Don’t get a dog: the worst piece of advice my grandma ever gave me

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I’ve traveled a lot of places, and nothing compares to these faces.

It’s common to canonize somebody after they die. When someone we love passes, we often think of them in their most angelic, pure form. At least for a while. It feels awkward and uncouth to recount a recently deceased person’s negative traits. Sometimes it can take months, or even years, before you’re ready to remember them as the flawed, layered person they were in actuality, rather than the holier-than-thou version of themselves you wistfully create as you grieve.

And so, it took me a while to admit to myself that the last piece of advice my grandmother ever gave me was complete and utter bullshit.

It was the Summer of 2013, and grandma had recently been moved into a nursing home. Her husband George had just died, and she was struggling mightily with her Parkinson’s disease. Her spirits were low and she all-but-begged us to help her die, conveniently ignoring the fact that my 59-year-old mother was in a hospital just 15 minutes away, slipping away slowly in palliative care after a massive stroke.

After sitting by my mother’s side for eight or ten hours a day at the hospital, we would go to visit my grandmother in the nursing home (did I mention it was the most depressing summer ever? It was).

“At least grandma will be able to talk back to us!” I said optimistically, on the drive over to visit her with my father. I was exhausted by my mother’s inability to communicate — the stroke took away her language center, meaning she could neither understand or speak to us — so our days dragged on in silence. The prospect of carrying on an actual conversation was a welcome change.

“I wouldn’t count on it. She’s not always lucid,” Dad warned.

As we arrived at the nursing home, my father was intercepted by a nurse wanting to show him a new prospective room for grandma. “You go see your grandmother. I’ll be in shortly,” he told me.

I sat down next to my grandma, who was unusually frail and chatty. Her room had stark white walls, a television, and was outfitted in the same furniture as my college dorm room. I couldn’t help but empathize with her depression. I hated being in this place, and I certainly didn’t have to live here.

“What’s new?!” She asked, chomping at the bit for some news from the outside.

“I am thinking of adopting a dog,” I said. At the time, I was convinced that adopting a dog would help me through my grief, and was the best possible thing I could do.

“Why would you want to do that?!” she asked, appalled.

“Grandma, you know I’ve always wanted a dog.”

“And I’ve never been able to understand why. A dog will chain you. You won’t be able to travel or take off spontaneously or do anything at all. You’ll be stuck with the dog! Don’t tie yourself down with a pet. It’s not a good idea.”

Her words hit me like a gut punch. Was she right? Was I unable to commit to a dog? I’d always wondered if I was really ready; if I should take the plunge or wait for a better, more stable time (note: I did end up waiting for a better time — about 2 more years, and I’m really glad I did). I wanted to say “grandma, you’re one to talk — you already had 3 kids by they time you were my age!” but I didn’t. I couldn’t bear her response and fighting her didn’t seem worth it. Besides, the damage was done.

I said nothing. But I internalized her words, and the hurt that they brought.

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What I should have said: “Grandma, you’re full of shit.” Because LOOK AT THAT FACE!

It’s been nearly two and a half years since that conversation, and only now it strikes me as funny that it was the last lucid talk we ever really had. As I stare down at my puppy Alfie, sleeping peacefully next to me while I work, I am pulled to thoughts of her.

She was right that I used to prize my freedom above all else. In my teens and early twenties, I traveled like I’d never get the chance again. If there was a trip and I could somehow afford it, I went, without thinking much about what I was leaving behind. I stayed gone for as long as I could, often abandoning my apartment for months at a time, soaking in all that the world had to offer me. My wanderlust knew no bounds — I was young and unattached and free.

Sure, coming home to all of my creature comforts was nice, but in truth there wasn’t much there waiting for me; an empty fridge and piling mail.

All of that has changed for me.

