What I’ve learned from two years in the City

Exactly two years ago today, my one-way flight to San Francisco from Orlando landed at SFO. I walked off the plane excited, but terrified. I arrived alone that night, because Dave was already in San Francisco starting our life. (Well, he was also at the airport, because he had gone back to Florida for a bachelor party that weekend, but that’s neither here nor there.)

We walked out of the airport together, tired, confused and having absolutely no idea what our lives were about to look like. Now let me take a step back ….

How this Lady went West

For those of you who are newer to A Lady Goes West, for about the first year-and-a-half that I had this blog, I wrote an entry once a week about my adventures living in San Francisco to keep in touch with my family and friends. It wasn’t until March of this year, that the focus of this blog became more about fitness, food and fun. If you look back in the archives, you’ll see very honest recaps of how hard it was to move across the country, leaving behind everyone and everything I had ever known.

But over the course of the past two years living in San Francisco, I’ve become a stronger and better version of myself. It hasn’t been easy. Outside of the logistics, like living in an empty apartment awaiting our belongings to be delivered more than two weeks late from across the country, or finding my way around a new city on foot, there have been larger things at play. Big life things. Big life learnings.

Ashley and Dave in San Francisco 2Shown from the top left: Picnicking in Stinson Beach, ice skating in the City, our first wine-tasting trip to Napa and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I thought today was a great day to bring back these first-hand open-book honest ramblings that I used to share. So let’s get to it …

What I’ve learned from two years of living in San Francisco

  • You only have one life, so use it. I could have stayed in Florida forever and been comfortable, but I always would have wondered what it was like to live in a big urban city. I chose to make this move, and I have no regrets.
  • Distance does not get any easier. People said it would take time to get used to living so far from my family, but it would eventually be easier. Untrue. It does not get any easier. While I’m now more accustomed to the fact that it takes a six-hour flight to see my Mom, Dad and Brother, it doesn’t mean that I can handle it any better, nor that I can put it out of my mind. But that’s the way it is right now.
  • People and experiences matter. Things don’t. I used to care a lot more about stuff than I do now. While I still like my designer bags, I don’t shop as much, I don’t walk around stores as much, and I don’t have nearly as many material things as I used to. Dave and I live in 550 square feet, and our belongings have had to reflect that. We’ve sold and donated so much over the past two years, and it feels good to live with a little less. I used to care so much more about having everything, but now I care more about experiences rather than stuff.
  • Things don’t always work out how you want them to. For my first six months of living in San Francisco, I worked in a contract role at the Les Mills office. Les Mills is the international group fitness company who makes the classes I teach, and I’ve been obsessed forever. I made a great early connection with some people who worked there and was offered a temporary role at the office. Those six months gave me so much happiness and enjoyment every single day. I met some famous Les Mills personalities, did a ton of workouts, learned so much about a company I loved, and in the end didn’t get the full-time job they nearly promised me. I was totally crushed, because I felt like things were supposed to work out that way. But they didn’t. My career path since then has been all over the place, but it’s finally about to land just where it was meant to be. And I wouldn’t have known that, had I not had some disappointment along the way.
  • It’s harder to make close friends the older you get. Dave and I have done a pretty good job at making new friends in San Francisco and have a few couples and groups that we hang out with regularly. But I don’t have a very best friend out here like I used to always have elsewhere. Once you’ve hit your late twenties, it seems like it’s not as easy to spend a ton of time with a friend and become BFFs instantly. It takes time, and I look back at my Florida friends and continue to cherish them even more, even though we don’t chat as often as we should.
  • You can get through anything with a good partner. Dave and I have never been closer than we are right now. Moving across the country was hard to do, but the time we have spent here building a life, has given us the rare opportunity to truly learn more about each other. Outside of the fact that we both work a ton, we really do get to have some quality time together, and it’s been amazing. Not only do we share a tiny little space together, but we share in each other’s good and bad. We’ve had awesome adventures, we’ve had truly hard times, and we’ve been each other’s best friend throughout it all.
  • Big cities have their ups and their downs. If you want to have non-stop activities available to you, then living in a big city is the way to go. I can’t believe how much there is to do all the time and how many new products, companies and services are launched here. But it comes at a price. It’s busy. It’s loud. It’s crowded. There are always people everywhere. It’s incredibly expensive for everything. And I mean incredibly expensive.
  • You can’t plan your life out exactly. You have to roll with it. If you would have told me more than two years ago that I would be a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and writer wearing a backpack and sneakers everyday living in California, I would have laughed in your face. I had some plans for my fancy life, and I never would have guessed the path would have led here. But it did. And now I’m just rolling with it, without a clear plan ahead.

