hills and wonder why I can’t be happy living in San Francisco: a city that captures the heart of visitors from every corner of the world, a city that many of my closest friends call home, a city that I fall in love with a little bit more each time I visit.

Bay Bridge in the rain, San Francisco, California

Sometimes I wonder what I’m searching for—or perhaps, what I’m running away from–as I insist on a semi-nomadic, minimalist life around the globe. I hate the idea of being ordinary, of being average–of being sucked into a life of forgettable weekdays, of living to drink to forget on the weekends. I want every day to be an adventure, every moment to be worth remembering–and for the past two years, it largely has been.

But seeing the world is no small task. There’s always another country to visit, another city to explore. It’s an undertaking that will inherently lead to disappointment: I know that I won’t be able to lie out on every deserted beach or try every local specialty or take every recommendation. As I read through the suggestions for my next destination that you, my readers, so kindly put forward in my survey: I was overwhelmed. South Africa, Norway, Turkey, Morocco, Costa Rica: the world really is at my fingertips, and yet, I don’t know where I want to go, what I want to do next.

Peep toes and daisies on the first day of spring in San Francisco, California

I worry I’ll never be satisfied, that I’ll search the world over for my happiest place all while quietly knowing it was within. I could be happy in San Francisco, I tell myself. Just like I could be happy in Sacramento, in Melbourne, in Paris: I know that my happiness depends less on my surroundings and more on me. I’m happy when I make time for a daily yoga class, when I spend an afternoon with a glossy magazine and a good coffee, when I curl up in sweatpants and a glass of white wine for a long chat with a girlfriend, whether that’s in person or via Skype.

Bay Bridge on a beautiful day in San Francisco, California

I know that the world’s diversity really shines through in nature, in the rolling hills and salty seawater and dense forests that cover the globe. But I’m a city girl, and cities are essentially the same the world over: a canopy of skyscrapers, a collection of patios and parks and soy lattes. There are gorgeous apartments, incredible restaurants, good jobs and fun people in all of the world’s greatest cities.

The variables are important but the differences just add to the nuances of the culture: how many days of sunshine, the political climate, the language, the laws regarding alcohol consumption (seriously: can you drink in a park? How late do the bars stay open? How expensive is a beer?). World-class cities attract interesting people; there are festivals and concerts and fashion, a million reasons to pay an obscenely high rent in a ridiculously small space, a justification to be surrounded by that energy.

How long can I be a long-term traveler? It’s a lifestyle that is difficult to sustain: financially expensive, emotionally isolating. Even living as a constant expat has its challenges: constantly making and leaving friends, settling in and saying goodbye.

#begrateful street art in San Francisco, California

Is my heart in San Francisco? I’m not sure. It worries me that I’m not sure; it worries me more that I’ll never know unless I give it a chance. My real worry? That I’ll be sucked into a life there, a life filled with best friends and sunny afternoons and sourdough bread bowls, and those dreams of sampling the world’s greatest urban centers will slowly shift into a different dream: one that means being a full-time local and a part-time traveler.

  • My fiance and I have talked about this as we consider our plans to stay in Australia past when our visas expire this September. I talk about moving “home” to America but we’ve also thrown out Asia and London at some point. I’ve realized that we don’t need to settle down permanently anywhere — we can hop around every fews years if we want, even when we have kids.

  • camorose

    Very, very true–nothing is ever permanent, especially when you have skills that allow you to work from anywhere. Looking forward to seeing where you end up next 🙂

  • It’s an interesting feeling: to be happy and longing all in the same place. I’ve felt that way in San Francisco, too, and it is one of the places I’ve “auditioned” as a place to live after my present RTW.  Thanks for sharing, Christine!

  • All valid questions and ones that are difficult to answer by anyone but yourself. What’s the harm in trying a life in San Francisco? You can always leave. You’re not a tree. Good luck with that decision. It’s not an easy one.

  • camorose

    So hard to decide what I want more RIGHT NOW–my mind is constantly changing!

  • camorose

    My problem is just that I change my mind SO often–and I think the beautiful weather in SF is just working to convince me and then the fog will roll in! We’ll see what happens 🙂

  • “How long can I be a long-term traveler? It’s a lifestyle that is
    difficult to sustain: financially expensive, emotionally isolating. … will slowly shift into a different dream: one that means being a full-time local and a part-time traveler.”

    Aptly put. How long CAN you (or I, or anyone) be a long-term traveler? Are you on a lifelong trip, or is this just a thing to do while you’re young? I also struggle with that decision, because on one hand, there are just TOO many great places to go. But on the other hand…what’s right in our backyard is pretty appealing, too. And even the most beautiful places on earth aren’t always as special if you don’t have anyone you love there to share it with. Of course this is just my opinion after living somewhere for a year and finding that the people I’ve befriended abroad don’t fulfill the same level of friendship with people that are still at home. So where do I go? Where the people I love are…or where the cities around the world that I love are..

    I’m glad I get to live vicariously through you via this blog and experience your side of it!

  • camorose

    I’m definitely starting to be ready to “settle down”–I know the world will still be out there and that travel will always be a big part of my life, but I’m ready to unpack my bags and have a local cafe and not necessarily have a departure date. We’ll see where life takes me 🙂

  • I hope you’ve found some answers to some of these questions now. Remember that pretty much every long-term traveller, including myself, has asked themselves exactly the same thing countless times. I try not to answer every worry going on in my head, knowing that eventually it will just answer itself. Trying to answer all those questions at once is impossible.

  • camorose

    So true–trying new things now and seeing how everything falls into place. If it works, it works–if not, just means I need to try again!

  • Did you take the rainy Golden Gate Photo? I love it!

  • camorose

    Yes! Driving over the Bay Bridge actually 🙂