Today, my apartment is bursting with love. I have a family to come home to: Dave, our cat Penny and of course, now Alfie. We do almost everything together and being with them fills my heart up to its brim, and makes me feel whole in a way I never imagined before. Leaving them is hard, but not because of logistics or the cost of pet sitters. It’s hard because I love them and I miss them, and frankly, I hate being away from them. They’re my favorites!

Although I have to admit, in many ways, having a dog does bind me. I have to get up each morning at a reasonable time to take him for a walk. I have to plan out my days around his needs: I must make sure he gets his meals, enough exercise and socializing, and that I spend adequate time training and bonding with him. I can’t just pick up and go whenever to wherever. All of that is true.

But when I think about how much I’ve gained — a sweet, loyal companion, a furbaby who loves me no matter what is going on in my life; an unrelenting best friend — I realize that ultimately, “freedom” is not the most important thing to me anymore.

If I could talk to my grandma again, or if I could go back to that conversation, I would kindly tell her what I know now: I could keep my life set up forever so that I am unattached and free. That would mean I could do whatever I want, and I wouldn’t have anyone to answer to. But having a partner and a cat and a dog to love and to love me is worth more than all of that to me now. They give me something to come home to; something to miss, something to work towards. I’m more patient, more giving, more loving and more myself.

I don’t feel tied down or imprisoned; I feel complete. I feel whole. I’m no longer trying to escape my life. I’m right here living and loving it.

I gave up my “freedom,” and I found something that’s worth a lot more: the beautiful feeling of home.

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I’d choose him all over again. 🙂

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost, But I Feel Lost Without Wandering.

Lately, I’ve been having a crisis of consciousness. I’ve been forced to confront something in myself that I didn’t realize was tearing at me so strongly: I haven’t been on a trip, a REAL trip, in nearly three years. For the record, a “real trip” by my definition is 1) traveling somewhere foreign to me, 2) where I don’t know a soul, 3) for at least a week.

I was once filled with wanderlust; an insatiable need to not only see the world, but to be a part of it. I didn’t just want to pass through a country, taste their food, see their major tourist attractions and move on. I wanted to know what it was like to live there — to get to know the hole-in-the-wall places I couldn’t find in Fodor’s, to meet people that pushed me out of my comfort zone, and to say “yes” to things that terrified me.

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The Great Pyramids, Egypt. 2009.

In my 29 years, I’ve visited 20 foreign countries and 30 of the United States, and throughout my travels, the pervading sentiment has been “more, more, MORE!” But for the past few years, I’m simply not feeling the pull to faraway lands.

Sure, I’ve gone on mini-trips — long weekends to the mountains, extended visits to out-of-state friends. I’ve moved to a new state and explored my new surroundings. But for some reason, I can’t bring myself to really travel.

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Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey. 2009.

Not only that, but my whole attitude towards the nomadic lifestyle has changed… soured, even. I’m afraid my eyes will roll right out of my head when I see an article urging me to quit my corporate job to travel or live on an island; promising me that enlightenment is just a plane ride and a generic, well-curated travel blog away. “Live your best life!” they say, “anyone can do it!”

Easy for you to say,” I think condescendingly.

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. 2010.

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. 2010.

I find myself resenting my friends who constantly travel, even though I used to be one of them and at one point, that life meant everything to me. And then I resent myself for resenting people I care about for living a life that makes them happy. What’s my problem? In the deepest recesses of my heart, I know that my way is not the capital “r” Right way; that every person is different and that what makes each of us tick is something deeply personal.

I know that I am, quite frankly, being a hater.

The problem is in me. And I know where it comes from: my mother died, unexpectedly and horrifically, and my internal sense of security (however imagined it may have been) has been disturbed.

The need for stability has taken over my life — routines, appointments, lists and steadfast control over my schedule are keeping me “safe,” or at least are offering the illusion of safety. I am fighting day and night to bring back my sense of security in this world.

And it seems my wanderlust wandered off to find a soul that rambles, like mine used to.

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Ait Benhaddou, Morocco. 2010.