Ashley and Dave in San FranciscoShown from the top left: Wine tasting in Napa, snowboarding in Tahoe, attending a special event during Live in the Vineyard and the Outside Lands Music Festival.

The pros and the cons of San Francisco living

On Sunday, as Dave and I were on a picnic in the great outdoors, I told him I was going to write this post and asked him a few questions about our two years. Here are his thoughts as well as mine:

What’s your favorite thing about living in San Francisco?

Dave: The proximity to gorgeous settings like the mountains of Marin, the redwoods and all of the nature areas that we can reach within a 30-minute drive. (Dave lives for hiking and picnicking with a scenic vista.)

Me: The endless amount of things to do all the time. I love the thousands of restaurants, festivals, activities and fun of being in a big city.

What’s your least favorite thing about living in San Francisco?

Dave: Rent.

Me: Being so far from my parents and brother. But the rent is pretty awful too.

What’s your favorite memory during our time here?

Dave: Our amazing all-expenses paid weekend in wine country during Live in the Vineyard a few months after we moved here when we got to see live music and drink wine at VIP events. But going to Tahoe for the first time comes in at a close second.

Me: Ditto. Those were perhaps the coolest weekends ever. And I mean ever.

We’ve found a pretty good routine and way of life in San Francisco, but there are always changes around the corner. So for now, we’re going to enjoy the ride.

Questions of the day

Have you learned any life lessons lately?

When was the last time you moved?

Have you ever been to San Francisco?

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33 Comments

  1. This might be one of my favorite posts of yours, Ashley! The best decisions are often times the most difficult. Think about it..if you hadn’t moved to San Francisco, you may have not started this blog, which in turn means we may have never “met”. Cheers to moving west! xoxo

  2. Great post Ashley! This struck home with me on several accounts as I just recentlyl moved from NJ to Texas. It is harder to make relationships with age, it is important to care less about acquiring more things and you just never know where you will end up. This has me written all over too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Lauren, You are so welcome. It’s definitely hard to move, but you do get a lot out of it. I’m glad we share a few of these lessons learned. Have a good night!

  3. Oh my god, I am SO GLAD I read this post today! I just moved from Philly to Alaska back in April and I’m home for a visit right now and it’s…weird. In fact, today’s post was about the same thing! I miss my family and certain things about Philly so much and I’ve been a mess thinking about leaving again, even though I love Alaska. Moving is so hard – it’s worth it, but it’s hard. I’m hoping my husband and I can adjust as well as you have! I will have to check out some of your older posts sometime!

    1. Hi Kristen! I’m so glad you found this post and have been introduced to A Lady Goes West. It’s very hard to be away from what you know, but at the same time, the unknown provides so many opportunities. Let’s keep in touch! πŸ™‚

  4. I love that you stated this: “People and experiences matter. Things don’t.” I’ve become that way in my life, too – and it’s honestly so true. Things don’t matter, things don’t make you happy. Memories do, especially with friends, or exploring places. However, I really wish my husband was that way too and didn’t have 6 bikes and tons of gear around the house πŸ˜‰

    1. Living in a tiny city apartment helps us be choosy about what to keep around, that’s for sure. I find that spending money on trips and adventures gives a happiness that lasts so much longer than what hangs in your closet.

