This Week on Survivor: Bay Area – The Housing Challenge!

Campbell - Clear Night Skies

Campbell, California

A year on the road really makes you forget how frustrating “real life” is.

I work in San Francisco, but I live in the South Bay. The commute is, on a good day, about 75 minutes if I park at Millbrae and jump on BART. Driving directly into the heart of the city shaves off 15 minutes, but they’re added back when you realize there’s nowhere to park and you’re stalking innocent pedestrians who you suspect might be getting into their cars any second now. I generally don’t mind the commute – really, I don’t! …except when people are Tased around me – but only because I’ve been borrowing my dad’s car while he’s been out of town.

Well, he’s coming back soon. So I should probably think of a more permanent solution.

San Francisco rent is outrageous, and I refuse on principle to pay the extortionate rates they’re charging for studios with no kitchens or “three bedrooms” that actually mean two bedrooms and a living room. Plus, working near Twitter means I’m basically a persona non grata to the “original” SF community, so I’m not keen to add fuel to that fire by moving anywhere but Richmond or some other high-income neighborhood. I looked into moving to Oakland (where the subsequent waves of gentrification are now being felt) or Berkeley (which luckily has a pretty regular turnover from the student population anyway), but applying for affordable, safe, and character-rich apartments has become nearly as competitive as in SF. What’s a girl to do?

Half Moon Bay, California

Half Moon Bay, California

It’s things like these that make me miss the road.

I know, I know – #firstworldproblems. “I would rather travel the world than sign a lease” is a very privileged statement. Shouldn’t I just appreciate what I had and figure out a way to get by now, like everyone else?

But damn, just compare “splurging” on a $30/night private bungalow right on the beach to spending $750 – 1200/month for a room in an apartment in an okay part of town. Of course, the Bay Area is one of the most expensive regions in the world these days, so it’s bound to be a rude awakening to return from a life of limited commitments and cheap hostels. And of course, I’d rather spend a year in the Bay than a year on an island (I’d get so bored after a month). But it’s still a nasty shock into “real life,” or as my mom likes to say, “the joys of adulthood.” There is nothing joyful about having to “interview” for a room in an apartment, or stressing out about a perfect spot that you can only cross your fingers that you’ll get only to find out that you got passed over yet again. It’s not the worst problem in the world by far, especially since I have a place to live right now, but it’s definitely a problem.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California

The thought of moving to Thailand has crossed my mind a few dozen times, but as I said, I love the Bay too much to get up and go so soon after coming back. And it’s not like housing is going to get any easier to secure in the future. Plus, having a job that I love is kind of a luxury. I might put the housing search on hold for now, since I anticipate many East Bay houses and apartments will go up for rent around mid-May/early-June when many students graduate or leave for the summer. However, if you’re reading this and might be able to send me leads / good vibes, please do! 

I guess that’s one of the understated best part of traveling: the impermanence. You drift from place to place, accumulating little and living frugally. You save money for adventures, not possessions, and you can easily get up and go anytime you want. There’s nothing tying you to any place, and if there is, the wanderlust inside you overwhelms it to say there’s probably something else equally cool where you’re going next. Contracts, leases, and commitments seem like vestiges of a past you never want to return to. But alas, for most of us, we eventually do. Picking up the pieces of our old lives, or reshaping something new, isn’t always difficult, but it takes time to fully acclimate.

As a result, though, I’ve definitely gotten a lot better at accepting change and relinquishing control. Applying that Zen attitude to housing has mellowed me out significantly, but it’s undeniably still a source of stress. A friend told me it took him eight months to find the place he lives at now. That’s insane, and hopefully not a prediction of what will happen with me! But on the upside, I’m saving a ton of money that I will use to pay for my next trip. Only next time, I’m going to line up an apartment and a job before I get back. You live and you learn, right?

ETA: Oh, and thank you for reading this blog! I don’t say it enough, so I’m saying it now. The blog just hit over 10,000 views, which is an awesome milestone considering I haven’t been writing as often as I’d hoped and I’ve only really advertised it on Facebook. I hope to post more regularly and to seriously catch up on my city recaps. Good thing I have a weirdly good memory, and a ton of friends all over the world who hopefully will be able to help me piece together my trip for a second time! 🙂 Again, thank you!

Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California

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