I hate that I now feel a visceral aversion to something that used to be such a big part of me. And worse, I am constantly bombarded by messaging telling me to do everything I can — travel, take risks, uproot myself while I’m still young, before life gets in the way, or worse, slips completely out of my hands. I’m in the prime of my life, but I can’t enjoy it fully. I still find myself here, stuck, treading water.

The truth is, when your entire world is uprooted by a phone call, displacing yourself to distant lands can seem impossibly scary. Foreignness suddenly reads to me as deeply lonely. These days, I crave familiarity; comfort. I crave something my passport could never lead me to.

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Somewhere in the desert, traveling across the USA in a VW bus. 2011.

I think back on last Spring, a year or so after my mother died. My father suggested going to Germany. His is a grieving process that has propelled him to live like he’ll never get another chance (newsflash: none of us will), whereas mine has been a drawn out exercise in desperately trying to regain my footing. I told him “yes, I’d love to!” while deep inside, I panicked. Even now, a year later, I still don’t feel ready to relinquish the calculated control I’ve exerted over my life since her passing.

I must admit, I am feeling rather impatient and fatigued from expending so much energy to heal. I am eager to feel like myself again, even though I know time is the only solution, and that ultimately, I am forever changed. The “myself” who ran wild through Europe falling in love at every hostel I stepped foot in is gone. But something tells me my intrinsic need to see the world is not gone forever. This upheaval of my sense of self is temporary; the disinterest, the complacency and the unrelenting fear.

They say not all who wander are lost, and I really believe that to my core. Wherever my wanderlust is off to, I hope it’s somewhere nice, running wild with the free spirits that used to be my kin… right where it belongs.

Grand Canyon, USA. 2011.

Grand Canyon, USA. 2011.

The Catskills Diaries: Part Four

Ahh, the final entry of the Catskills Diaries, chronicling my solo retreat to a cabin in the mountains. This entry from my personal travel journal was written after I’d returned home, on Saturday morning (October 5th). At this point, I’d had a little time to process the week and what it meant to me. I was starting to feel like myself again, and slowly becoming ready to face the world.

Looking back now, I could not be more thankful for this experience, and everything that it gave me. It really brought me back to life in a time of hopelessness.

But I have hope again. And here is my hope for you, reader: I hope that one day, regardless of your life’s journey, you will go somewhere and be with yourself. It doesn’t have to be in the mountains with no one around, or anywhere in particular. Just a place where you can hear your thoughts, with enough time set aside for you to really listen to them. I think you’ll be surprised, and heartened, by what you have buried deep inside you. I know I was.

Catch up on past installments of the Catskills Diaries: click here for Part One, click here for Part Two, click here for Part Three.

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Days 4 & 5: Thursday, October 3/Friday, October 4

I stayed in at the cabin until the late afternoon, working. After I finished up, I set off for another hike, this time at the Red Hill Fire Tower in Denning, NY. 

On the drive in, I was faced with another dreaded dirt road, only it was called a “seasonal highway” for some reason I couldn’t figure out. I, of course, accidentally passed the entrance for the trailhead and ended up driving through these private YMCA-owned woods. There were rocky cliffs on either side of the road at varying points, and I genuinely thought I might end up stuck, somehow. What if the throughway was out of “season?” How would I turn around? I’m pretty sure backing out would have meant certain death.

Thankfully, at the end, there was a place to turn around, so I was able to not drive off a cliff in the middle of the woods that no one knew I would be in. (Note to self: tell SOMEONE before going out into the wilderness. SERIOUSLY!) 

Once I was on the trail, it was a fast, but challenging hike. Maybe I was pushing myself a little too hard because of the time (it was pushing 4 when I arrived at the trailhead). In any case, it was a great workout, an amazing view, and I really wished Dave could have been there to see it. The views at the top of the tower were 360 degrees of mountains. The skies were a little cloudy, so the pictures didn’t come out great, but it was gorgeous up there, if not slightly terrifying (the foundation of the fire tower would shake with the wind. And, when is there not wind at the top of a mountain?!)

