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Version: travel_essay 01.18.22
january 18, 2022 // don't go breaking my heart
i took advantage of the three-day weekend and spent my birthday in monterey. after touring some decently bland apartments, i decided to go ahead, rent a car on demand, and drove up to my final apartment. since i was still torn, i'd decide to leave to monterey after i saw the last apartment; the location was just shy of the neighborhood i wanted to live in and it wasn't enough to sell me on making the leap. i'm not quite prepared to settle for my second- or third choice-neighborhood just yet. so okay, we're going. i got in the car, sat behind the wheel, and adjusted the mirrors. i needed to go pack.
setting off at 2 p.m. is perfect, because it's such a weird time to leave; it's just enough time for me to decide to have a vacation. parking in front of my building was shockingly easy (and never happens downtown). i packed my knapsack, my purse, and a reusable tote bag. just enough for a couple of days—three days max. i'd buy toiletries on the way.
the problem with leaving san francisco at 2 p.m. is that you hit monterey as soon as it gets dark. what i did see was gorgeous, but i knew i'd have more time. so i found a hotel right on the water, making sure to mention it was my birthday (i was by myself, after all; who am i going to embarrass?). i also forewent all the apps, despite seeing the differences in price. i figured i might be able to get a better room if i just ask in person, since you never know what type of room you get from sites like booking.com and friends. i booked the room in-person rather than online and just went straight to the front desk. for my efforts (and, granted, the extra money), the front desk clerk gave me a wonderful room facing the water. since every room had a balcony, i was sure to rise with the sun so i could see some stage of dawn outside in the hotel-provided robe, drinking orange juice and champagne—a last-minute addition to the room from the clerk for my birthday, which i was so grateful for.
i felt like a divorcée; single woman doin' my own thing on the central coast of california, wearing sunglasses covering half my face with a cocktail in hand. (to be fair, the sunglasses were mostly because i had enjoyed some cannabis.) maybe it was partially the big little lies vibes i was getting.
the water was gorgeous: cerulean blue and splashes of teal, reflecting the clear sky above it and crashing against the black rocks clustered across the coast. i've never been to monterey or santa cruz, but i've been trying to consciously relax in spaces around other people and in places i've never been before. i just employed normal, everyday street smart tactics—i wasn't constantly scanning for exits. progress.
just an aside: now knowing that monterey actually isn't that safe is actually reassuring; i didn't look beforehand, and i didn't check while i was there—normally, ab behavior that i'd end up wasting valuable vacation time on.
i left the hotel the next day for the main attraction (to me), the monterey bay aquarium. i love the animals there, and i'm especially fond of taking photos of the otters. it's a lovely aquarium, and the terrace outside right on the water is an incredible view. the aquarium is easily one of the best i've ever been to (and i go to a lot of aquariums!). i look forward to adding the photos to a new gallery in the museum, but i'm still figuring out a way to display the videos, which i have many of.
i spent the next day enjoying the sea air and the views. i didn't want to swim, although i did wish i had brought my bathing suit so i could've enjoyed the rooftop jacuzzi. next time, perhaps. a friend of mine already mentioned going on our own version of a 'barbara' trip (what i ended up calling throngs of women who were on girls' trips together, clearly). i'd be so down—they were living their best lives.
on the way back, i decided to drive up highway 1: pacific coast highway. it clings to the coast like a vein, slinking around big sur and delivering tourists and cars along the edge of california. lucky for me, it leads directly into san francisco. unlucky for me, it took about twice as long to get home. but it was so, so worth it.
i found a patch of gravel on the side of the road with barely any cars on it; up until this point, cars cluttered into every crevice of every parking lot that lined the highway. a lot of surfers were about, walking to and from crossovers and jeeps with half-opened wetsuits. (no accidents, thankfully.)
i pulled in quickly and threw open the car door. i ran to the edge of the cliff and stopped. maria mena played behind me, the car door's speaker just whispering over the sound of the waves. it felt a bit surreal, but i breathed in the water's edge and i watched the waves crash against the shore. for a moment, the nihilism part of me hit. my brain acted as though it's an amazing revelation that nothing matters; that the waves will crash long after i'm gone; that the waters will erode the edges of earth in which they fall into; that pieces of this era and the ones that follow will fall away into the ocean; and the sea will outlive all of us.
perhaps neptune was reminding me how powerful he is! (i've been reading a lot of roman pagan literature lately, forgive me.) neverless, i am so glad i went this weekend. happy to celebrate the middle of my early 30s in a beautiful locale.
to pat myself on the back: i'm proud of myself. i'm proud of myself for being spontaneous, for just putting one foot in front of the other, for getting out of my comfort zone, and for crossing something off of my california bucket list. i'm excited because i know what i'm going to do for my next long weekend, if i don't find an apartment. coming for you, redwoods.
this is the part i didn't think was possible. the calm part, the happy part, the literally doing whatever i want to do part. i'm comfortable. i'm okay. for the first time in a long time, i'm okay.