North America, Travel Stories

Big Sur, California

This photo. This photo is magic and let me tell you why.

Big Sur, California 2012

There was a road trip I took with my youngest sister and friend Marlise, in 2012. We met in San Francisco for spring break and drove all the way to San Diego in one day, in a little rental car. We got up at 5am so we could stop along the way, taking in the breathtaking views of Highway 1, and drinking wine in Big Sur. We came from Chicago, Nashville, and Kansas City.

I was on the brink of major change, though I couldn’t see through to the other side, yet. I was going on a feeling, a hunch, a hope. I had taken my first big vacation as an adult with Marlise the year before, and knew I was onto something more. More than the anxiety and restlessness my current life-style was producing, more than mindlessly consuming and being consumed.

The day we drove down the coast, we stopped to pick up an unusual couple. They were hitchhiking together, headed south just like us. His name was Danny. He had blonde dreadlocks and bright blue eyes. Her name was Julie and she spoke with an accent. She had beautiful hair piled high on her head, wrapped in scarf. We slowed down and motioned them over, opening the trunk so they could sling in their backpacks.

There were three of us, and only two of them, so we figured, why not?

As they introduced themselves in the backseat, friendly chatter ensued. They told us the story of how they’d met–traveling in Nicaragua, doing volunteer work and WWOOF-ing. They told stories of their adventures together in Mongolia, eating homemade meals provided by local families. They shared their experiences working with Amnesty International, and their plans to head back to Central America.

They were humble, carefree, kind.

They inspired me that day. They showed me a glimpse of what was possible and provided real life examples of a life I wanted to live, fully. They were genuine and open, accepting everything the present moment had to offer.

We dropped them off at a gas station after stopping to take a few photos of some sea lions and scenery. Julie wrote a nice comment on my couch surfing profile, thanking us for the ride, and I forgot.

Big Sur, California 2012

Until today. Today I saw this photo of four smiling women and I got chills. I got chills because I was eventually able to make the personal changes I needed to–ones that transformed my life forever (and continue to do so).

I went on my own adventure. I gathered courage from people like Julie and Danny who were living their authentic life, and I began living mine. Their journey prompted my own. It gave me a point I could reach for. They planted seeds I could cultivate.

This summer, I drove part of the same route in California that I’d driven three years ago. I thought of how much had changed in such a short amount of time, and how immensely grateful I was. I sat next to someone I loved (who I met traveling), and let the sea breeze weave through my open hand, feeling peace.

We are all connected. Nothing is an accident.

Big Sur, California 2012

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