My, do I love those perfect travel moments (be it a few minutes, hours, or a whole day) when everything is perfectly aligned. Those moments when everything feel right and I want to change nothing about my surroundings or company, or the weather.
Remember my airport anxiety? This was the opposite of that (and miraculously, it took place earlier the same day!). The Sutro Bath ruins is a spot in San Francisco that I’ve visited before, and it was one of the few repeat things I wanted to do in the city during my June trip.
I might have even discovered the ruins by accident– all I know is that it’s a special spot for me: a combination of abandonment, history, beauty, and beach-y location. You know when you get all that plus the ocean, I won’t be able to stay away.
You start at the northernmost tip of Ocean Beach, where the historic Cliff House restaurant sits overlooking the water, follow the sidewalk up a bit, and then turn left into the ruins. It’s important to stay on the marked trails, as all the signs implore, since some of the lower spots can be dangerous when the tide comes in.
The other big reason Sutro Baths is so wonderful is that it completely envelops me while I visit. I took these photos on my last morning in San Francisco, and as we all know, transit days can be the most stressful part of traveling. But here, I wasn’t thinking about anything at all except how happy I was. I was thinking how absolutely beautiful the morning was, with just the right amount of sparkly sunlight in places, and a crisp blue sky.
It’s the ideal spot to go for serious contemplation. I imagine if I lived in San Francisco, I would ride my bike or take the bus here often for the sense of peace I inevitably feel. The crashing waves and sea gulls are the only sounds you’ll hear.
I loved the time I spent at the Sutro Baths mostly because of how in the moment I was: I was exactly where I wanted to be, and there were no worries or other thoughts that didn’t belong in my head.
This is why I travel: I am able to rediscover what it’s like to live purely in the present moment. When I travel, it’ so easy to practice the art of mindfulness, something I learned when I was 20 but never really appreciated until years later. It sounds so fundamental, but it’s true: keeping your awareness in the present moment works to relax your mind and body and experience happiness.
Sure, I love travel because it exposes me to new things, is a change of scenery, there are so many new foods to eat and people to bond with. But as I wandered around the Sutro Baths, or walked through the city streets of San Francisco snapping photo after photo, I realized how much my surroundings were claiming me. I’m here, both physically and mentally. There is no where else I want to be.
Have you ever practiced mindfulness as a tool to combat depression and anxiety? Try this: wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, just pay special attention to everything you can see in your immediate vicinity. Then put your hands on the surfaces around you, noticing textures and how or cold things are. Next, pay attention to what you can hear: background noises, loud noises, any music, birdsong, or maybe there’s some water nearby. One of my favorite senses is smell: what can you smell around you? Put your nose to work and see how many odors, pleasant or otherwise, you detect in your home, office, or yard.
Mindfulness is all about being exactly where you are and staying in the moment. Taking stock with your senses helps to push away any negative thoughts or moods, because when you practice being here now, there’s simply no room for the ugly stuff to dominate your consciousness.
Interested in reading more about living in the present moment? Be Here Now, by Ram Dass is a great place to start, as well as Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living, by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I hope you all have wonderful days, with even the tiniest moments of joy, or laughter, or contentment with whatever you may be doing.
The present moment is the substance with which the future is made. Therefore, the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment. What else can you do? –Thich Nhat Hanh