14.32 trillion. At the close of 2021, this represented the total valuation of the 400+ publicly traded companies based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For context, that’s a larger cumulative amount than the GDP of all but two countries in the world – China and the United States. To make numbers like these happen, we San Franciscans notoriously have had to work lonnngg hours. 60-80 hours a week can easily become the norm.  Pre-pandemic, major tech companies were doing everything they could to keep you in the building – gyms, cafeterias, and juice bars. The Googleplex has been likened to a “playground” for adults. Tesla and newly-crowned Twitter boss Elon Musk once famously said that "no one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” And former Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer controversially explained how she worked 130 hours a week, saying it was possible "if you're strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom." While this certainly isn’t the reality for every San Franciscan, it’s fair to wonder where this leaves the state of our souls. Many of us just can’t shake the nagging sensation that we need to get away. We’re worn down. Overworked. Tired of trying to achieve. It seems that burnout has become the de facto way of life. And of course, the notoriously high cost of living in the bay only adds to this pressure. So if this is the climate, we must ask, where do we turn for relief?



The mind of a 21st century San Franciscan can be likened to a 24/7 energizer bunny.  We can’t escape the nagging feeling that we need a reprieve, but the only antidotes at our disposal are a healthy dosage of Netflix and mindless scrolling on our smartphones.  Even then, we later discover that distraction and digital dopamine to the brain were only temporary fixes to a permanent problem. The constant connectedness just made our minds more cluttered with comparison, turning us into, at times, unflattering versions of ourselves. Distraction proves to be incapable of alleviating the pressures of our environment. As our drug of choice, it’s actually making the problem worse. In her 2021 New York Times bestseller Dopamine Nation, Dr. Anna Lembke of Stanford University explains:  “We’ve transformed the world from a place of scarcity to a place of overwhelming abundance: drugs, food, news gambling, shopping, gaming, texting, sexting, Facebooking, Instagramming, YouTubing, tweeting… the increased numbers, variety and potency of highly rewarding stimuli today is staggering. The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle, delivering digital dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation. If you haven’t met your drug of choice yet, it’s coming soon to a website near you.” The Bay Area seems to realize this at some level, as evidenced by the newest fad in Silicon Valley – dopamine fasting. In short, dopamine fasting is to temporarily abstain from distraction-fueled activities like social media, on-demand TV and internet gaming. A case could be made that distraction fuels the inability to be alone with our own thoughts. So much is happening around us everyday that goes unprocessed. We automatically accept the (sometimes) toxic narratives of comparison and social media as truth, without thinking twice. Eventually, the prospect of simply sitting in silence becomes even more daunting. But to thrive in San Francisco, we humans need moments to stop, pause and get perspective. We need reflection and contemplation to handle the stressors of life. And if you haven’t noticed by now, the natural habitat to do so was woven into the fabric of existence. In 2020, Yale reported on a massive study of 20,000 people, remarking: “A team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. Two hours was a hard boundary: The study, published last June, showed there were no benefits for people who didn’t meet that threshold.” This study helps color why it’s unnatural to be constantly immersed in an achievement culture like that of San Francisco without getting a reprieve.  The American Psychological Association adds: “Experiments have found that being exposed to natural environments improves working memory, cognitive flexibility and attentional control, while exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits.” In the end, perhaps the most telling statement from Yale was that, “the studies “point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.”



Before the rise of both the industrial revolution and the digital age, being immersed in this type of environment was more of a given for our ancestors.  In fact, the original followers of Jesus proposed the magnificent beauty of nature was one of the indicators of God’s existence. Paul, writer of Romans, proposes: “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Observing the foundations of the natural world and contemplating the creative genius behind it provokes a natural wonder within us. It’s in these types of environments that our smallness suddenly gets put into perspective.  We no longer need to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders. Which goes to say, there is something to be discovered when we are immersed in nature, both about ourselves and the reality of the world we live in. Perhaps no one in human history understood this better than Jesus. The gospels report that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Upon further investigation, we discover a pattern of him retreating into the mountains to prepare for major tasks, major decisions, to recharge, to work through grief and to process distress. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. Now it’s important to make a distinction between isolation and solitude, because they are quite literally opposites. One psychologist explained it this way: “Solitude is usually actively sought after and is a personal choice that comes from an inner yearning. Isolation is usually actively avoided and is forced from the outside. Solitude allows for expansion and freedom of thought, providing the chance to soar above the ordinary in order to come back to the world refreshed and reinvigorated. Isolation contracts the walls and makes a prison, draining the will and leaving you exhausted.” As we learn from Jesus, solitude is an intentional getaway, designed for a greater purpose. Retreating into nature isn’t simply about being around some trees or becoming more zen, as great as those things are. For Jesus, it represented a meeting place with God. A place to be refreshed before the transcendent Creator, who he referred to affectionately as Abba And during this refreshment, as we process our feelings and thoughts, we acquire the power we need to go back out into the world and love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves.  This is what solitude produces, highlighting just one of the reasons why the way of Jesus is so compelling and how it changed the course of human history.