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Top of Red Hill Fire Tower.

I went home and had another relaxing night filled with my favorite activities, and finally triumphed in sitting outside for longer than 15 minutes, stargazing (confession: I was on the phone with Dave, which made me much braver). The night wasn’t as “amazing” in terms of meaning, as Wednesday night had been, but it was fun nonetheless. I finally started to feel ready to go home, and return to the life waiting for me.

On Friday, I hung out for a chunk of the day, working and enjoying the views from the porch one last time, and then took off in the evening.

Overall, I had an incredible week. It was the first time I ever really felt on my own. It was scary as hell being out there with only myself. But I felt independent and I’m really proud of myself for doing that; for braving it. I did it. I was there. I built something just for me. I did something proactive to grow; to once again confront my fears of ending up alone. And even if I do end up alone, at least I’ll be in great company. 

Plus, if you can’t stand on your own two feet, you’ll never survive when the world strikes against you. 

As for the Catskills, I feel that they are one of the last bastions of unexploited beauty this country has to offer. And they’re only two hours away. I get the notion that I’m now holding the biggest secret in the city and I’m not sure if I want to share it, or if I should keep it for myself. No matter: nobody can take it away from me. 

This week, the world was mine and I was its. And we were very much in love. 

The Catskills Diaries: Part Three

We’ve reached Day 3, the pinnacle of my solo trip in the Catskills. At this point, I was starting to feel “on my own” for the first time ever. It dawned on me that each decision I made was completely my own, with no “adult” to consult. There were times when I thought, “I NEED AN ADULT,” (such as, when I began to worry that I would pop a tire on one of the many dirt roads I encountered) but then came to realize that I was the only adult around.

This was a stark, and somber reckoning for me. I have always reveled in the guidance and safety of my mother’s presence. She was both my sounding board and my North Star. And, while I had admittedly spent the year leading up to her stroke reluctantly crawling out of my extended adolescence, I was far from ready to lose her support.

So, here they are: my impressions on being “on my own” for the first time, moving through the world as proper adult. Or something.

To catch up on the Catskills Diaries: Part One, click here. For Part Two, click here.

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Day 3: Wednesday, October 2

Wednesday was relaxation day. I went into town and visited a shop called, maybe “Splunk.” Is that right? I’m not sure (Ed. Note: No, that was not right. It was actually “Plunk,” but NICE TRY two-glasses-of-wine-deep Chelsea). The shopkeeper was extremely friendly and helpful, and she talked my ear off about biking, and where to go in the area. I bought some things from her and walked around. The town, Livingston Manor, also had an organic shop, a pizza place, a grocery store, and a few other businesses. Plus a cute little park in the center of town on the river, where I ate lunch. 

It was a nice town, but lots of stuff was closed. Apparently many of the shops and attractions close in the Catskills during the week, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, after the weekend tourists leave. Their weekend is essentially Tuesday/Wednesday. I find this to be a very interesting mountain town phenomenon. 

Livingston Manor’s town motto is “Small Town, Big Backyard.” Which is both adorable and TRUE. I cannot believe how much of the land is “for the people” here. The streams, the mountains, the parks, the forrest — so much is public land. There is signage everywhere indicating what is for public use and what is private. 

It’s really nice being somewhere like this, where the people have ownership of the resources around them. And they use them! It’s so different from the city, where resources are vastly limited and there is nowhere to be alone except your own room, if you’re lucky. 

I hung around for awhile and got some things at Main Street Farm (the organic market) for dinner and headed back. It was kind of muggy out and I just wanted to enjoy the cabin. I made myself a nice dinner, and put together a playlist of songs that inspire me, move me and make me dance. I turned it up, and just had myself a party! 

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Did I mention the view from my cabin?

