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Notes on the Valley

By Monith Ilavarasan

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About this blog: My parents, brother, and I moved to Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade. I then graduated from Amador Valley High School, went to college at UC Davis and started out a career in tech. After several years working in large co...  (More)

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The Bay Area is a big place

Uploaded: Sep 14, 2022
When people ask me where I’m from, I instinctively tell them I’m from the Bay. I’ve always thought of myself as a Bay Area native. Someone who grew up here and knows the area like the back of my hand. A few recent experiences traveling around different parts of the Bay Area helped me realize how massive this place is and how there were so many places I have yet to explore.

This past weekend my wife and I drove up to Sausalito and went on a boat trip for her friend’s 30th birthday. As we drove through the neighborhoods in the north bay it honestly felt like we were in a completely different country.

The north bay has large highways that run between large mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. The mountains were filled with lush green trees interrupted by occasional mansions. Every few miles there was another marina filled to the brim with boats.

I lived a number of years in San Francisco, but only went as far as the end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I realized I never actually visited any of these small towns to our north. It struck me that I was more familiar with my brother’s neighborhood in Chicago than I was with what existed here so close to me.

Looking further south, I can count the number of times I’ve visited the cities in the south bay peninsula on my hand. Earlier this year I started working at a company based out in Menlo Park. When return-to-office started I found myself spending more time in the south bay region .

When my parents first moved to America we actually lived in Santa Clara and Milpitas for a few years, before moving to Fremont. Despite spending those first few years in the South Bay, I had no internalized lay of the land.

For a team offsite we went to Palo Alto downtown. It was the first time I had visited the downtown of one of the most famous cities in the world. The sleepy town had old Eichler homes worth 4 million dollars next to newly remodeled homes worth 6 million dollars. It was a very surreal experience.

Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, much of the city reminded me of a random midwestern town combined with pockets of extreme wealth.

The city wasn’t all filled with new experiences. While we were downtown I overheard a man explaining his cryptocurrency startup to his visibly bored date. That took me right back to the times I lived in San Francisco.

These trips opened my eyes to some of the many different cities and towns that make up what we call the Bay Area. It’s encouraged me to go out of my usual comfort zone and explore the unique places that make up this region we call home.
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