I had been pulled toward traveling to somewhere unfamiliar, a place where the songs of the birds and the wind that whistled through the night were foreign. The thought of experiencing something new flicked on the light in my heart, which is a telltale sign of a call I need to answer. The excitement and anxiousness continued to persist as I dreamed of new mountain ridges, vibrant orange California sunsets, and the idea of giving myself a healthy dose of nature therapy.
While there are many places to pin on the map in California, there’s one that always steals my breath: California’s Central Coast. Its mountainous terrain meets the alluring Pacific Ocean, a reminder that you’re on the edge of North America. Scattered rocks protrude from the white-capped water, calling attention to the untouched beauty of this region. The Pacific Coast Highway fluidly weaves its way up and around these views, giving you a front-row seat at California’s best show.
Most trips Nicolle and I go on we stockpile our belongings in the van and call it our home on wheels for the coming days. But for this weekend trip, we decided to leave the campervan tucked away in the garage and use an adventure rig from The Camper Cartel. When I got word it was the new Jeep Gladiator, to say I was excited is an understatement.
The matte green Jeep Gladiator emulated an authentic monster-sized army truck with tire treads as deep as the Grand Canyon. This vehicle was made for taking you off the beaten track. With 4-wheel drive and treads of this size, there was no question we could take this truck to places beyond our wildest imaginings. With the Jeep Gladiator, we could painlessly unlock a new level of the outdoors, go to unforgettable locations, and camp under a sky flooded with an overwhelming number of stars.
And we did.
Four hours from our home in Los Angeles we started to see the undeniably gorgeous coastline of Central California. The tires hummed beneath us as we traced the Pacific Coast Highway and made our way to the road that would situate us above the clouds.
The second the tires began to crunch the unpaved dirt road that led towards our destination, I could feel the energy of adventure rising. Up and over one rock here and another rock there, the last leg of our drive made me feel like Indiana Jones. Dust sputtered behind the truck as we bulldozed our way up the rugged road. After 30 minutes of bouncing over this rough terrain, we met a glowing evening sunset 3,200 feet above sea level, right where we wanted to be: somewhere unfamiliar.
As we became acquainted with Central California’s never-ending rolling hills and a blanket of clouds that consumed the distant sun, we felt rewarded for chasing something unfamiliar. But this was just the beginning of our trophy night.
Evening fell into night and stars began to illuminate overhead almost as a celebratory event for going outside our comfort zone. Fortunately, we situated ourselves atop a mountain that was just about as far as you could get from any near city or light pollution, meaning we were destined for more than just a typical night of stargazing.
The air slowly grew crisp as dusk faded to dark. Nighttime descended with surprising rapidity and the night-song of the wind became our lullaby. We gazed off into the distance, into infinity, and became overwhelmed by the picture-perfect night sky that danced above us. Not only were we consumed by the endless number of stars, but we were also enthralled by the purple and blue hues that made up a cloud of stardust above us.
We felt completely vulnerable, as if we were nothing more than a tiny ball relative to the vastness of the universe. The purple and blue swath of stars in the night sky wasn’t just any star cluster, it was the single thing that encompasses all of life: the Milky Way Galaxy.
All these sights and experiences—the blanket of clouds paired with a perfect sunset, the Milky Way Galaxy overhead, and the pure beauty of nature’s evening presentation—make going into the unknown worth it.
You see, this is the beauty of traveling: it hands us an opportunity to experience something new, something unfamiliar and different by leaving the comfort of our home. Whether you set out to ridge along California’s coast, visit a quiet European village that hugs the Mediterranean Sea, or even go somewhere completely new in your own city, you set yourself up to be surprised by the unexpected beauty of our world.
Many overly comfortable people never choose to set out for unknown destinations and unexplored regions. And that’s fine, but doing so means you accept living only in the world you’ve created behind your front door and in the comfort of your home. Doing so blocks out the understanding and perception gained from forays into the unknown.
I get it, I’ve been there. In my early days of traveling, I always set expectations and chose to visit places where I could predict my exact experience. But the more I familiarized myself with life on the road, the more I learned that setting expectations can be a plague that in the end takes away from the overall experience.
Here’s the bottom line: While we all like to set expectations, doing so makes it more likely to feel let down or apathetic because we already knew what was coming. There’s no adventure. There’s no new understanding or perception. Whether you’re going on an incredible trip or simply doing something for the first time, going into that experience without expectations allows you to be amazed by the unknown and can result in a vivid evocation for years to come.