The San Francisco Treasure Map Project: An Introduction

The Treasure Map Project is a gem by gem look at the “treasures of San Francisco” as laid out by author Rebecca Solnit in her book, “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” Each weekend, I will go to one of the forty-nine treasures listed in the treasure map (Map #21, p142) and share the experience with my readers.

The destinations are all over the city and reveal the multi-cultural (18. African Orthodox Church of John Coltrane), interesting, (37. The real crookedest street), odd (15. Bison Herds?), popular (9. Sea Lions at Pier 39), and magical (12. Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral) “enchanting public sites.” Ms Solnit collected this list as a collaborative adventurous effort to bring forward treasures “as infinite as the city.”

It’s not a search other than for the city. I, along with my newly arrived Yoga teacher sister and a laminated copy of the map, will be the treasure hunter. My intent is to use this map as a guide and find these treasures of this city as a way of traveling on a yearlong, Big Trip within San Francisco. My hope is that you’ll come along for the journey.

The Project History

It was about a few months ago, amidst turmoil of my first job in San Francisco and reconnecting with friends across the world, that I started to think about traveling on a Big Trip again. It was a conflicting feeling to my ethos of “settling down” in San Francisco. In June, I had moved to the city and quickly found a room in a homey apartment and, most importantly, a job. All felt very settled at that time. There was even a three-week trip to Europe in the fall for a wedding and reuniting with pretty much every European friend I’d ever made. This excursion had satisfied both my social and travel cravings.

After a few months, it was obvious that the job wasn’t working out so well. This turmoil was unearthing my very being, as I’d always put so much of my self-worth into what I DID, not just who I was. With this upheaval, my thoughts went to travel immediately. I could just leave! I could just go to India! Africa! Southeast Asia! I could go anywhere! There was a bus to somewhere that had a ticket for me, new adventures awaited – certainly better adventures than “things not working out as planned.”

Free feeling, I shared these sentiments during brunch with my kind, loving, relatively new friends Emma and Josie who reminded me – I had them and a life here. And other friends and a social calendar with repeating dates. It was not the quick intimate connections on the roads;  I had friends in this very city who would water my plants (if I had any) and pick up the mail. And that felt, well, nice and settled. There was also my comfortable living situation with two roommates and a one-eyed cat – all of whom I adored. And oh yes, the fact that this city felt more like home to me than any other place in the world ever had.

Many times I’d justified to my mother that my traveling around the world instead of staying put was NOT an escape. It was my path, my inner journey, and to borrow from Paulo Coehlo, my Personal Legend. But not this time, the big trip thoughts in my head were orbiting ESCAPE. I couldn’t dishonor travel by using it as an easy way to avoid what was happening and actually work through it. In the past my escape attempts have included eating, losing myself in boyfriends/husband, and working at unfulfilling jobs for long hours. No way was travel going to be a volume on that bookshelf.

Not too long after this conversation and thoughts, I found a new job that feels like a new kind of home with kind colleagues, interesting cutting edge work only found in the epicenter of technology – Silicon Valley – and laughter. And the settled feeling has returned.

Still… Travel lingers and not having a Big Trip on the horizon gnaws. I take travel-writing classes to continue on with my dreams. My desire to travel is always there in every wispy glance at AFAR or National Geographic magazine and longing look at luggage stores.  It’s fed weekly by my own blog work and reading travel memoirs, but the need to travel never quite goes away. A dilemma remains: It’s not time for another Big Trip (yet) and I’m clearly at home in San Francisco.

So what’s a world traveler to do?

Travel in Her Own City

I was talking about this dilemma to my German colleague Stefan on a ride to a client meeting. The next day, he brings in the book “The Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas.” Published by the University of California Press, it’s a collection of sociological, historical and “living” maps of the city. It’s full of twenty-two maps that showcase the diverse, weird, and revolutionary vibe of this rebel peninsula. One map is called “Poison to Palate ” (Map #7). It’s a contradictory look at local food production cross-sectioned with the industrial and environmental challenged sites. Ironically and sadly, the Mount Diablo mercury mine near John Muir’s Orchards.

It was the treasure map that I spent the most time reviewing. All of the 49 “treasures” were near to me, accessible to me, and had histories all their own, yet still required “traveling” to them.  Some I had even seen on my wandering walks throughout the city! Plus, this map made obvious that San Francisco is so much more than what tourists see on four-day trips as they check off the #1 tourist destination in the United States from their site-seeing lists. I could share the experience of visiting these treasures with others as well! These gems were the neighborhoods, they were the history, the meat – they are San Francisco! And it is time for me to travel to them.

The goal of the Treasure Map Project is this: Find all 49 treasures (and any new ones) and report back on the blog in one article per treasure.  I’m giving myself a year to complete. My accomplice is my sister who JUST moved out to the city after closing down her life back in the Midwest and offers newness through her looking glass. My Infinite Gratitude to Rebecca Solnit for constructing this map and to Stefan for sharing it with me.

First up… Easter Sunday at the #13 treasure: Holy Virgin Cathedral – Joy of All Who Sorrow. If you’d like to follow along, please subscribe to the newsletter found in the right column of the web site.

Photo credit: Photo by kla4067 as seen on on Flickr

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3 Responses to “The San Francisco Treasure Map Project: An Introduction”

  1. Mary
    April 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    The destinations are all over the city and reveal the multi-cultural (18. African Orthodox Church of John Coltrane), interesting, (37. The real crookedest street), odd (15. Bison Herds?), popular (9. Sea Lions at Pier 39), and magical (12. Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral) “enchanting public sites.” Ms Solnit collected this list as a collaborative adventurous effort to bring forward treasures “as infinite as the city.”

    • Kristin
      May 2, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      Thanks Mary!

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