We’ve been in quarantine for over a year, and I’ve spent six months of quarantine in California and the second six months in Texas. As a Texan who grew up here for most of my life, with 12 years living in San Francisco, recently moving back – here are my thoughts on both experiences.
We lived on the corner of Alamo Square, so each morning I took my walks in this park and had easy access to crisp fresh air. Well, not at first. Truth be told, the first 3 weeks of quarantine in March 2020 I barely left my house, only to go to the grocery store once a week. I was super paranoid about COVID and not quite sure how it was spreading or what was going on (and I lost my job and was needless to say, depressed). Little by little my confidence in being able to go on daily walks and runs increased and soon I spent the majority of my outside time in this park. I miss this park so much!
As quarantine went on in San Francisco, I spent a fair amount of my time running and walking in Golden Gate Park. I walked to places I had never seen before! I usually clocked upwards of 7-10K steps daily and listened to all sorts of creepy podcasts along the way. The weather of course is always so amazing in California, perfect for long walks and hikes.
Hiking in California was relatively easy, because there are so many trails and land is available for public use outside of state and federal parks. You didn’t have to plan (unless the areas were closed from COVID) and it was easy to pick a trail and go. It was, however, much busier since so many people were stuck inside – but we were always able to hike whenever we wanted.
The thing that made everything even more depressing was that businesses were closing left and right in SF. Everything was boarded up. Few business were essential enough to be open, you couldn’t get a haircut for a very long time, and outdoor eating and drinking was on and off allowed, and monitored very heavily. Really the only thing you could do is sit 6 feet away from friends in the park. And we definitely did that a lot. But it was just incredibly sad. I had been in San Francisco for 12 years of my life. Of course cities change a lot over time when people move in and out and dynamics and economy changes the environment. SF was already different 2 years in vs. 6 years in vs. 12 years in of my experience. But it really was not the same city at all that I moved to.
Artists and locals were struggling to live there because of the cost of living, which is understandable, and many were forced out long before the pandemic. And in the years leading up to COVID, my favorite local hot spots, night clubs, dive bars were already on their way out. Musicians and DJs left for places like Berlin or Brooklyn or LA. SF was becoming more consumed with the tech community. I had worked in ad-tech before but for my last 2-3 years in the city I worked in entertainment marketing for the Curran theater, so I lost my job at the beginning of COVID because large theaters were a no-no, tech companies declared everyone could work from home, and the companies that had headquarters in SF laid off 20% of their workers – which was basically their marketing and advertising teams. So yeah, even more and more depressing. I’ve mentioned this before being one of the main reasons behind our decision to leave. And leaving was, VERY very hard for me. But, I know it would have been even harder for me if I stayed and watched the city that I loved dramatically change before my eyes without me being able to keep up.
I miss the coastline. Trees. The forest. Hiking. The amazing weather. Access to wine country and mountains and Tahoe. And of course our friends and John’s family. Being in nature during COVID is 100% better in California.
But, after a dozen years away from Texas, it’s a whole new adventure!
I still spend my run/walks in either the park closest to my house (5 minute drive) or downtown around Town Lake which is about 15 minutes away. Of course we miss the walk-ability of a city like SF. But having a car and being able to quickly get from point A to B is also incredibly nice. Plus the lakes here have their own unique environments, like the turtles that are around every bend, or the bats that live under the Congress bridge. Lake culture is also really fun!
The weather is obviously not as nice as California, but actually it hasn’t been as hot as I feared it would (though we are approaching summer months and I’m sure I’ll hate it). Weather in Texas can be completely unpredictable. We’ve had crazy thunderstorms, golf ball sized hail, triple digit heat, light snow flurries, AND an insane snowstorm that literally almost broke the grid and uprooted civilization for more than a week!
It keeps things very interesting! We’ve also been able to go on a lot of roadtrips and explore new places and small towns. Mostly with family, but we’ve stayed out on the lake and went on a boat adventure, stayed in a cozy AirBnb in the Hill Country and did some distant wine tasting, and also stayed in a haunted hotel in San Antonio. People in Texas are much more open about traveling and visiting areas than in California. They are a bit more independent from government and like to do what they want. I’m not saying it’s bad or good either way, just different. I would say that of my friends in California, John and I are more comfortable with traveling safely during COVID, always sanitizing along the way, sticking to ourselves, and never eating inside a restaurant. But compared to people in Texas, we are the ones who are more cautious about following the rules. We always wear a mask no matter what and constantly sanitize. To me that makes sense, and I know Californians follow those protocols because it’s what scientists have said to do. Not everyone feels that way here, but at least we are in Austin which is the most liberal part of the state, some parts of it feel MORE liberal to me than parts of the Bay Area. With that said, going on local travel and exploration during COVID is 100% more fun in Texas.
While restaurants in California are closed inside, and only available for takeout or outdoor dining when allowed, everything is open in Texas. That really struck me as weird when we first moved. People still eat inside like nothing is wrong. We are patio people 100%. However the good news is that most businesses have patios! Something not as available in San Francisco due to space restrictions. So yes, we go out to eat about once or twice a week and sit on a lovely patio and support our local restaurants. And we only drink at bars with patios. I enjoy this about our current living situation, and knowing Austin is the most strict of all places in Texas makes me feel safer. So eating and drinking out is 100% better in Austin. You can be safe and there is space to be distant outside, making you feel like there is still some semblance of normality. Also, Texas has HEB grocery stores and that is definitely better here than in CA – I love HEB so much! ( AND our local HEB around the corner has an outdoor bar patio, which is double amazing)
Swimming is something I’m super excited to do again! I rarely ever got in a bathing suit in CA outside of yearly Tahoe visits, and most of that time was for hot tubs. While there aren’t shaded forests, Texas has a lot of interesting geology, greenbelts, swimming holes, and batholiths. I’m excited to explore more in the summer and SWIM – something I feel I haven’t done much of the last twelve years. We will see how I handle the summer months.
Hiking in Texas is very different than in California. You need reservations everywhere you go, and must book them out weeks in advance. This is similar to how camping in California is, the best spots need to be booked out months in advance, so I understand that. But hiking was never an issue. Here, most of the land is privately owned so there isn’t as much available for people to just go hike. And with COVID, reservations are required. It’s kinda crazy to me that we can’t just go outside when we want and explore. But there are definitely places that don’t require reservations. There also aren’t as many hiking trails with elevation changes, so it can feel more like walking. But despite those differences there are some amazingly beautiful hikes we’ve explored. Overall, California is 100% better for hiking.
There are pros and cons to both experiences, and I love California and Texas in different ways. They make up different parts of my personality, and it’s ok that I feel connected to both. I really don’t understand the judgements folks have for both sides. Extreme Californians can’t stand people from red states, and won’t even listen to someone from Texas (this happened to me when I first moved to California during a business meeting) and people who have never left Texas think Californians are coming for their guns. LMAO. But also, it’s incredibly infuriating. I am a 5th generation Texan. My whole entire family is Texan. I mostly grew up here (alongside living outside of Yellow Springs in Ohio for my childhood) and there are some things I really love and admire about Texas. Not everything of course – I am very liberal and lived in San Francisco for 12 years! And obviously there are many things I love and admire about California, especially for me to uproot my life and independently move across country and stay for 1/3 of my life. I can feel connected to part of my heritage in Texas and also feel connected to the west coast life – you don’t have to be one or the other. You can be both. I am both. I am an incredibly independent, free thinking, ambitious hard working woman who believes we are all connected and everyone should have equal rights and access to free health care!
All I am saying here is, never judge someone based on where they live, you don’t know their story.