Part 1. Logistics
Arriving: I took one large suitcase and one weekender bag. I flew in from Chicago on Sunday, arriving the evening before I started my new role. (Having traveled every week for work when I was doing the consulting thing, taking the 6 am flight Monday morning and going straight to the client site, this <24 hour turnaround was fine. Plus, I wanted as much time in Chicago as possible.) What was a bit challenging was securing accommodations…
Housing. First of all, very important: It’s not really the cost. It’s the competition. You can make peace with the prices quickly enough. But being okay with what you’ll pay won’t get you an apartment…
Over the two weeks leading up to my arrival after I got my offer, I sent more apartment inquiries and responses to craigslist posts than I had sent cover letters during the job hunt – i.e., in SF, securing the apartment is more difficult than landing the job – and pretty much received zero replies. So I took the hint and figured I’d book a short-term, day rate stay and then continue the home hunt once in SF. (This approach was unanimously confirmed by everyone I asked.)
I heard this “short-term” phase, during which you are looking for the “real” place, can last as long as “a couple of months.” Because I don’t have a strong appetite for forking over ~2 months at $200 a night, I wanted the cheapest immediate option, which meant a shared room. I booked an airbnb and, because I got a weird vibe from the airbnb guy, also booked a backup, which was a hostel. Yes, like our college backpacking days.
That “weird vibe” was right:the airbnb proved flaky. Sunday night I took a cab to the city (I know “everyone” takes the BART, but I had luggage and time considerations) and I’m standing on a sidewalk, calling his cell phone periodically for about an hour before I gave up and checked into my backup, the hostel, where I bunked with 3 girls from Germany.
I’ve stayed in hostels while traveling before and have never had an issue. It’s, of course, a whole lot easier when you’re all on the same sleeping schedule – and my roommates were polite enough, though but you can only be so quiet in a 10’x10′ room. Luckily, I had earplugs to pop in.
I was incredibly – incredibly – lucky and, by some good hand of the apartment gods, landed a place the next day – my very first full day in the city. A friend of a friend was moving and she was like “if you want this place, call me immediately.” I didn’t even have to see it. I wanted it. I swung by as early as I could and, to my additional luck, this place is absolutely adorable, in a great location, and only slightly over the very optimistic (read: overly aggressive) budget I had set. Somehow I walked out of that meeting with keys. (She had had another renter lined up. I pain to think what happened to that poor girl.)
Landing a place in SF feels a little like winning the lottery. The feel of real keys leaves you on a total high that lasts for days.
And even this place is still only short-term.
None of this is forever and that’s both exciting and a little scary. Mostly exciting.
Getting around. I take the occasional cab but so far, I’ve been walking. I tried to take the bus home once, but walked pretty much the entire route home without ever seeing one pass. So I’ve just been walking since. The city is deliciously walkable, even – especially? -with the hills. It’s a lot the street width – the narrow through-ways lend a feel like one big neighborhood. Even Market, one of the majors, is easily traversed.
The only qualifier I’ll put on this is: shoes. Walking this much when you’re probably not wearing walkin’ shoes means that your feet will endure some… “conditioning.” And if you’re like me and rocking those pointy-toe flats, it’s not just blisters or shin splits – no, the bones of your feet will hurt. But it’s all part of the love.
But, as an added bonus: your legs will also endure the training – even one week in, they already start feeling amazing. (Update: after 3 months of walking my hilly 40-min commute almost daily, my legs and behind had definition like I’d never seen on them.)
PS? Remember that cliche where some grandpa would complain he walked n miles to school, “uphill both ways?” It’s a joke, right? Everyone rolls their eyes? In SF, that’s actually real. Your walk really can be uphill both ways. 🙂
As expected, I love this city so far. I’d been here before, but being here now, in this way? It felt immediately comfortable. Like mine.
Part 2: Exploring
The first weekend: in addition to general eating, walking and day-drinking, we rode bikes to Lands End to see about the Sutro Baths – urban ruins on the west side of the peninsula where a large, privately owned swimming pool complex built in the late 19th century used to stand. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s pretty cool. The outlines of the original pools are still there, and the low walls are filled with totally gross, standing, algae-dense water. I dipped a toe in from a step of an old staircase leading into the water. Because I’m like that.
To get there, we rode “through” (read: over) Presidio… because we thought it was, you know, like a park park. An extension of Crissy Field or something.
It is a huge hill, guys. A small mountain, really – or feels that way when you’re noob rental-biking over. The fact that we got stuck walking bikes up the mini-mountain was my fault, because I wanted to “be in the trees.” Because I’m like that, too. That being said, it made the destination that much more rewarding when we finally battled our way over. (I believe we agreed on this. Eventually.)
At the bath-ruins, we shared a warm backpack-beer overlooking the shoreline. Afterwards, drinks at Cliff House. And then rode back – through the city, not over Presidio. A much more relaxed and reasonable route.
Part 3: More
What the first week tastes like:
- Magnolia beer for the first and second time. (The low hoppiness makes this one a particularly palatale beer for me.)
- Vegetarian sausage made from butternut squash, because you’re into gastro pubs even when all they do is sausage
- Deviled eggs for dinner because you can
- Iced coffee, from both a.) your new Starbucks as well as b.) the little local coffee shop you guys try
- A block of Ghirardelli dark chocolate, because you’re still new enough to the city that that’s fun.
- The intoxicating salt of a sweaty brow; cheekbone; jawline after that Tour-de-San Fran over Presidio.
- Warm canned beer pulled from a backpack, shared overlooking a beautifully rocky shoreline.
- Cold reward beer overlooking the harbor, once back downtown
- A single olive snatched on your behalf from a bar garnish tray
- Ludicrously fresh crab meat piled on top of a Louie
- The best sourdough anywhere. (SF sourdough really does put all the rest of it to shame. You don’t even have to like sourdough.)
- Cheese sticks, chocolate chips and white wine from the little local market, because some things don’t change by city 🙂
What it feels like: The first week was mostly logistics – getting to and from work, getting coffee, getting groceries, getting booze. Figuring out the new role and what they want to see out of it; starting to deliver on those things. Repeat.
There’s scarcely time for reflection or really thinking about anything outside of this. That being said, there is:
a.) Some initial… “scariness,” mostly due to lack of housing / “place” in an expensive city without a local support system. Something similar to the way I felt when I flew to London a few weeks early for my study abroad, planning to backpack before the term started, and found myself without a place to store the two huge bags I’d brought for the semester while I did so. I eventually resolved this, but those first 24 hours in the city were emotionally trying to say the least. My first few hours here were a little like this, albeit less scary.
b.) Excitement! A wave of… something like “blissful relief” at finally really being here. And liking it as much as you thought you would.
c.) Setting goals for the new role. Or, rather, reminding yourself of the goals you had set when looking for it.
d.) How to transfer the rest of what you love to your new home. How life goes from here.