Reflections on coming home

So how does it feel to be back? Some friends ask.

Short answer: Good.

I feel good. I’m happy to see friends. See family. Visit the taco truck four times in the last week and half. In fact, coming home has been better than expected, especially since my last few weeks in Spain I was trying to extend my ticket to no avail. So I threw my hands up in the air and told myself that the flight date I choose seven months prior must be for a reason.

I’m enjoying relaxing, catching up with friends, reading, and am trying to maintain this little ole blog of mine, if anything to record all my memories and thoughts before they fade into the distance. Not having much of a routine, means I spend more time on the computer than I need but I’m creating structure slowly. Adjusting.  

I’ve started the job search and it feels good. I’m trying to take it slow, apply for what feels right and what I want.  I think about how much I questioned my decision last year to go back and this year without any cushion of a grant based position lined up, occasionally the thought seems alluring but it doesn’t feel right. At least, not right now. Going back to Basque Country seems like going backwards but on the grander scheme of things, it’s likely not. I’m just ready for new  and different challenges. 

Sailboats in the harbor, San Sebastian

Sailboats in the harbor, San Sebastian

Teaching English wasn’t gratifying for me at least, not as an assistant or through this program. So I’ve come home in search of something new. Something that allows me to focus on my interests, desires, wants and dreams. It was easy to question if I left Spain too soon fresh off the plane but now 6 weeks has passed and “home” seems right where I belong. What’s another year in Spain? I wondered. Is there really any rush to “come back” and live in the States? Simple answer: No.  You see, I worked 20 hours between my teaching assistant position and one-on -one classes. I made decent money by European standards (you can’t compare to American salaries) and worked part-time in comparison to what most Spaniards or Americans work. That is, Spaniards,  Basques or Catalans who were lucky enough to have a job. Any job. I had enough money to pay rent, utilities, buy groceries, go out for pintxos a few times a week and travel. I certainly didn’t save any money while abroad, in fact, I spent money from my savings that I was lucky to have.  Now I’m home and the cost of living and sky roof prices of rent are in my face. Many (well-paid folks) say the cost of living is relative to the salaries earned but I question how true this is. I think if they had a lower paying salary they may see life through a different lens.  Sure, salaries will be higher than a small town in Iowa but are all salaries sufficient to live comfortably in the bubble of the SF Bay Area?

New Year's day on the beach. Me encanta San Francisco!

I say No.

When did it become the norm for a small to medium-sized room in San Francisco balloon to a $1,000 or more in rent + utilities?  Many apartments now rent out there living spaces so that high cost you pay doesn’t even include a common space anymore. Yup.

That’s right.

Cost of living keeps going up. I’m sure that’s partly it but I believe it’s a bigger beast.  Over the last few years  as more tech industries are enticing employees with great perks such as shuttling employees to neighboring Silicon Valley so they can live and enjoy city life. I don’t blame them. If I was in the industry, I’d want to live in the city and play too. But what happens when their salaries are so high that they can afford to offer double the rent when 50-200 people are competing for a room? Whose going to get the room? We all know the answer.

I wonder from an anthropological perspective:

How will it change the city? How has it already changed the city? What happens when artists, writers, activists, immigrants, students, and families no longer can afford to live in this city? All these amazing and interesting folks who make up San Francisco are forced out because they don’t earn enough money to support themselves?

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who shares these sentiments. And San Francisco isn’t the only one with crazy high rents where locals are being pushed out. A friend who longs to live the Parisian lifestyle tells me Paris faces a similar issue with big time investors currently buying up real estate and apartment prices soaring, it’s so bad, politicians know they must address this issue  and implement some changes in the coming election if they want a chance at being elected. Which makes me wonder, What are our SF politicians doing about this craze? Sure, it’s bringing in a lot of tax revenue but what about the vast changes it’s been having within a lot of the communities? Do they care? Is it their ethical responsibility?  How will SF change?

