We wound up in the heart of Little Italy in the North Shore area of San Francisco. Not because we planned to. But because we walked across the Gold Gate Bridge, hailed the first taxi we saw and asked him to take us to his favorite area of San Francisco.
With nothing but our empty stomachs to guide us, we hit the streets in search of something to fill them. The menu hanging by the door of a small Italian joint caught our attention, but it was the available sidewalk seating, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, that sealed the deal.
Drinks, appetizers and the main course were ordered. We toasted to good fortune and exploring new places and then settled back into our chairs, content to soak up the sights, smells, action and conversations that swirled around us. There wasn’t much conversation at our table; we were too busy enjoying everyone else’s.
The couple behind us was discussing their most recent trip to the Opera. The friends to our right were debating which new art gallery was San Francisco’s finest. The ladies to our left were talking politics and economics. And the guys in front of us were breaking down the San Francisco Giants lineup for the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, I found myself completely caught up in each conversation. Enjoying the variety, the topics, the opinions and the passion with which people were speaking. It was then that I realized that this very situation, the experience of different conversations, is what makes traveling so interesting, and in my opinion, necessary.
You see, I’ve called mountain towns home for the majority of my life. What they have to offer – The scenery, the weather, the recreation and the lifestyle – is what keeps me coming back. These are the things that I love about mountain towns. Yet, these are the things that wear on me as well. The very things that set mountain towns apart are the very things that, in my opinion, tend to make them all the same. Pull up a stool at a bar or sit down with a cup of coffee at any mountain town establishment and chances are that the conversations around you will revolve around the weather, the recreational activity currently in season and the gear needed to participate in said activity. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m as passionate about these topics as the next outdoor enthusiast. But at the same time I need variety in my life. I crave different points of view and unique conversations as much as I do tacky singletrack or deep powder snow.
I’m not saying that one becomes sheltered when living in a mountain town. And I’m not saying that cities are better because of their diversity. But I am saying that it is vital to experience the difference in conversation that can only be found when traveling.