I stargazed, played my banjo, wrote, snacked, hookahed, cried, danced, failed at building a fire, and just felt. Yes, I let myself feel it all. I let the beauty of the mountains, my loss, my fear, my happiness, my overwhelming love for Dave, and my giant heart bursting with so much more take over and just listened to myself. 

It was. I don’t know. It was so lovely. One of the best, most life-affirming nights of my entire life. Like, this is it. This is what you get — this place exists in the world, and you can just go here alone when everything feels wrong and feel right again. 

Hiking up a mountain can bring you back to life.

Stargazing can remind you it’s still ok to dream. 

Smoke leaving your lips can give you just the right high to let your guard down and dance alone. 

The leaves changing can keep you mindful of the changing seasons, which like life, evolve in phases — constantly metamorphosing and overlapping; turning.

And fear can make you reverent to all that is around you and wake your dulled senses. 

I learned so much that I cannot even say. I am alive again. There is hope. I will be ok. I will create again and I will feel drive again. This deep sadness is temporary. There will always be adventure and inspiration to be found — I just have to remember to let it in. 

The rest feels insignificant. It all culminated like I hoped it would. I thought I would cry my eyes out, and then some (Ed. Note: That did come, days later) but instead, I basically danced around and did whatever I wanted to do. I felt free. And in a life of debt, and obligation, and responsibility, and loss . . .

I found freedom in a cabin two hours north of biggest metropolis in the United States, dancing around in my sweatpants like a teenager. 

Sigh. I’m gonna make it after all. 

The Catskills Diaries: Part Two

We’re now onto Day Two of my solo Catskills adventure, or my “RE-TREAT YOSELF” as Dave affectionately calls it. This is where the isolation starts setting in.  At this point in my trip, I hadn’t spoken to, or even seen a human in over 24 hours, and the world was starting seem very, very far away.

I don’t have much to add to this journal. This entry is what I would call the calm before the storm — or, the day before I came back to life.

I hope you enjoy it. And, for the record, I promise the journey gets better!

To catch up on The Catskills Diaries: Part One, click here. 

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Day 2: Tuesday, October 1

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Did I mention that THIS was the view from my cabin’s porch? Oh, right.

It’s October and it LOOKS like October! The foliage here is nearly full color. I’m surrounded by bright bursts of red, orange, yellow, and green at every turn — a lush and colorful palate, to say the least. I am in leaf-peaper HEAVEN. I like when there is still some green on the trees. It creates a beautiful color contrast and makes the forrest look fuller, unlike at “peak” color when the green is all but abolished; the branches of so many trees are bare. The green never gets its due — it’s considered tiresome by the time October rolls around, what with all of its wild, rare colors. 

All of that is to say that to be here, now is incomparable. The beauty is almost too much to bear. I want to take in every ounce of it, but know that my time is limited and I cannot see it all… though I long and dream to. 

I made myself eggs and worked in the morning, and fretted for hours over what to do in the afternoon. I finally decided to go hike Giant Ledge. I showed up some time around 1:30, after a long and gorgeous drive across Parksville and onto Route 47, which brought me to the trailhead. I put on my new hiking boots, which I’ve been dying to break in, and got on the trail. 

The beginning was quite rocky and difficult climbing, but I got in a groove and powered up much more quickly than I thought I would. When I got to the top, the views were spectacular. I was exhausted and sad (I had started thinking about the magnitude of losing Mom), and as soon as I saw the expanse of the gorgeous Catskills mountains, I nearly lost it. I was choking up, but was too pleased with what I had accomplished to cry. I sat on a ledge and had my sandwich, trying unsuccessfully to capture the view on camera for Dave. 

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Just sitting on a ledge at the end of the Earth.

