Last week, I took a vacation to the other side of San Francisco. I rented an Airbnb in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, a little under 7 miles from my own apartment.
I realize you may find this odd – and I do understand. With so many compelling places to travel, staying close to home may sound like a missed opportunity. But I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of different “versions” of a city. Even if you and I live in the same city, our experience will be markedly different depending on our neighborhoods. Living in a different part of the city shifts your daily “center of gravity.” It’s what you see, where you go, who you meet. It’s the lens that defines how you experience the city, and how you interpret the city’s culture. Living on the western edge of San Francisco vs. the eastern edge literally means seeing everything from a different point of view. Your relation to the city’s landmarks shifts, and your conception of the city’s heartbeat shifts, too.
When I travel I love to wander, trying to uncover the threads of that city’s life. I do a pretty good job wandering San Francisco, too, but I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to live across the city. I’ve wondered what it’d be like to have an distinct center of San Francisco gravity.
And so, I embarked on vacation to the other side of town. I picked the Outer Sunset because its character and composition are very distinct from where I live. The area has always intrigued me, for some reason, and I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to live there. It’s close to the ocean, and has a bit of a surfer-like, laid-back feel. I live in the midst of city congestion, near a street full of bars, and narrow streets. I love my neighborhood, but I certainly wouldn’t call it relaxing.
My boyfriend and I spent a few days wandering the area’s nooks and crannies, letting ourselves unwind. It turned out to be the perfect getaway for what I needed, in that moment. The right dose of change, and the right level of inspiration. We crossed off several things on my San Francisco “to do list” that I’d just never made it to before. We spent time at coffee shops, my boyfriend working and me writing. We went to neighborhoods I’d never seen before. We walked along the ocean, looking toward the same San Francisco landmarks we usually see, but from a new perspective. We got a taste of what it’d be like to have a different San Francisco life.
I’d love to do this over and over, trying out the myriad areas of San Francisco that interest me. In reality, I know my next vacation will take me further away, because there are just so many places I want to explore. Still, I hope this can become an annual tradition- stepping out just far enough beyond my own slice of the city, to shift my center just a little, to change my point of view just enough to reflect on the many shades of San Francisco.