From my perspective it’s hard to see it changing for the better. It seems it will be a city mostly of young professionals who can play and enjoy the city with their 6 figure income bracket who are willing to pay what ever it costs.  It’s also interesting talking with folks who live in the city, mostly transplants, who when they hear me voice my sentiments, say well, “cities are always expensive.” I nod my head and say, “sure, that’s true.” But maybe it’s different because I’m born and raised here and as a local I feel pushed out of my backyard, a city so close yet I’ve never had the chance to experience.

But you know. Maybe it’s ok.


Change is imminent. Change is constant.

I’ve changed and so has the city.

For me, I no longer long to live in San Francisco. It’s been on my mind throughout the years but so far it hasn’t aligned for me. Now with prices against my values and my awareness that I’m a smaller city/town type of gal.  So I’m focusing on living in a place with affordable Bay area prices with what I want a sense of community, places I can walk or ride a bike to, farmers markets, and if possible close to public transit.

And who knows, maybe the Bay is where I’ll stay for a long while or maybe it’s only a pit stop. Right now having the familiar and having friends and family around is a nice reprieve. 


14 thoughts on “Reflections on coming home

  1. check out a book i read last summer called Geography of Nowhere and one im reading this summer called Home from Nowhere both by James Kunstler. entertainingly written about intentional community design how we became an auto dominated society some projects that have come to fruition and it also discuses some of teh issues you raise about bring priced out of the city.

  2. I remember my best friend paying $1,200 for a small bedroom in a shared house right in the center (it’s probably gone up since then). A Bay Area native, she wanted to have a year or two in the city to be able to enjoy city life, but knew it was a splurge. You’re right – the city’s changing and warping and it’s inevitable (sadly!). I guess the most international cities do tend to be the most expensive (S.F., L.A., Paris, London, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona). But there are plenty of other cities we can live in and enjoy at a much more decent cost without having to be some grossly overpaid techie ;). It’s just a shame that locals are losing access to their own cities due to hungry estate agents buying out the properties and renting them at some ridiculous price.

    • I remember you telling me the story of your friend.
      The cost has gone up incredibly. The standard for a room seems to be $1200 and often without a shared living space because that’s been converted to a room. It’s madness.
      It’s sad and awful to hear about all the eviction stories and to see the changes in SF. But alas, I guess that’s part of life. Everything changes. Whether we like it or not, whether it’s ethical or not.
      I just wish our societies weren’t so money hungry and made so many decisions on greed. How do we get back on track of what’s really important?
      Thanks for reading!

  3. I read this the other day at work and meant to comment on it. Great post again, I always like reading your reflections, and this one speaks about a lot of fears I have about potentially moving to San Francisco if/when I’m done with Barcelona. I don’t make much money here either, but I feel like I can still do more things than I’d be able to in SF.

    How’s your job search going? Are things getting any easier?

    • Hi Jessica,
      thanks for the positive feedback and compliments. So many more reflections to share.
      You know San Francisco is going through the roof and seeing a lot of changes but thankfully, there are other great places in the Bay that are a bit more affordable. The SF Bay is expensive and I just landed a part time gig that I’ll have to be super mindful of how I spend. Life is going well. I’ve jumped in full force and am ready to be here and start my life anew. Makes such a difference. Well, I’ll be in the Bay, when/if you move from BCN. And if you come home this summer, lmk, maybe we can finally meet up!! I have an extra room till September!

  4. I am having similar thoughts as I search for apartments in VA. I am not even living in a big city, but man, have property prices gone up! A far cry from what I was paying in Spain! Suerte with the job search 🙂

    • Thanks. I guess it’s just happening everywhere. Makes me appreciate the ease of finding places in Spain and glad it’s not the reverse- being Spanish and looking in the States!

  5. It’s the same for LA. But, our public transportation isn’t quite like SF. I agree though. The ones who will make it here are the ones who make $$$

    • Thanks for stopping by Wondernuts!
      It’s unfortunate but all part of the change, whether good, bad or neutral. time will tell how this all will play out.

  6. Interesting reflections. I’ve never even been to San Francisco, but the thought of it and its true nature vanishing is scary to me.

    • Thanks for reading Kaley! It is scary. Big changes ahead and I’m curious how it will all play out.

  7. I need to call you and visit! I would love to catch up with lunch. Maybe next week ? I will email you. xo patrice

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