Vicarious Tourism

I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the better part of four years and have barely experienced a tenth of the cool stuff there is to see and do here. I live alone and don’t really have a social life to speak of, so I really just don’t have occasion to get out much. But on top of that I have this major hang-up about doing things alone. Either I get bored with no-one to talk to, or I just find it depressing to be seeing and doing cool stuff without someone to share it with. I go to movies alone, but only if it’s a movie I really want to see, and even then I feel terribly self-conscious that strangers are looking at me and thinking “he’s going to a movie alone, how pathetic.” And just forget about eating in nice restaurants, at least I can hide at the back of a dark theater.

So, because I rarely venture out on my own, I don’t really know my way around very well, even after four years. There are neighborhoods I’ve never seen, hot spots I’ve never heard of, even entire communities that I can’t locate on a map. Thus it’s great to have a visitor from out of town because I can do all the cheesy touristy stuff without harming my status as a jaded local.

My best friend (whom I haven’t seen face-to-face in over two years) was in LA for E3 this week, and after some other plans fell through we managed to finagle some cheap airfares and she got to come up north and hang out a while. Unfortunately, it was an extremely short visit so we didn’t get to do much other than drive around San Francisco for a few hours, shooting pictures out of the car window. We drove down Market Street and along Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, paid 6 dollars to park for 20 minutes and take some pictures, and then had to get moving again to have time for lunch and still get her to the airport.

It seems like everyone who moves to a new place doesn’t do the touristy stuff until someone else visits. When you visit a city, you’re always thinking “when am I ever going to be in ______ again?” so you’re motivated to cram in as much sightseeing as possible. But when you live there, it’s just not as interesting. I’m sure there are plenty of people born and raised in Paris who have never been up the Eiffel Tower, or lifelong New Yorkers who have never set foot on Liberty Island. Yet every time I do get into the city of San Francisco I come away telling myself that I’ll do some more exploring on my own, and I never do. I need more visitors.