We've passed our 1 year mark as residents of the great state of California! When I was a teenager, I used to dream of living in California and now that dream is my reality and our home. This year has a been a dream, a blur, and a blessing. This was us, just over a year ago, on our first day here.
The amount of things we've done, seen, and experienced in the last year far surpasses any other year in our lives. It has been an amazing experience to open up this whole other world for Landon as well. There is no doubt in my mind that San Francisco is unlike any other city in this country. It is absolutely the most European city in the US and I'd venture to say it's also the most diverse. Not just in the people (who are as diverse as they come) but diverse in every possible way. From the landscapes to the cultures to the activities and to the food. It's crazy how such a small area can pack so much. Since moving here, we've really come to understand that everything we could ever want to do/try/explore/obtain is at our fingertips. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because there is always so much going on, but it is never underwhelming and that's what I love the most. I thought since we've hit our one year mark, I'd share some of my favorite things about this area and even throw in a few of our not so favorite.
One my favorite things about the city of San Francisco is the character. I've never been to a city in which the place itself holds so much character and charm. I was watching a show about real estate in San Francisco and they put it so well. They said, "San Francisco is a city that fosters ideas. It started off with the gold rush, people from all over the world moved here to start their fortune and they were all RISK TAKERS. I still feel that all that energy from all those people creating and innovating is still going on today, even stronger than ever." And they are right! San Francisco has an energy to it. It's a dreamer's city and a doer's city. People dream big and make those dreams a reality. Technology here is king and it's visible everywhere you go, but you don't have to be in the technology sector to feel the rush. The cultures of each neighborhood and area are so strong, but more importantly, are authentic. The entire city is just that, authentic. It doesn't feel like a big city or seem like a rushed cosmopolitan area. Everything just fits together. That fit may not include a pretty box with a bow, but it fits in it's own way, own style, and somehow just works.
So many areas just beyond the city limits are beautiful, stunning, and surreal. There are not enough adjectives to explain it. It's also true that I really, really, really LOVE this area. It steals your heart in ways you never thought a city could. Every time I see the Golden Gate Bridge or crest a hill and get a glimpse of the bay, I can't help but feel a gush of pride in being able to call this place home. People have told me how lucky we are to be here. That is not the case. We are lucky to be alive and to have the ability to experience all the great things in life. But we've worked damn hard and sacrificed a lot to move our lives here. I feel pride in my husband, our accomplishments, and the decisions we've made that have brought us here. When I see that bridge or the beautiful ocean just down the road, the pride that rushes over me is inexplicable and enforces my belief in following your dreams.
As I said earlier, this area is almost overwhelming with things to do. I have so many lists of things to do and places to go and it is still impossible to keep up. I already have an entire list of things to do in 2016 with many of them being things we just had to turn down doing 2015. If it were not for those pesky jobs of ours, we might be able to do it all, but then of course we'd have a new issue. At work, people comment that we "do something every weekend". I think it is just hard for many of them that have lived here for so long to understand how many amazing opportunities they have at their finger tips. I guess one advantage for us is that we appreciate it so much more and cannot wait to experience it all. Every time we go someplace new, I feel like I've found a new favorite place. In reality, so many experiences have been so different and diverse that I cannot even compare them. Of course, I can't deny that seeing Yosemite for the first time was a true highlight and I think it says something that we visited three times almost back to back.
There is so much potential for achieving/doing anything you want in this area. The sky (or yourself) is the only limit and it feels empowering. In the year that we've been out here, we've moved light years ahead in our careers and the end is where we decide we want it to be. Just a few years ago, we both felt an all too real ceiling in our career paths and I felt really trapped in my job. Time and changes have allowed me to see that some of it was myself, but a big piece is that a big city also has a lot more opportunities. Now, we have the ability to pick our opportunities and it feels wonderful! We've also been able to create new goals and dreams that have been shaped by the new world around us. We really want to become better hikers, start doing some real backpacking, and explore wilderness areas. Adam would like to hike the John Muir Trail next year with a friend and we are hoping to do our first family backpacking trip over Memorial Day next year. Landon's favorite activity in the world is camping and I hope these experiences at a young age can help foster a real love for the outdoors. I think the more he does as a young boy, the more he will achieve as a man. I feel like overall, this move and change in scenery has made us all better and want to achieve more in many areas of our life.
So beyond the things we love, there are a few (for lack of a better word) wonky things about this area. First, the weather. The seasons are completely backwards here. Summer starts in the middle of August and goes to the beginning of November. Fall is November and December and is also pretty much the only time that it might rain. Spring is January through April with February being the greenest and most consistently enjoyable month. May brings the fog and wind and until August and it feels like winter. Meanwhile, during the month of August, if you drive 30 minutes in any direction (except West since you can't) you'll find that it's 20 degrees warmer or more. Now all that being said, the temperatures in "winter" are still in the low 60's with the worst case being low 50's, but with the fog it seems really cold. I remember when we first moved here and people were complaining how hot it felt when the temperatures were in the high 80's. I thought they were crazy, but about six months later I was having lunch outside and felt really warm. I looked at the temperature on my phone to shockingly find out it was only 72 degrees. It's amazing how quickly your body adjusts, but it is also amazing what a unique micro climate this area has. So often, Adam will come home saying how nice it was downtown while it was miserable at my office or vice versa. So many people think California is hot and many areas are, but not the Bay Area. However, as wonky as the weather can be, I absolutely love living near the ocean. We both agree that where ever we live, we can never imagine being far from the water and not much compares to the beauty of the Pacific coast.