  5. I loved this post, Ashley! I think you have such a great perspective on everything. As much as that job with Les Mills would have been great, I agree that you seem to be headed in the right direction now. And I can 100% relate to how you feel on the family and friends front. My husband and I are both originally from Florida and we moved to Texas for 3 years before relocating to California 2 years ago. Moving that much at this age makes it really hard to form close bonds. But my relationship with my husband continues to grow stronger as a result which is a huge positive. Even so, I could still use a girls night every now and then. Apparently I need to move to SF so we can hang out! πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Sarah, Thanks for the kind words. Yes, we’ll have to get together sometime. Moving can be very tough, but there are so many benefits … and the bond between you and your husband is one of the most important things in life, that’s for sure! πŸ™‚

  6. Loved this post! I recently moved 3,500 miles from Alaska to Michigan. I lived in a city in Alaska and now I live on a remote island (not accessible by road) in northern Michigan. I love moving around and experiencing the awesome-ness that new places have to offer. Your comments about distance not getting easier and it being difficult to make a best friend really hit home. I’ve struggled with both of those things a ton. It’s great to hear such an honest account of what being a traveling woman is like!

    1. Hi Hannah, I’m so glad you found A Lady Goes West and could relate to this post. Let’s stay in touch — and best of luck in your adventures. A remote island in Michigan sounds gorgeous, but full of its own issues at the same time!

  7. I really appreciate this post because I can relate. We didn’t move across the country per se when we moved to Utah several years ago, but I experienced some similar feelings and lessons learned throughout our move. It’s never easy being away from family, and life totally throws you curve balls. Now that we’re back in Arizona, it’s nice to be closer to family, but I still struggle with the friend thing. All my high school friends have moved away, and although we’ve made some good couple friends, I don’t have my two super close friends like I did in Utah, whom I miss so much! I know it takes time, but it’s definitely harder as you get older!

  8. I love this post. As a fellow city lover and transplant, I totally relate. And yes, rent! Ugh. We just signed on for another year at our apartment since we haven’t found a house to buy yet. There may have been tears πŸ™‚

  9. I totally hear you on the best friends thing – I think maybe it’s harder to make a best friend when you have a husband you want to spend so much of your time with too. I just have to remind myself that he’s my best friend (but I agree – it’s not the same as a girl pal though!).

  10. I can so relate — moving from NYC to SF almost felt like a “downgrade” for me, in the sense that I was used to such an intense city life, and SF is just so different and more mellow in many (awesome) ways. It definitely took me a year to feel like I understood the city, the rhythm, etc. — and had real friends, aside from my boyfriend, to hang out with. Once all that clicked, though, I realized there’s so much out here to love — and I can always move back closer to my family too. For now, the adventure wins out!!

    We should totally try to meet up sometime to compare SF + blog notes!! πŸ™‚

  11. It’s funny life’s way to forcing us to become the people we’re meant to. As I’m still “new” to the city, hearing about your lessons is incredibly helpful in pushing me to take advantage of what San Francisco has to offer (I think I take it for granted because I know I will be here for a loooooong time). I made the decision to move back to be closer to my family, so we’re in opposite situations. That said, I wouldn’t trade my time in L.A. for anything. It’s awesome to hear that though you do miss your family and you don’t have a BFF in the city, you’re still soaking in this time together.

    In response to the question you posed, transition always bring with it a multitude of lessons (and I’ve been in it for a while). I’m still contemplating everything I’ve learned over the past year, but here’s a post I wrote about turning another year older: http://www.thesinglediaries.com/mydiaries/catherine-twenty-seven/

    Thanks for all your thoughts!

  12. This post is so spot on Ashley, I can totally identify with everything, especially the points about how hard it is to be away from your family! When I originally moved to NY before here, I felt the same way. I was lucky to have my bff move to SF around the same time I did to work for Google, but I certainly don’t have the same close friendships that I did at home. And..there is nothing like a tiny apt and a big huge move to bring you and your significant other closer! I’m going to share this article with a friend and his gf who are moving here next weekend πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Jill, Thank you so much for the kind feedback. This was an important post for me to write and definitely honest. I hope it’s helpful to your friend. Take care! πŸ™‚

  13. I know this is an old post, but I felt compelled to comment and say thank you! I am thinking of making the transition out West after I finish up in grad school. It’s nice to read an honest post about it. San Francisco is so high on my list, but alas, I think the rent would be too big of a con. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Amanda! You could totally find a roommate in SF! It’s doable, but you may give up some conveniences like your own bedroom, a washer/dryer, car, etc. But I LOVE SF and don’t regret a minute spent in the city! Best of luck on your decision. Let me know if you have any questions!! πŸ™‚

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