Life is about traveling outside of your comfort zone. If you’re not feeling a bit uncomfortable, then you’re not growing. Growing requires discomfort. In order to grow, you need to leave your comfort zone and be vulnerable in the open. Only there, can you accept new ideas openly.
This Spring Break Conner and I traveled down the Southern Coast of California for a week straight stopping in Santa Barbara, Ventura, the Santa Cruz Island, Huntington Beach, Venice Beach, and San Diego. We took the Pacific Coast Highway and sailed along the water which was straight out of a daydream, but with daydreams come nightmares. There were a lot of challenges we faced by traveling a week straight on the trip. Traveling has its high’s and low’s and you have to have the face low’s to get to appreciate the high’s.
When we got to where we were staying on the first night away from our sheltered Central Coast city of San Luis Obispo, we were both certainly uncomfortable, but also very excited. It sounds a bit dramatic, but we’re definitely not the same people we were when we left. We learned a lot about ourselves, and the world.
The lessons we learned on our trip are as follows:
Traveling for a week straight can be pretty exhausting. We had nowhere to be during the day to just have a place to rest, because we stayed in a different hostel each night. I left my winter jacket (the bane of my existence, I get cold a lot…) in a hostel in Venice Beach. It was the fourth day of our trip and I was very sleep deprived so I got much more upset about it than I should’ve when I realized it was gone. I was angry at myself for being so irresponsible…but people make mistakes. And usually these kind of small mistakes are very fixable with a little help. This leads me to my next lesson. People usually want to help you out.
People in many parts of the world are generally good, so have faith. It is important to remember to look out for yourself in unfamiliar places but it is also important to trust and to have confidence in the humans around you. My jacket was in the lost and found at the hostel. No one had stolen it and it was right where I had left it in the storage room. I was so cynical believing that there was no chance I would get it back and that certainly someone has spotted this expensive jacket and decided it was theirs, but we called the hostel and the woman working put it aside for us to pick up on our way home the next day.
Another representation of a time we practiced trust was in La Jolla when I was trying to fit my car into a parking spot inches to small for even my tiny car, and a dad with his two kids saw me struggling among the flow of busy traffic to parallel park my car. He knocked on the window and asked if we needed a hand. I was skeptical and almost declined his offer, but he looked like a good guy. He handed his coffee and hat to his kids next to him and proceeded to do the best parallel parking job I have ever seen. There are a lot of bad people in the world but also a lot of good.
You don’t have to know where you’re going to have a successfully good time. There’s a difference between having no idea what’s happening/where you’re going, and having the desire to explore the world with no plan. We did plan out most of our trip to ensure a safe and successful vacation, but some of the best parts of the trip were the parts where we didn’t have a particular destination in mind. On Santa Cruz Island we picked a hike in a direction that looked nice because Conner doesn’t like maps or recipes (which is odd because he’s a straight forward thinking engineer) and it was a beautiful hike along the plateau of the island that ended in a secluded beach which the bluest water I’ve ever seen. When we were in Venice Beach we wandered along the boardwalk and came upon a street show with the Calypso Tumblers and watched them backflip over a dude who was six feet tall. In the Gas Lamp Quarter of San Diego we wandered along the main drag and came upon a restaurant called Cafe 21 and watched a woman flamenco dance and shared the best chocolate crepe cake of my life. Life is about the journey and not always the destination, so enjoy the ride.
Let yourself let loose every once in a while! I’m not great at napping or at sleeping in general but in Santa Barbara we went to the Salt Caves and did a meditation session which included me falling asleep and waking up feeling more refreshed than I would have after a full night’s rest. Shortly after we went on a hike to inspiration point where I ate back all the calories I had burned on the hike by sharing (and finishing) a whole bag of jelly beans with Conner at the summit. I indulged in an ice cream at Salt and Straw, I devoured the tiramasu french toast at Brockton Villa in La Jolla, and decided to donate money to a very wise young monk in Balboa Park (using a card reader on his own iPhone…? He says they’re wealthy La Jolla monks…). He then gave me a book on “the human purpose” and his blessing at which point, I’m totally serious, the sun came out for the first time that day. Thank you, buddhist sun God.
The world is a very big place with a lot of adventures still to be had, so do not have fear. We met a variety of people from a variety of cultures in the world in our hostels who taught us about where they were from and gave us advice for our future travels. Turns out, even European kids like a good game of beer pong in the States. If you’re afraid of falling, then you can never fly, and you will not make it to the end of the Ho Chi Minh trail in La Jolla on the edge of a cliff. You will not make it to the edge of potato chip rock at the top of Mt. Woodsen. You won’t make a new Australian friend who spent the last three months surfing his way through Mexico.
There’s a lot to learn about the world around that you can’t learn reading a book or online, but simply by exploring. We learned about the difference between sea lions and seals up close, what roads to take in LA traffic (and how to deal with the angry LA commuters). We learned about a difference in safety between exploring Venice at night vs the Gas Lamp Quarter in San Diego at night, and how the entire fire department of San Diego will send seven fire trucks to your hostel at 3am if one person smells smoke in the laundry room (which is good to know how prepared they are). We learned about the difference between many character types of hostels in terms of their particular essences such as how social they are, what amenities they have, and what stories their inhabitants tell.
Even though it was only a 6 day trip it was an amazing Spring Break. We hit 8 different beaches in the six different days and traveled over 600 miles meeting people from many diverse countries to find out that the world is a big place which is meant to be explored if only you’re brave enough to get out of your comfort zone.