Last Fall, I was having a hard time being away from the Midwest and missing the people I love. As you may have read, a few people close to my family had passed away, my cousin/best friend moved back to Chicago from San Diego, my boyfriend was living in Africa and I just felt kind of alone. Maybe I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I knew I had a lot to be thankful for in this perfect place, sunny San Diego, but I began to feel a lack of community here. Plus, being away from the ones I love the most, especially during a difficult time, just made me feel that much more isolated.
When my dear friend Dan said he was organizing a trip to his family’s home in Big Sur, I enthusiastically accepted! I then proceeded to ask him about when we were going almost daily until the trip was officially in the books (sorry DJ!). I saw it as a time to get away for a few days, meet new people and refocus on why I was living far away and what I loved about living here in the first place. Big Sur fulfilled that and so much more.
I arrived at the airport and ran into a small group of people who were also going to be on the trip. I had met them a few times before and by the end of the flight we were all fast new buds. I think the other passengers were ready for us to get off of the flight! A group picked us up and we were off to the house for the weekend.
The house: Dan, a modest man, did not tell us how spectacular it was or that it was literally right on the ocean cliffs. We viewed otherworldly sunsets each night, partook in whiskey toasts at dusk, watched whales breaching on the horizon, sipped coffee in the mornings while listening to the waves crash below, and breathed in that refreshing and salty air, all in the comfort of the backyard. Everyone crashed wherever there was an open spot - in front of the fireplace, in a bedroom, in the bathtub or on the deck. Wherever you ended up, your morning view was that of the vast deep blue sea. It was like a dream. But the team was even better.
Friday we settled in, played games and relaxed by the fire with full glasses of wine and full hearts. Whether it was an old or new friendship, we all truly enjoyed getting to know each other better. We indulged in good food and drinks, shared secrets and planned our life adventures together.
Saturday we climbed and waded through tide pools, found sea urchins, dabbled in some “yoga” and gymnastics on the lawn, courtesy of the Bradel sisters, and listened to the musical talents of Suzy, Alex and Bryan. We crammed into the clown car to go shopping in the cute town of Carmel and came back just in time for the 70s sunset cocktail hour. We time traveled and dressed in our “70s” best. Big hair, extravagant outfits, lots of red lips and spiffy looking fellas. We watched the bright orange sun melt into the water while the sky illuminated and pinched ourselves at how lucky we all were to be able to be there, together, in this magical place.
Dan and his generous sister cooked us up a delicious home cooked meal and we sat by the fire until the early hours of the morning, sipping our classy drinks, playing games, telling stories, laughing, crying and acting as if we had all known each other our whole lives. It felt as though we did. It still feels that way.
Sunday felt just like Christmas. “Someone” made the morning one of the best. Being that the trip was a few weeks before Christmas, this person(s) wanted us all to experience the festive spirit together. We awoke to a decorated tree and stockings for all 17 of us hung with notes and goodies inside. To top it off, Dan and the chefs (shouts to Brit, Debs and Suzy) cooked us up a big old pancake breakfast, complete with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. The Buddy the Elf in me was freaking out a little bit!
We worked off our food coma later by caravanning down the road, over the Bixby Bridge to a secret beach. We packed the essentials: snacks, beer and surfboards. We hiked around the beach, frolicked in the key hole wave pools, read to one another on the beach – all while enjoying some ice cold brews and watching the guys finally catch the waves (we had all heard so much about! :)) We let our 5-year-old selves run wild. We stayed at the beach as long as we could, basking in every last moment of the sun and being in the company of one another. At last, we packed up the cars and began to head back “home.” Our host had one more trip down memory lane planned for our drive back.
Dan told us about a back road mountain trail he used to go on when he was little. It took longer, and was a little bumpy, but the views were worth it. Eagerly, in unison, we all said “YES!” to this detour. We climbed in the back of the pick up truck (sorry mom and dad), grabbed some blankets, turned the music up and off we went. We drove through the dark wilderness and towering trees, right to the top of the mountain. We could see ships in the distance out on the water, the beaming full moon and about a trillion stars. As we were taking it all in, I could sense all of our smiles plastered to our faces – we were in pure bliss. We got out at the top, wrapped some blankets around ourselves, and ventured over a fence to go on one final night hike. We didn’t make it very far. A “noise” was heard and we all booked it! We still managed to stay together wrapped in a blanket, snapping disposables and cracking up all the way back to the truck. These are memories I will never forget.
We finished the trip cozied up with one more spiked hot chocolate by the fire, reminiscing and absorbing every last second of this dreamy trip. We left early in the morning back to San Diego. I was a little more tired than when I arrived, a little more tan (score!), a little more excited about life and a lot more appreciative of the friendships and people in my life. Until next time, Big Sur. You were magic.