I am back in San Francisco for a month after 7 months in Ho Chi Minh City. This being summertime, San Francisco is shrouded in fog until mid-day, and it is damp and cold. Part of the big change in moving to HCMC was escaping to the heat, which I love after 30 years of the cold in San Francisco.
Another part of my personal burnout was my taking for granted the beauty and energy of San Francisco. It has been good to move away for a year-and-a-half and then return to appreciate anew why San Francisco is such a special place, including its climate. My neighborhood, Glen Park, has improved with two new restaurants opened in the village, with one replacing a seedy bar. The undergrounding of utilities is finally completed on my street.
Downtown at lunchtime, the density of people rivals that of Ho Chi Minh City. Of course the majority of the downtown workers don't live in San Francisco, but they add immensely to the energy of the city. I noticed that the standard of dress has returned to suits and business casual rather than the jeans of the past few years. In addition to being a financial center, San Francisco is the creative center for the adjacent Silicon Valley. The blog capital of the world is here south of Market Street, which was made very clear when an afternoon power outage knocked the major blog services off the net for a couple of hours, including Technorati.
Returning to the USA is also a time to recharge my western tastes in food. While in Saigon, we stick to Vietnamese or other Asian food, and we love the healthy fresh ingredients and tastes that characterize Vietnamese food. But part of the antidote to burnout is to avoid staying in a rut for too long. Although I don't miss western food while in Viet Nam, I do look forward to the return visits to the USA to do a change-up and give the VN food a break. I keep a list of my favorite foods and restaurants, and I have been working my way down the list, starting with a western breakfast of pancakes, egss, and bacon, then a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, followed by pizza for dinner. I will be moving on to hamburgers, steaks, cinnamon rolls, burritos and tacos.
This is also a good time to evaluate the antidote to burnout. After a year-and-a-half in Ho Chi Minh City, the change has been very good for me, even if my business is not working out as hoped. The key to change is to learn new things, which has been abundant for me as I learn more everyday about the real estate development business, building upon my 35-year career in architecture and project management. I have also rekindled my old interests in urban design and planning, since Saigon is in the midst of a major rezoning and city vision project. I love living in HCMC. What I am now learning, however, is the need for constant change-up between major changes. It is important to "get out of town" regularly, eat varieties of food, and stay out of ruts.
This seems like common sense -- a prescription that everyone can follow, but I observe that people find it easier to stay in ruts.