The average San Franciscan might associate a “getaway” with a trip up to Napa or traveling east towards Yosemite or Lake Tahoe. While those spots definitely merit a visit or extended stay, those retreats don’t help address the need for daily solitude and what scientists have now discovered is the bare minimum of two hours per week in green spaces. Given this, our team went on a search for contemplative green spaces in the city. Locations that are lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten path, providing an oasis from the hustle and bustle. We were highly encouraged by what we found, to say the least. Not only do these places exist, but there are some locations in San Francisco where you become so immersed in nature that you can’t hear the city at all. In short, San Francisco is an absolute haven for nature. Accordingly, we’ve labeled these places getaways. There’s no need to leave the city, you can get away at any time on any day via a quick ride on the Bart, an e-bike, or car.



So before we get to the good stuff and show you each space, let’s talk through expectations. If you’re anything like us, your starting point to silence and solitude is probably with a mind polluted by distraction. Which goes to say, as you start engaging these contemplative places, don’t be surprised if peace doesn’t come immediately. This takes time.  And that shouldn’t be the near-term goal anyway, rather the focus should be on developing rhythms. Make it a daily habit to go off-the-beaten path. Identify what works best for your schedule, whether that be mornings, lunchtime or after work, in addition to the weekends.  And be intentional about your time there. If you’ve been a park-goer in the past, you know first hand how easy it is to enter green spaces without any sort of contemplative intentionality.  You walk in and make it a point to take pictures of everything to post on Instagram.  You go to Alamo Square and people watch. Maybe listen to the music from street performers. Host a picnic with a bunch of friends and throw around a frisbee.  While all those things can be fun in their own regard, that’s not the intention here. The purpose is to get away, to make it a habit of being present with our own thoughts and to let natural wonder emerge. Like Jesus, consider it to be a safe space to process before a God who loves you. A creator who not only stitched together the foundations of the natural world, but who also is affectionately referred to as Abba.   It’s in these places of refreshment and encounter, as we mentioned before, that we acquire the strength we need to go back out into the world and love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves.  Here are some practical tips to get started:

1) Pick a time & place

As you browse through our list of getaways, consider where you will regularly frequent and when you will do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday if your schedule is flexible? Which getaway is most accessible to you?

2) Start small

Success is not defined by anything other than simply showing up. You’ve already hit the goal if you make the effort to get away regularly. Additionally, habits are built by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to get away for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to an hour for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

This probably goes without saying, but try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out. Try to be present in the moment.

4) Consider your wiring

While many of the getaways we are about to recommend have stationery spots, if you like to be active, consider engaging your body by going on a walk in the mornings through these parts of nature.

5) Bring a blanket

Conversely, many of the places we feature below are great spots to sit, relax and/or lay down. Consider buying a blanket and using it to rest as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

In an active effort to fight against stuffing away your thoughts, start actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. Become aware of how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

The ancient practice of Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could simply mean a Psalm or something that Jesus said in the gospels. For example, if a scripture comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in your life. See what comes to your mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

Some days, you might want to just be silent. Here, engage your breathing via the form of breathing prayer. As you breathe, listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The water, if you’re in front of the lake.

Depending on where you live in relation to these green spaces, what time you start work and your family dynamic, it may not be possible to develop these rhythms everyday in nature. There are also the added variables of travel times for someone to get from a place like the Mission District to the Presidio Convenience is king in our culture.  Which goes to say, you don’t need to be in these spaces to enter a place of contemplation and meet with God. They are simply beautiful conduits that provide distraction-free zones that provide an ideal space to get away from the crowds, as Jesus did. So maybe this means you retreat to these places a couple of times a week, reaching the two hours needed (or beyond) in green spaces in a more condensed time period. And for the other days, you start developing these rhythms in a quiet space in your apartment. This might look different for each of us, but it’s essential that all of us create space to get away. It’s nourishment for the soul.  And with that, we introduce you to our beautiful getaways right in the middle of San Francisco.


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