When we moved to the Bay Area six years ago we knew we were moving to a part of the world most people dream of visiting. Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, swimming in the Pacific, walking along the golden beaches – we were going to be living the dream! To celebrate our Caliversary last weekend we hiked to Borel Hill in the Russian Ridge Preserve. The exhilaration of the warm sunshine, great company and 360-degree views of a place on most people’s bucket lists made me wonder why we don’t go there every Sunday! The reality is that every day can’t always be like that.
Does the novelty of a Bay Area relocation ever wear off? At what point does the feeling of being on vacation end? And what can you do to keep your Life in the Bay dream alive?
As soon as we moved here friends started to book their trips to visit us. We have loved showing them around and hearing them tell us how amazing our life here is, but we only ever live that way when friends come to stay. There ar only so many times you can visit Alcatraz. Eventually, you stop living like a tourist.
Making a new city your home means experiencing the best and worst of the adventure it offers. I realised life wasn’t going to be a vacation every day when I waited to take my California driving test worrying I might fail. It was when the time difference between my family and I became a problem when I couldn’t speak to them after 2pm. It was knowing that $4k a month rent is the new normal. It was the 6.0 quake in Napa. I knew I was more resident than tourist the moment I discovered what the ‘pound’ sign on my phone was, when I started reading currency in dollars and temperatures in Fahrenheit, Googling ‘Earthquake Survival Kit’ and when I learned to drown out the sound of leaf blowers and planes landing.
You know you’re settling in when you don’t hang anything above your bed just in case the walls begin to shake, the term ‘San Fran’ makes you cringe, and you know what radio station you’ll find at 97.3 FM. You avoid the 101 after 4pm on a weekday and raise an eyebrow if you’re told someone didn’t relocate here for tech work. And like so many others our six years is marked by a drawer full of corporate t-shirts and jackets that we’ve collected. Knowing I’d made it as a California resident was when I started collecting paperwork for my tax return, when I didn’t need to use GPS every day, knowing I have four different doctors I see regularly and when I’ve had to correct people who talk to me as though I was a tourist.
There was a point we started adopting regional words and saying them in a local accent in order to be better understood. I was more reluctant to do this than my husband who needed to make his point in his office but I do admit it’s easier to ask the students in my class if they have finished their YO-GHURT rather than their YOG-HURT. There is always a push and a pull to a relocation. When you move overseas you inevitably give something up and there comes a point when that dawns on you. I suspect there are times when some of us brag about our Californian life because we need to justify the move we made to ourselves or other people, and it’s sometimes the tedious routine of work, bills, early nights and staying home to save money that prompts the occasional self-fulfilling gloat.
So how do we keep the dream alive?
The friends we went to Borel Hill with had done that hike four times before but wanted to share the views with us. If you go to the same places regularly, take new friends. Get them to share their regular haunts with you. We’ve discovered some incredible Bay Area gems this way.At least once a month we carve out a weekend to visit something new. We sign up to Eventbrite, local radio stations and news organisations and check out local events on Facebook. The more people we meet, the more things we do. I’ve never stopped inviting new friends out for a coffee and it’s expanded both our community and schedule.
The transient aspect of Bay Area life means we can point out four different homes we’ve lived in since we moved here. A new home is an exciting way of starting a new chapter – decluttering, meeting new neighbors and a feeling of beginning again. After all, there’s a certain amount of energy required to play tourist most weekends.
For me the homesickness never goes away. The term ‘home’ takes on a new definition with a relocation. But six years on the novelty of life here has never worn off. I am always delighted to be able to wear flip flops and shorts in February. I still get fascinated by the ability to pick a lemon from a tree. There hasn’t been one occasion when I’ve driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and not held my breath for a few moments in total gratitude for my life here and in thankfulness that because we’re not tourists anymore we have a FasTrak account to take care of the toll!
How do you keep your Bay Area dream a reality?
For those new to the Bay Area, or those looking to share a corner of their world here with family or friends living elsewhere, the following is a list of unique guidebooks that bring the bay to life on the page.