I decided to use the last weeks of my sabbatical doing a classic road trip up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in California. Guidebooks promised impressive views and exhilaratingly twisting drives filled with hairpin turns. The PCH did not disappoint, with me literally saying ‘wow’ countless times to myself.
I started in San Diego (because that’s where my car was), and I made my way past LA and Santa Monica before stopping for lunch in Malibu at the Malibu Fish Grill. It has great views of the Pacific Ocean, but the fish tacos…meh. It was difficult, though, overhearing the whiny white people complain about all their first world, made-up problems. This was no doubt compounded by the fact that I was freshly back from Africa where I was working with people with real problems, and I was still struggling to find out information about the Westgate mall attack.
So I drove onto Santa Barbara. My Channel Islands kayak tour was canceled thanks to the government shutdown, and I started to seriously question my return to the US. A little reverse culture shock was in full force. But I burned off steam with lovely morning runs along the beach, surfing at Leadbetter Beach, and a wine tour. I learned that surfers are one subculture where you get credit if you’re living out of your car. Just don’t let them see it’s an Audi. “Oh, I parked really far away, but nice meeting you.” I also enjoyed a couple of really fantastic meals at Arigato and Bouchon (whom I owe a special thanks for refilling my wine glass so often!).
Santa Barbara is a lovely town. I think my parents should retire there. I’d visit more often. But it was time to move on, and I thought the best cure for my reverse culture shock would be getting out in nature. So I set off for Big Sur, where I hoped I had enough survival skills to camp by myself. What could go wrong?