Four Travel Lessons Along the Pacific Coast Highway
We've all heard it. Travelling makes you wise, turns you into a storyteller, teaches you invaluable life lessons that nothing else can give you. But how exactly?
I recently got back from a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, driving from Los Angeles to Crescent City. Here are some things that went right and wrong, that taught me a little something about life.
YOU DECIDE WHAT RUINS YOUR DAY | Redwood National forest
Visiting the Redwoods has been on my bucket list since forever. I imagined the tallest trees in the world looming above me, making me feel like a miniature figurine, and sunlight filtering through the leaves onto my face.
There was just one problem. When I stepped out of the car, a cold gust of air swept my face, my feet slipped on the muddy earth, and the rain poured down.
Shakir and I looked at each other. As tempting as it was wrap ourselves in blankets by a crackling fire, we had just driven 1126 km to see this forest. Staying inside was not an option.
So we grabbed our heavy jackets, waterproof pants, a backpack full of supplies and headed to our first hike, the Boy Scout trail. As we slowly trudged through the mud, trying to avoid the large puddles, I wondered why we made ourselves do such things.
Within the first five minutes, I stepped into an ankle deep muddy puddle. Yep, it was as bad as it sounds. Mud squelching in between my toes. Soaked socks and shoes.
Not what I had imagined.
We continued walking through the dense forest. I was drenched. There was dirt everywhere. The rain was not going to ease, the mud was not going to dry.
I shuffled along, careless of where I put my feet, since they were already soaked. The mud beneath me squished. Strangely satisfying. I squished my feet further into the gooey mud and felt the the wet ground pull at my heels. Very satisfying. When was the last time I did this?
As we continued the hike, I started to walk right into the puddles, I squelched about in that strangely gratifying sticky mud, I let the rain soak me through (the hot bath afterwards was all the more delightful). Slowly, I began to enjoy myself. Yes, it was not what I had expected but the forest was lush, the air was crisp and the smell of rain was refreshing. And though we had many other warm, sun-filled experiences on this trip, somehow this rainy, seemingly miserable one will always stand out in my mind.
Take the less beaten path | San Louis Obispo
Sometimes, we all get swept with the hype. Before embarking on a trip, you find all those must-see lists and ogle at stunning photos. I certainly did, and I had it all planned out.
Our next big destination was one that I saw mentioned everywhere - Big Sur! I calculated that if we didn't make any stops, we would get there with enough time to see one or two of the many sights before the sun went down. But the four hour drive up had us itching to stretch our legs, so we took an exit to a small town for a quick breather - San Louis Obispo.
And how glad we were when we did.
Rolling green hills, cows grazing and a volcanic plug that had spectacular views of the sprawling town. I was amazed. How was this not on any of the lists I'd read? Why weren't more people visiting? We roamed around in awe, then hiked up Bishop Peak and stayed there right through to sunset.
I guess it's true, sometimes the best places are off the beaten path.
SLOW IT DOWN | BIG SUR
Does that mean Big Sur was not all it was raved on to be? Absolutely not. Who doesn't love seacliffs, mountain views and endless ocean?
We planned to stay at Big Sur for two nights, and there was more than enough sights to keep us there for a month. I've often fallen into the trap of trying to squeeze every possible activity into a day, to my detriment. This time, almost without realising, we took it slow. We soaked in each place and experience. What changed?
Recently, Shakir started exploring the world of photography (yep, many of these incredible shots are his handy work), and that forced us to slow it down. We had to allocate more time to the places we visited, we strove to catch the sunrises and sunsets, lengthening our day. Suddenly, I was paying attention to the bugs on leaves and the contrasting colours of the rocks in the ocean and ushering Shakir over to snap them. We watched the sun go down and people filter out of the beach, as we filmed a time lapse at Pfeiffer Beach. Time slowed down as we paid more attention to the details of our surroundings and let ourselves bask in the beauty around us.
let your days vary | NAPA VALLEY
We had been waking up at the crack of dawn every day before we reached Napa. We would plan out what we wanted to do, and then be back at our hotel well after sun down, content but exhausted. Napa taught us to relax.
Napa has a certain charm to it, with its boundless rows of grapevine and vintage farmhouses, that makes you feel like indulging.
Or maybe that's just what I convinced myself. Because that day, we let ourselves sleep in, had a decadent brunch, and drove through the vineyards, breathing in the fresh Napa air without a plan in mind.
We did have a limited scope of activities to do there, as non-drinkers in wine country. Though truthfully, we were exhausted by this point, and the initial excitement of planning each day had worn off. And that's okay.
I realised that travel isn't as glamorous when you have the same routine every day. Some places work better planned out, other places are better explored with no goal in mind. Sometimes you're out in the sunshine, other days you relish in the beauty of the rain. It's the variety in travel that lets you appreciate each day as its own.