I felt so small, and yet at the same time, sitting on that ledge up there seemed deeply meaningful. In a way that I can’t communicate. The changing trees stretched as far as the eye could see — the colors reminded me of fireworks exploding against the mountains. The afternoon was cloudy, so everything over yonder was darkened by shadows. All of this, set against the distant backdrop of the far-reaching and ominous Catskills. I hope to have this photograph in my mind forever. 

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I tried.

As I hiked back, my head swam with thoughts of my mother, grief, and the disappointment I felt in so many of my relationships. I must have lost track of the trail somehow, as I stopped recognizing my surroundings. It honestly seemed impossible to have faltered (the trail was THAT well-marked on the way up!), so I kept forging onward. I told myself to trust the trail, and trust the guidebook. Like probably a hundred or so times. But apparently I was just lying to myself the whole time. I ended up on some alternate trail that went a mile or two out of my way. It spat me out at a tiny, serene lake on Route 47, scratching my head at how it all went down. 

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I took the road less traveled… by accident. And found this lake!

Thinking back, I probably should have trusted my instincts and turned around earlier. But it was kind of hilarious, actually. It reminds me of all my hikes with Dave. We always manage to get ourselves lost, no matter how hard we try to stay on trail. It’s half adorable, and half mortifying. We simply cannot help it, though: I don’t bother to pay attention, and he has no sense of direction. We’re hopeless. I could not love him more.

Tonight, I will set up an outdoor “altar” to force me onto the porch to look at the stars. I brought out six candles and a string of Christmas lights hoping that ambient lighting will make me less afraid. I will smoke a hookah on the porch and play my banjo and attempt to “make a night of it” as they say.

Wish me luck! 

The Catskills Diaries: Part One

I decided to do something a little different this week. In an effort to simultaneously blog more and stress out about blogging less, I will be sharing passages from my private travel journal for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to travel to a cabin in the woods in the Catskills, completely alone. I took this trip for many reasons, but mostly to check in with myself after losing my mom to a stroke in July. I firmly believe in learning to be with, and setting aside time for oneself. This trip was a time for reflection, self-TLC, loneliness — and ultimately, triumph.

I normally wouldn’t share my writings from a personal journal — the thought makes me hot with embarrassment. However, after much vacillating on how to cover my trip, I decided that publishing my impressions and thoughts as they were first recorded is the best and most pure way to convey all that this trip meant to me.

I will be posting one journal entry per day this week, to correspond with the entries I wrote on my trip. I hope you all enjoy my personal journey as much as I did.

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Day 1: Monday, September 30

I arrived at the cabin around 4:30 in the afternoon. The dirt — or should I say boulder — road up was terrifying. I scratched the bottom of the rental car, and worry that I will do permanent damage if I try again. 

I took a quick walk to the private lake down the street to check it out — it was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure where the access point was, so I only walked around the parameter. 

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Hunter Lake, Parksville NY

I made gnocchi for dinner and tried to settle down. I felt anxious about being alone in such a dark place, so I turned on all the lights and cranked Prohibition on Netflix, to help me feel more comfortable. 

I put on a fire (because, as my dear friend Alysa says, “fires make everything less scary”) and had to LOOK UP how to use a wood burning stove. Like I’ve never used one before! It’s so crazy how things completely slip away from you over time. Even skills that once felt like muscle memory — like tending to a wood stove in an old barn after school each day — become foreign with the passage of time. 

Pretty cozy, right?

Pretty cozy, right?

Anyway, outside of my hyper-bright cabin in the woods, all was dark and quiet and I genuinely became kind of terrified. The fact that I cannot see outside AT ALL is the worst. Plus, there are no shades on the windows in this house, except in the bathroom and bedroom. It’s quite awkward. I keep thinking of how someone could simply watch me from outside and I would have no idea. Like anyone would stand outside and watch ME watching a Ken Burns documentary, binging on snacks. That sounds… super likely.

