Northwest of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and hours past the bayside suburbs of Sausalito and Tiburon, thrives a world distinctly different from the city’s bustling streets and iconic Victorians.
Here, the clamor of urbanism is replaced with the serenity of openness, with topographies spanning emerald hills and thickets of trees to gurgling creeks and dreamy coastal shorelines. Past all of this, through Inverness—a three shops-and-a-post office kind of town sandwiching the highway—is Drakes Bay Oyster Company.
Situated along the Point Reyes National Seashore, the family-run oyster farm is a true mom-and-pop: a small building with sun-splintered boards and a raw oyster bar where you can order oysters by the dozen and extras like lemons, Tapatio sauce, and knives for shucking. Piles of rainbow oyster shells surround the place, and there is magic in the simplicity of picnicking outside against the backdrop of a shimmering bay.
I made the trip to Drakes Bay last weekend, wrongly thinking my friends and I were going to a seafood restaurant just outside of the city. As we stocked up instead on bread and hummus for our impending picnic, my stomach fluttered with the kind of anticipation only travel can invoke: that tingling sensation that comes on the brink of discovery.
For a long time, I associated this feeling solely with international travel. There is inherent excitement in the exotic, and unlike most, I look forward to that hour in the airport right before you’re about to board a plane destined for a far-off land. But after two years of being on a freelancer’s budget and recently moving to one of the most expensive cities in the country, I have been forced to be more creative with my travel plans.
Changing my mindset has opened me up to the beautiful, wondrous, and yes, even exotic, places right in front of me. The United States is host to 59 national parks, hundreds of cities, and a rich variety of landscapes and cultures. Even within our own cities there are adventures to be had and gems to discover each day.
Framing the places we live with an explorer’s perspective changes the way we view the seemingly ordinary and opens us up to the possibility of traveling every day. When we look at the places we see all the time with a traveler’s eyes, even something as mundane as our walk to work becomes extraordinary. We might notice a hole-in-the-wall bakery previously passed by or become fascinated by the intricate architecture of an historic apartment building. We might actually stop to admire the view.
On our way home, we took a different route. The light faded into that cinematic magic hour and we veered dangerously close to steep coastal cliffs as we looked over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of the sun dipping into the sea. Music and conversation laid the soundtrack for the scenery, and we embraced the kind of fullness that comes with being at peace. When we finally caught a glimpse of our city by the bay, we uttered a collective murmur. The sun had just faded; the once-familiar buildings outlined in a rosy afterglow. The night was unusually clear. When we drove across the bridge back home, we felt the way one can only after traveling: changed, inexplicably, by what we’d just seen.
Image via J.Crew and Cappuccinos