My time in the Bay area? Food for the soul. I got a lot of rest, exchanged a lot of words, had a lot of laughs, and danced through multiple tees!
Spending quality time with friends and mentors was the highlight of this trip, more so than the time I spent in San Fransisco. Not only did I explore, I made time to relax. This leg of my journey reminded me that “traveling” does not always mean “see and do everything humanly possible” which in actuality, can mean “become exhausted and grumpy.” That’s what I’ve found personally, at least.
When I travel, I like to immerse myself into a “local” experience. You’re probably thinking, well duh. But how “local” do we really get, when we’re only in a city for a week? I’ve found that there are subconscious approaches to traveling that we implement in order to feel like we’re getting the most value out of the trip (well because traveling ain’t always easy to plan, or affordable for that matter). Getting work off, saving enough money to cover all expenses at home while you’re away, plus expenses of the trip; get a bang for the buck right? If you think about it from a marketing standpoint, the tourism industry feeds on our search for valuable traveling experiences; we are encouraged to “live it up” by doing this, “seize the day” by doing that. Get “the most” out of our experience, here! Of course, carpe diem is the proper mindset to have when traveling, but how much of it has a price tag? Which price tags are necessary, and which are not? Can’t I seize the day by going thrift shopping with a friend? To be “experiencing San Fransisco” did I need to go to a sporting event? Did I need to tour Alkatraz? Did I need to walk the Golden Gate bridge?
The way I see it, some days the “most” of the experience might mean skipping out on the plans to see the whatchamacallit, and instead, grabbing dinner from the market and watching a movie, or discussing life amongst the people you care about, your new friends, or simply with yourself.
During my stay in Brazil (a country where I could barely speak the language), one of the greatest accomplishments my friend and I made as foreigners, was completing our first successful grocery shop. I’m talking; walking for blocks, finding the store, picking our items, checking out, counting the currency properly, exchanging a couple words in portuguese with the cashier, and finding our way back to our hostel. To me, that was travel. It was one of the hardest and most uncomfortable things I have ever done. Not only did I gain a better understanding for the area we resided, but I also gained a deeper understanding of being “foreign;” how hard it could be for young refugees, or immigrants coming to America, possibly having no experience speaking english. Even more important to point out is my privilege, that I can travel by will and not by force. I could only imagine the added element of moving to another country because of events like war, disease, or even traumatic family matters, but I digress.
And I guess what I’m getting at here, is finding a new angle at which to live in the moment. By all means, we should experience the characteristics of a place; landscapes and arts and culture and food which makes a city great! But what I’ve learned in the past year specifically, is that you can ALSO travel through the people that you meet. It is the people and their hands, passion, hard work, that give the “sights” their life! And you can bet they have plenty of stories to tell, stories just as magical and astonishing as the golden gate bridge, or a famous underground club (that has since become a completely unfamiliar establishment due to new management, which I found out from long time attendees, see what I’m getting at here?). Take their stories, add your imagination, and wala! People give the sights their life.
With all this being said, yes I exercise my tourist muscles, but I try to do so while conscious of the above. As I walked up the steps of Montgomery station, I was filled with joy at the energy of the city. The architecture bewildered me, the trolly cars made me smile (the two hour line to ride the trolly cars? Thanks but I’ll walk up the hill). I felt my surroundings melt into sensory data upon my skin. Then, I was reminded in that moment that the people passing were continuing onwards to their jobs. Every great city comes with undertones; a fee, a hustle, a struggle, a reward. I thought for a while on this.
Later, they’ll go home to a space they strive to call their own, and it may be that they can barely afford the rent. This space will be filled with fluctuating emotions, stuffed with memories of their past, and the past of prior tenants. Maybe they’ll share this space with a significant other, maybe they wish too. Perhaps the upstairs neighbors are very loud, but the downstairs neighbors have a dog that seems almost human the way it observes passerby’s through the window in the mornings. They’ll have a wonderful view of the streets below, or no view at all. Maybe their bedroom will be right next to the train tracks, and they’ll show up to work fatigued due to a lack of sleep. After an evening of eating, bathing, or reading, or working out, or crying, or laughing on the phone, or playing video games, or painting, or scrolling through instagram, they’ll sleep, they’ll wake up, and take another crack at the day all over again, or maybe they wont.
It’s life, and it’s what our parents parents have done, and what we, whether we’re into it or not, are doing right now…