This weekend I’m in San Francisco – it’s my first trip since starting Traveling Savage, and I’m eager to apply some of the ideas and tactics I’ve written, read, and learned about in the last five months. It won’t be an exact primer for my one month abroad template as I’m traveling with a friend and staying with family, but there are still several strategies in hand.
More than one passage in The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau really struck me, but the chapter on preparing mentally and building excitement truly resonated. His point was that you need to read and learn about your destination – to give yourself time to want it – so that when you arrive it’s a sort of realization in the truest sense. With four days in San Francisco, I’ve built the excitement by watching late night reruns of Full House and Mrs. Doubtfire. Well, I considered it at least. I’ve actually spent my time in San Francisco media: reading articles, perusing photo galleries, and chatting up locals.
Plan Macro Experience Micro
The last thing I wanted to do was allocate every last scrap of time so I focused on learning about San Francisco’s interesting and diverse neighborhoods. My brother’s place is located near Golden Gate Park and Haight, which appears to be a nice location for getting around. I identified large-scale sections of the city that appealed to me and some of the haunts/activities within their boundaries. I also collected recommendations from some great travelers via Twitter and Facebook.
The memory of a trip is the “slow accretion of details.” Another Phil Cousineau gem. But truly, perhaps most in travel writing, details are the vehicle for shared experience. Focusing on details as you enjoy your trip can be demanding, but the remembrance of the trip will have a much higher resolution for yourself and the effect of transportation for others reading your writing. Plus, there’s something satisfying about noticing little things and locking them into paper (or digital ink).
Leave Room for Serendipity
I’m leaving this trip agenda pretty open, at least for me. I want to go with the flow, wherever it takes me. A big part of that belief is that I’ve realized serendipitous moments are often the most memorable, and they’re much harder to come by when you’re operating on a rigid schedule. With this style of trip, planning every last second of time before I arrive prevents me from learning what I’d like to be doing once I’m actually in San Francisco. Seems pretty obvious, right? It is, but many people plan trips from front to back before they arrive. I think there’s an initial feeling of discomfort in not knowing what you’re going to do. Once you get past that, however, it’s all joy.
It’s 4am as I type this – obviously sleep escapes me. Soon I’ll be on a flight, but please, if you have suggestions for things to do and see in San Francisco, post your thoughts and ideas in the comments. I’m also hoping for a tweet-up with Lauren from Lonely Girl Travels. If you’re in the area, tweet @travelingsavage.
If you’ve got four days in a place, how would you plan?
Original photo by wallyg via Flickr under Creative Commons