Despite my best efforts, it was hard not to look back. It was the morning of September 20, 2017 and I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life. My bags were packed, my truck was loaded and the only thing left to do was pull out of the driveway and into the world. My mom was there to watch me leave; prodding me with questions about supplies, sleeping arrangements and my allotment of food. If I was anything that day, I was prepared. I had checked, re-checked and checked a third time all of my bags, equipment and check-lists. It was my mind holding me back now….or more accurately, my feelings. From the moment I started to plan this trip, doubt lived in the back of my mind. It caused me to overthink my actions and gave me anxiety about this new direction I was embarking on. I felt bad about abandoning my family and the business and about leaving my friends to go and live my life in solitude. So as i sat there in my truck waiting to embark, doubt came for me one last time. I looked at my mom and instantly tears began to well up in my eyes. I thought about all the people I wouldn’t see and all the things I would miss while I was away and the feelings of doubt began to multiply. All at once, I felt like Frodo on the precipice of a great adventure with Gandalf’s words ringing in my ears: “It’s dangerous business Frodo, going out your door.” For whatever reason this thought hardened my resolve and I realized this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. So I pulled my truck into gear and slowly I rolled out of my driveway, into the street and onto the most important trip of my life…
…and so I was free…. Maybe for the first time ever in my life. It was liberating and terrifying simultaneously as I slowly realized the ramifications of what I was doing. My life was now solely in my hands.
I began my journey on the pacific coast highway or as we locals like to call it, “The 1.” The road was slow, packed with people going to and from work while I made my slow way through the throngs of cars and people. Normally, I would have been one of those people racing to and fro’ but on that day, I was calm and mindful. I drove slow and cautious, taking in the sites, feeling the sun on my skin through the window, listening to “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel. This first drive set the tone for the remainder of my trip. All those feelings of doubt and hesitancy were gone as I tapped my fingers to the beat and belted out the words all by myself in the cab of my truck.
Eventually, I landed in the cozy town of Ventura. Stretching my legs, I took stock of my new environment. There was a main street that starts (or ends, depending on your point of view) at Mission San Buenventura; homeless wandering around the area with bars, antique and thrift shops covering the streets. The main street eventually leads you down to the beach/boardwalk/fairgrounds area which is where the real heart and soul of the city lies. I hopped on my board and made my way down the cracked concrete towards the sea.
Ventura is a beach town. Driftwood art and sea rocks dot the coastline as the waves crash around them. I stood on the edge of a plateau of sand with my shoes off, looking out into the expanse of ocean and took a deep breath. The smell of salt filled my nose and the sand moved between my toes as i exhaled. The wind was blowing fiercely, running through my hair and tickling my ears as it spoke to me. It was peaceful and serene. Different beaches carry different vibes and this one was no different. It felt dangerous (as all bodies of water should be) but it also felt calm and relaxing as I watched the waves come in and go back out.
My next stop was Mission San Buenaventura. Beautiful and old, the mission stands as the historical landmark for the city. It’s located right off the main road in a central hub in which the ocean is visible but also far enough away so that the mission can be used as a stronghold if the need arises. I have never been a religious man despite being raised in the Catholic Church so you might find it strange the amount of missions you will see in the upcoming posts. My motivation for visiting the mission(s) is simple: they are the first structures built in California and I wanted to experience California as the early explorers would have. I felt a presence as I entered that quiet, holy place. A deep quiet and peace that was indicative of a place that had been there for years and knows exactly what it is. The wood is old, you can smell it as you walk the grounds and feel the roughness when you touch it. The courtyard is filled with small palm trees, statues and plants that make it look like an oasis settled behind the walls in the middle of the city. Historically, they kept and maintained a lot of the original machines they would have used back when the mission was founded. They had an old olive press that impressed me as well as other machines and farming tools on display but perhaps the coolest thing I saw was an old Wells Fargo safe that was dated 1782. I walked around for about an hour taking in the vibes and trying to imagine myself as a settler walking around this land for the first time.
At this point, I’d driven three or four hours but I needed to go another hour or so to reach my destination for my first encampment: Santa Barbara (or rather, Goleta). The campground was called El Capitan State Beach and I couldn’t have picked a better spot for my first night. I secured a campground quick and easy, established my camp and went out to the beach to explore. The camp wasn’t overly crowded but there was still a pretty decent amount of people milling about. The campsites themselves are sprawled out all over the area and each site is pretty big and comfortable so you have your own personal space.
Journal Entry from night 1:
“I am literally laying on a rock looking out at the ocean and writing. It’s sunset, I am free and a sense of accomplishment has hit me just to make it to my first night out. I am so comfortable here, I love the weather and I love hearing the waves crash around me. I wish I could do this everyday. My campsite is secluded and it is only a short walk down to the beach. In short, I am in heaven.” – September 20, 2017, 6:22pm, El Capitan State Beach