Ask just about anyone what her hobbies are and I guarantee you travel will be at the top of the list. It’s almost become cliché. But truth be told, there is something magical about the entire affair. It still never ceases to amaze me that a giant flying metal structure can bring you to a whole new world in just a matter of hours. The Wright Brothers did their thing in 1903, yet here I am, in 2017, still totally and utterly in awe of flight. So sincerest thanks to those two dudes. And all this awe is before I’ve even gotten to my destination.
But why do we travel? I suppose each person’s reason is different. For me personally, it’s usually about experiencing a new culture, bearing witness to sights, smells, tastes, and traditions that I’ve never experienced before, which is why Iceland and Japan are next up on my list. Such vastly different and fascinating cultures! I’m not much one for the laying-on-the-beach-for-days-in-a-row variety of vacation, but hey, to each her own.
While the majority of my travel is for the aforementioned sake of new and exciting adventures, occasionally I just feel called to revisit a place I’ve been before…to visit friends, to relive fond memories, or maybe even to replace old memories. Take my most recent trip to San Francisco, for example. I’d been there twice before, once with my mom the summer after my dad passed away, and then years later with a friend who had lived there as a child. As you might imagine, the first trip was bittersweet: I was mourning the loss of my father in a city beautiful beyond words. As much as I have fond memories of that trip, it will forever be tinged with the sadness of loss. The second trip was a lot more fun, but entailed a lot of touristy sightseeing and not really experiencing all that the city and its surrounding neighborhoods have to offer.
I wanted my third trip to be different from the ones before because this time I was visiting the City by the Bay with the intention of considering a move there. I live in what is, in my mind anyway, the best city in the world, New York. But I have a love/hate relationship with this place and have been wondering if I should think about living somewhere with an ever-so-slightly better quality of life. Somewhere where I could be…happier. The problem is, not many places in the US appeal to me as places I’d want to live; in fact, San Fran is the only other place I’d consider at this point in my life.
So I spent a week getting lost in the neighborhoods of San Francisco proper, from Laurel Heights to the Mission District; meandering the paths of the city’s ridiculously beautiful green spaces (if you haven’t been to the Presidio, get your behind there, stat); and exploring the quirkier East Bay towns of Berkeley and Oakland. I took day trips to Tiburon to see the redwoods, Sonoma to taste endless pours of wine, and, my very favorite, a drive down part of the ever-scenic California 1 highway to have lunch in the most quaint town in all of America, Carmel-by-the-Sea. (Again, if you haven’t been, I’m gonna need you to remedy that situation. You’ll thank me, I promise).
While I loved San Francisco this time even more than the last, I didn’t come away from the trip feeling what I thought I’d feel. I think I was looking for a sort of lightning bolt experience to strike me and tell me, YOU SHOULD MOVE HERE. But as I went from town to town and saw awe-inspiring sight after awe-inspiring sight, the overwhelming feeling I felt was one of just life is so damn beautiful. Pure and simple. And while I was really happy in San Francisco, I’m also really happy in NYC, and basically, everywhere I go for that matter.
So I guess my point is, happiness and the ability to appreciate the beauty in life is a state of mind. Can travel enhance these feelings? Oh, you bet. But this trip made me realize that I don’t need to uproot my life, I don’t need to make some grand gesture to change something that isn’t broken. Sure, the whole New York thing feels stale sometimes. But that’s just life. I’m sure that if I moved to San Francisco, there would be stale days there, too. The one constant no matter where I go and what I do is me, myself, and I. And if I’m happy with me, I’ll be happy anywhere.
About Cristina Rivera:
Cristina is a born-again yogi, learning as much as she can about the practice and adopting it to her lifestyle. She loves any and all dogs, has never met a piece of chocolate she doesn’t like, and, of course, loves to travel. As of late, she’s been embracing her inner writer and dabbling in jewelry design. Check out more on her website and Instagram.