And then I started thinking of all of the animals. Couldn’t there be bears? Foxes? Rabid raccoons (are they still a thing?!)? Who knows. I considered shutting the gate out front for further protection, but was too afraid to go outside the “safe porch.” I did go out there a few times to check out the stars. It’s so dark and clear here that you can see the Milky Way and every little star. It is beauty beyond imagination. It’s too bad I am scared to stay out there for more than two minutes. 

I will try again tomorrow. 

If You’re Going to San Francisco… Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair.

I’m currently sitting on a plane on my way back to NYC, after a long weekend in San Francisco, visiting my friend Teague. I am paying an exorbitant amount of money for internet so I can be productive, but all I can think about is the beauty and magnitude of California. This was my first visit to San Francisco and I sincerely cannot believe I waited so long to go. Talk about a soul city.

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Day one. Best place on earth.

A “soul city” is a term I’ve dubbed for any place that makes you feel infinitely comfortable and inspired. I’m talking about the kind of place where you take a look around, breathe in your first puff of air and feel instantly at home. Your trip passes by so quickly that you don’t even have time to record it all in your memory. Yet somehow, each and every moment is seared there as though you took the time to memorize them all individually with flash cards.

You know for sure it’s a soul city the moment you take off to go home, with the ton-of-bricks realization that you will spend the rest of your days scheming up ways to get back there for good, all the while knowing deep down that such notions are merely pipe dreams.

You return frequently, becoming a pseudo-local of sorts. You get to know people, places and secrets, and you navigate so decisively that tourists ask you for directions and recommendations.

You tell yourself each time that it will get easier, and calm yourself with the knowing that you can and WILL always return. Yet somehow, it never gets any easier. It always breaks your heart to say “so long — until we meet again.”

I have several such cities: Hyannis (Cape Cod), Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Barcelona (Spain), Rincón (Puerto Rico), Avalon (New Jersey), Edinburgh (Scotland), Budapest (Hungary), New Orleans (Louisiana).

San Francisco is most definitely a soul city for me. It’s unreal, it’s so flawless. Every angle you look at it from is beautiful. Even the tiniest details — appropriately disheveled flower boxes, ornate window embellishments, perfectly painted tri-color doorways. It took me less than 3 hours in that city to get swept up in the magic. And I never came down from my San Francisco high. Not once.

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About 1.5 miles in… We hiked BEYOND the bridge!

Highlights include, but are not limited to:

  • Access to the Modern Art gallery at Banana Republic Headquarters. Apparently they have the largest private modern art collection in the USA. It was an amazing experience to wander the gallery and have the place completely to ourselves.
  • Cole Valley. The Upper West Side of San Francisco (as I’ve come to affectionately call it). This is where I had the privilege of staying (with a view of the bridge to boot!). Loved it there so much. Coffee and work/journaling at the charming Cole Valley Cafe. Ridiculously delicious brunch at Zazie’s. Close proximity to the incredible thrift shopping and hipness at the Haight. LOVE.
  • A woman stopping before us on the MUNI to scream “STAY TOGETHER FOREVER!” in our faces before exiting the train. A beautiful, bizarre San Francisco moment.
  • Hiking all the way around the bay to incredible views of the city, the bay and the bridge. Not to mention the unique experience of climbing up a sand dune so steep that stairs couldn’t be built there. Instead? A rope tying wooden logs together, essentially a rope ladder as “stairs.” Unreal workout.
  • Sunset at Tank Hill. Breathtaking does not even begin to describe that view. Then dance-walking down the hill with Teague to the Castro for dinner. Listening to “Global Deejays: The Sound of San Francisco” on repeat. A woman stopped us to tell us our laughter and glee had made her night, and she couldn’t believe anyone on earth was this happy. Yep, it was THAT good.
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Banana Republic Modern Art Gallery

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I can’t even with my California hair. So amazing.

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Tank Hill sunset. Saying goodbye. That husky just appeared. Seriously, the city is MAGIC.

Needless to say, it was 5 days well spent. I will definitely be back. I hate to be trite, but I may just have left my heart…