Another wonky thing is the shopping here. San Francisco seems to hate chains so it's hard to find big businesses on the peninsula. For example, the closest Walmart is over 40 miles away. Especially in downtown, it is really hard to find any chain restaurants. It's actually not a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to. We have grocery stores of decent size, but otherwise most shopping is easier to do at a local level. The benefit is that it causes you to branch out and you can actually find so many amazing places you would never otherwise come across. One of the downsides is that sometimes you just have a hankering for something like Texas Roadhouse and it's a literal road trip to get there. Since every place is a Mom and Pop type store, you find all sorts of specialty shops, but it also costs a lot more. I've really enjoyed branching out and trying new foods, my current obsession is Vietnamese. No matter what type of food you want to try, it's available to try and just as authentic as you would find in that country. But I contend that "American" food sometimes seems impossible to find. I guess this is why I gained five pounds last month when we visited Kentucky and had tons of opportunities to eat all kinds of fattening American foods. As I've mentioned many times recently, I've fallen in love with the ferry building and their Saturday morning markets. It might cost a small fortune to buy all your produce there, but it is on a completely different level of goodness. After trying the peaches at the ferry building, straight from the farms, I can no longer stand the ones at the grocery store.
I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone, but the major downfall of San Francisco is the cost. Prohibitive doesn't even begin to explain it. Rent is ridiculous, but it doesn't just stop there. So is food, activities, parking, entertainment ... everything! We went to movies last week and compared the ticket prices with those in Louisville and found that they were 30% more. For the movies!!! Parking downtown is usually around $3 for 30 minutes (in a non-expensive area). It adds up really fast. And yes, we make a lot more money than we did in Louisville, KY, but it isn't nearly enough to justify the increase of cost. In Kentucky our household expenses took up approximately 20% of our monthly salary and that was a house, which we owned, with a 15 year mortgage! In Nashville it was higher, and rent for a townhouse was almost 25%. Here, we are talking more like 35% for a two bedroom apartment. A house like we owned in Louisville would sell for about $850-$1.5 million or more depending on where exactly it was located on the peninsula and in Louisville we sold it for $125,000. Since we don't have a 20% down payment and Adam refuses to buy in this area, it's only a matter of time before we decide that the cost isn't worth it and move. For now, we are happy to pay to play, but unless something gives, and gives big time, there is no way this will be our forever home. Which also means, better visit while you can.
The second con is that it is hard being so far away from family and friends. In the year that we've been here, we've made some good friends, but it hasn't been nearly as easy as it was in Nashville. On top of that, it takes real planning and time off to visit Kentucky and have people come here to visit us. We've been so fortunate that in a year we've had tons of visitors, almost every month actually, and getting to spend lots of time one-on-one with them is actually a wonderful blessing. Even better, the constant flow isn't slowing down anytime soon. We already have people coming in November, December, and January but that doesn't mean we don't feel like we aren't missing out, especially on birthdays, holidays, and big events. It goes without saying, that it was our choice to move and it isn't really a con of San Francisco per se. The con is just that it has been hard to meet people, make friends, and form a home community here with others. I'm sure a lot of it is our fault too as we haven't really tried to get out and meet people, opting instead to do things together as a family on the weekends. In Nashville it was just so easy as we worked with great groups of people and instantly felt strong connections. I hoped we'd have the same luck here, but that just hasn't been the case. We've met some great people and we'll hopefully continue meeting more, but for now we just continue to feel a little lacking in that department.
Lastly, the other major con is the ridiculous amount of people crammed into this area. Everywhere you go, there is a line and I really do mean everywhere. This is the problem when you live on a peninsula already built to capacity with more and more people flooding in everyday. The rental market alone is a good indicator of the masses. Apartments and homes will go on the market for sale and/or rent and be gone immediately (within hours). There is such a demand that homes often sell over asking price and for all cash! It's hard to explain if you've never lived here, but it really is a phenomenon. Since we live on the peninsula, it means always having to wait in lines wherever we go. For people from larger cities around the world, they don't seem to care, but it is something we just can't seem to get use to. Adam actually complained about it so much that I got on him about it. Now he loves to make a joke about how much he loves all the people and loves all the waiting whenever he is really frustrated. He still gets his point across. Gas lines are one good example. To go to Costco where gas is the cheapest, you have to be prepared to wait at least 20 minutes to get to the pump. The gas station down the street from our house, usually only means waiting for one, maybe two cars, but still it is a wait, every single time, for even the most mundane task. Another great example is the drive-thru at In and Out burger. No matter what time of day, the line is wrapped down the street with at least 20 cars ahead of you. If you are lucky, only a 15 minute wait will get you thru, but I've waited as long as 35 minutes in a drive thru and its not because they are slow. Even the checkout line at the grocery store or Target is usually at least a 10 minute wait. Forget ever pulling up directly to a pump or going to check out immediately at a store.
Despite the good and the bad, I am so overwhelmed with all that we've been able to do, to see, to experience, and to accomplish in the year that we've been here. Even if we move tomorrow, I will never forget what a wonderful experience San Francisco has been for us all. Rudyard Kipling said, "San Francisco has only one drawback, 'tis hard to leave." We may not have loved every second of this first year, but it has been darn close. Wherever we move to next will have some pretty big boots to fill, but for the next year (maybe two) we will continue to soak up everything we can here in San Francisco. It is a city that has stolen our hearts, lifted our souls, expanded our minds, and made us want to do better and be more. How could ask for anything else?