03/27/2012 12:05 am ET Updated May 26, 2012

How To Leave San Francisco

One sudden and unforeseen opportunity, taken up with the quick audacity borne of youth, love, listlessness and whiskey-fueled relationship summits, has led me and my boyfriend to decide to move 9,000 miles away.

To Indonesia. Jakarta, to be precise. Where we will be living together, something we've never done in the one-year tenure of our relationship here in San Francisco.

Also, it's worth noting, he'll have a job, and I won't.

This seems like a fairly daunting endeavor: A new life riddled with all sorts of tiny, invisible fissures that could rupture under pressure and rend everything asunder, just like the Indian Ocean Earthquake that, according to Wikipedia, rattled the ocean floor and bathed Indonesia in a tsunami the day after Christmas 2004. I've been getting a lot of information from the Indonesia Wikipedia page these days.

This is scary and exciting and unlike anything I've ever done.

When faced with overwhelming and unfamiliar situations, I find that breaking the experience down into small, concrete steps calms me. A sort of "For Dummies" approach: How to Move to Jakarta for Dummies.

In fact, last time I felt this paralyzed by the task before me was back in the summer of 2008, when I'd just graduated from college and moved to San Francisco and felt utterly alone, and I dealt by writing a journal entry that I titled "How to Live in San Francisco."

It helped. I'd completely forgotten about it, and serendipitously, in my last few weeks in this city, I happened upon it while flipping through an old Moleskine. Among the instructions I gave myself those four long years ago were:

Don't go to bars to read. This isn't Paris. People will think you're weird and you won't get any reading done anyway because, even if it's miraculously light enough to make out the words on the page, you'll be too self-conscious to focus.

Stop looking on Craigslist for job listings back in Boston. New York, too.

Stop reading through Missed Connections every time you make eye contact with any remotely attractive male.

Pack layers.

Inspired by the clarity and directness this format affords--if not its revelatory wisdom--I've decided to adopt the same approach to my impending life change. How to Move to Indonesia, step by step, broken down into manageable sub-tasks as they present themselves.

The first task, in an instance of symmetry I'll try not to get too poetic about, will be: How to Leave San Francisco.

How to Leave San Francisco

Create a Google Document of all the things you want to make sure you eat, drink, see, do before you leave. Add to the Google Doc every day, jotting down things to remember to put in later as you walk down the street and see restaurants, bars, parks, music venues, movie theaters. Feel little satisfaction as you cross one item off only to have the list grow by two or three. Tell yourself it's okay, that you'll be back. Pretend that everything won't have changed.

Plan a goodbye party for yourself, marveling as you send out Facebook invitations at how many people you've accumulated while here, how different they all are from one another. Remember the unique ways you met them all--sharing a cigarette on the curb in the Lower Haight, standing in the corner of a singles mixer you both "accidentally" ended up at, starting a freestyle battle on the dirty sidewalk outside of Foreign Cinema--and take pride in the friendships you helped create, introducing these diverse characters to one another.

Start a countdown on your calendar and in your mind of how many days you have left (10 at the time of writing). Don't believe, on any level, that that day (March 31) will ever really get here.

Walk as much as possible. Climb hills and watch the city spread out around you. Follow the length of Market and take in the changing cultural climate as you move from the Castro to the Tenderloin, to Union Square to the FiDi, looking up now and again for the comforting reassurance of the Ferry Building waiting for you. Turn corners and be greeted by a burning orange sun and fuchsia clouds and buildings sucking in the last breaths of the dying light. Know that this, at least, won't change while you're gone.

Give your two weeks' notice at work. Be surprised at your surprise at how sad you are, how sad your coworkers are. Second-guess your decision. Stop second-guessing your decision.

Get your fill of tap water while you still can.

Get a prescription for Cipro.

While you're at it, get typhoid meds and rabies shots, and make a mental note to get the vaccine for Japanese encephalitis once you're there. Take advantage of the youth-fueled invincibility you still have, and feel no fear about the potential health dangers ahead. Listen to other people's horror stories and think that it has nothing to do with you. You'll be fine. Right? Sure. Get a second dose of Cipro, to be safe.

Breathe your fill of clean air while you still can.

Talk with your friends about the logistics of the move; make innumerable plans to "spend some serious quality time together before I leave!" Don't verbally acknowledge how Goddamn much you're going to miss them all. That's what the goodbye party is for--goodbyes and professions of emotion diluted and rendered safe with a healthy wash of liquor, muted by loud music and raucous laughter, forgotten in a haze of chaos and pounding bass. A goodbye party devoid of goodbyes. Because you all know that goodbyes are way too hard to be worth it.

Get your fill of bourbon, while you still can.

And microbrews, for that matter.

Eat a lot of burritos, each time from a different Mission taqueria, always ordering slight riffs on the same theme (super, veggie, black beans, no rice). Pretend to discern subtle but meaningful differences between the goods of El Farolito and El Faro, El Toro and El Tonayense, Taqueria Guadalajara and Taqueria Vallarta. This research, especially if you make it to all the major taquerias, will somehow make your time living in the neighborhood feel more complete, as if its end is not only imminent but inevitable, necessary. You've done it all. Realize that you'll never make it to every taqueria in the Mission, not even every major one, and that it wouldn't matter if you did.

Buy a pair of TOMs. They're good for travel, and who knows what kind of shoes they'll have in Indonesia? Plus, Jakarta could probably use a little self-righteous hipster injection.

Borrow the words of someone else to explain to others, and yourself, why it's important to leave San Francisco. "I feel like San Francisco is the kind of place where I could wake up at age forty and still live with two roommates and have a job that's not going anywhere," you'll say. "Like I could still be going to drunk brunch on Sundays and thinking it's okay." Struggle to articulate why that wouldn't be okay.

Remember the adventure ahead.

Then haul your bulging suitcases onto BART, and ride it to the end of the line. Take the AirTrain to terminal A, check your baggage, go through security, walk to your gate. Wait. Text people. Pee. Buy water. Pace. Look out at the tarmac and wonder when you're going to start crying. Board the plane, find your seat, stow your backpack.

And then buckle up and leave San Francisco.