I recently traveled to California and back and am pretty certain I left a piece of my heart somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway (slideshow here). My dear friend Becca planned a 30th birthday bash and invited me out to celebrate. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to extend my trip and stay in Big Sur and explore Los Angeles. In the months leading up to the trip, I could hardly contain my anticipation.
I somehow managed to cram a whole lot into a relatively short amount of time: a stop at In-n-Out, a Polk Street bar hop (flannel-and-jeans themed!), an unforgettable sailing tour under the Golden Gate Bridge, a Sonoma/Napa Valley wine tour (we visited Ram’s Gate, Deerfield Ranch and, my personal favorite, SCRIBE), Dolores Park, Griffith Observatory, Downtown LA, an exploration of the Los Feliz area (which included some really good eats: Machos Tacos and Unami Burger, anyone? and really great bars like Harvard & Stone), a ride on the LA Metro, Hollywood and the obligatory star walk, Venice Beach, a walk down Abbot Kinney and so much more.
There’s one part of the trip, however, that I intentionally left out of the above list: my jaunt to Big Sur, truly one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been. I told some people this leg of the trip was sort of a solo soul-searching journey, and they were skeptical (one friend even challenged me to meet 10 people).
You see, I’ve never traveled alone in the sense that there was a clear destination but no one with whom to share the experience. That was the point. As independent as I think I am or claim to be, fear has always kept me from traveling and staying in a place alone. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the uncontrollable. Fear of loneliness. I learned, however, that those are the very things that make traveling alone thrilling and worthwhile.
I booked a night in a yurt via Airbnb and drove the nearly 3-hour drive down the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Big Sur with eagerness and excitement (despite the driving jitters that I adopted when I first sat down behind the wheel of a brand new Chevy Sonic). Along the way, I made several random stops off CA-1, a beautiful stretch of curvy highway that hugs the Pacific Ocean.
It was a rather gloomy Monday with sun slicing through the fog and thick gray clouds from time to time, but the coast was beautiful just the same. This was my second time in Big Sur, but as I drove I wondered yet again who took up residence in some of the architectural masterpieces with million dollar views strategically cut into the Earth.
As I drove, I was alone with my thoughts. I stared out at the Pacific Ocean’s vast horizon and watched hawks fly above the greenest mountains. I even saw an elephant seal in its natural habitat as the sun set to the west leaving a trail of vivid orange and yellow among the gray behind. Somehow I ended up 70 or so miles south of Big Sur, and I suppose that’s what happens after one decides to just drive and drive and drive until it’s time to turn around.
By that time, daylight quickly faded turning the overwhelmingly large mountainside into nothing but dark, intimidating silhouettes. While in Big Sur, I dined at Nepenthe, a cozy restaurant and bar with what I imagined to offer an incredible view of the Pacific Coast from its deck (the pitch-black sky was dotted with a blanket of stars when I arrived instead), where I was introduced to a handful of some of the most welcoming and friendliest humans (Paolo and Cyrus, I’m talking about you if you’re reading this!). At one point during my several conversations of the night, Cyrus asked if at any point I had wished someone was traveling with me. Without hesitation, I said “no” and truly meant it.
I’ll never forget that moment. I don’t necessarily feel like a different person, but it feels like I turned a new page, and Big Sur will always hold a special meaning because of it. Now I’m that much more encouraged to entertain my wanderlust and can’t wait for what the next adventure holds.