Always Take the Long Way: My Spontaneous Roadtrip on the PCH

I’ve traveled between Danville (my hometown) and LA countless times, but before yesterday I had never been on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Call me a bad Californian, a terrible traveler, whatever you want… but the five hour drive on I-5 felt long enough. I was not about to take 10 hours to make the same exact trip.

Okay, honestly, the decision has never been up to me. It has always been my sister, brother, parents, or friends driving the car. When you’re in the passenger seat you have very little (and by that I mean no) say in which road you take. This was my first time making the trek alone.

One thing I’ve always loved about being a solo travel is the freedom to do whatever I want for the sole reason that I feel like doing it. My only motivation for taking a 5 hour drive home and turning it into an all-day roadtrip on the PCH was that I had never done it before. When I plugged the route into my GPS and learned just how long it was going to take, I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision. That is, until I looked out my window and saw this:

Seriously, every corner I turned led to another view that took my breath away. I think I finally understand why California has the reputation it does… it’s frickin’ beautiful! I probably could have made the drive in eight hours if I had pushed through, but how could I not stop at every vista point?!

I am a sucker for water in any form and high view points, so a roadtrip along a cliff over looking the ocean is pretty close to what I imagine my heaven would be like. It was also incredibly dangerous as I found it nearly impossible to keep my eyes on the road. I stopped practically every half hour to take pictures, gaze in awe at the view, and listen to the waves crash against the shore. I even forwent my tradition of eating snacks in the car instead of real lunch for the chance to have a picnic on the beach.

I thought the PCH would feel long and treacherous. It was mostly peaceful and magnificent.

The PCH hugs the shore for most of the drive (I took it from Malibu to Monterey) and is 2% boring freeway and 98% National Geographic cover-worthy views. My mouth was in a permanent O and even though I was alone, I shouted exclamations on a regular basis.

When I drove to LA a few weeks ago, I went an average of 10 miles over the speed limit, had my shoulders next to my ears, lost feeling in my butt, and kept thinking, “can’t I just be there already?”

On my drive home, I averaged 10 miles under the speed limit, my eyes darted between the road and the coast, I felt relaxed and comfortable, and kept thinking, “I wish I could spend a whole week on this road.”

Even now just looking at the pictures causes a smile to spread across my face and my shoulders to relax. How can a place like this bring anything but joy?

I’ve been a little (*ahem* a lot) overwhelmed lately. Just out of college, I am simultaneously trying to build my career as a freelance writer, launch my travel blog, get out of my parent’s house, and magically manage to afford more travel. Lately, everything I do feels rushed. My to-do lists are multiple pages and the only reason I do anything is so I can cross it off that list.

Yesterday I made it a point to only have one thing on my to-do list: drive home.

I got rid of the rush. And when I did that, the stress dropped away. We’ve all heard that cliche, the one about the journey being more valuable than the destination, and a roadtrip really encompass that concept. On a roadtrip, the journey is quite literally the destination.

Slow travel is a term that is being thrown around more and more. Slow travel is about taking the time to explore a destination and really get to know a place instead of rushing from one tourist attraction to the next. While a 10 hour drive in one day is not exactly the epitome of slow travel, it is a step up from the five hours it used to take me to make the same trip.

When I had two hours left on my drive and it was getting dark, I did not worry about hurrying and trying to get as close to home as possible before nightfall. Instead, I deliberately pulled over, walked down to the beach, and watched the sunset. Which, by the way, was phenomenal.

I could easily have stressed about the mountain roads I would have to face in the pitch black and the idiot drivers that always seem to suddenly appear on the roads as soon as the sun goes down. I could have, but then I would have missed this…

It’s easy to become obsessed with check lists and “must-sees” when we travel, but often the most satisfying part of travel is the pure enjoyment of being somewhere new. I’ve often wondered why the quality of the air seems so great wherever I travel and I am starting to realize it is not the air; it’s the fact that I am finally taking a few much-needed deep breaths.

So to all you travelers reading this, I encourage you to put aside the guide books and top 20 lists. Not forever, but just for a moment. I encourage you to look out the window as the train rushes through the countryside, book the window seat on the plane even if you get more leg room in the aisle seat, and pull the car over as often as you want for no other reason than to look at the view one more time.

Wherever you go, whenever you get the chance, remember to take the long way to get there.

#california #usa #northamerica #PCH #roadtrip #destinations #adventurestories

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