You know those sampling platters you get in a restaurant, with tiny servings of all the best delicacies for you to try out? That’s what our last few days in America were like: a tiny dose of the wonderful experiences we’d had. It was the most poetically complete end to a three month odyssey.
The most precious part of our trip was the time we spent outdoors. After years of being in air-conditioned offices, behind desks and computer screens, our spirits were starved for the solace of nature. We’d fallen happily into a life of wild panoramas of canyons and mountains and forests, and it was fitting that the Pacific Coast Highway was one of the most breathlessly scenic drives we’d been on.
In three months, we lost the softness of muscle that is the trademark of people who work at a desk, behind a computer. We are fit, energetic and walk with long strides, and we breathe cold, pure air scented with pine needles. The hikes along the Pacific Coast gave us a chance to revel in the feeling of the wind in our hair and the earth under our feet.
They may be uncomfortable. They may be scary. They may be freezing cold. But nights spent camping, staring at the stars instead of the television, waking up to the morning dew still pearling on the tent – those nights are not easy to forget. Along the Big Sur, we stayed at majestic clifftop campsites in the Santa Lucia mountains overlooking the endless blue ocean. And that gave A a chance to play with night photography, a hobby that has become a fascinating subject of discussion and innovation for us.
We loved discovering the most charming small towns of America, and Solvang was possibly my favourite. I’m so glad we found it! It was founded by Danish settlers and has an old-world vibe, a windmill in the middle of town, a replica of the Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, Danish pastry shops and a Hans Christian Andersen museum with first editions of his books. What more could you ask for?
If there was one thing we loved seeing, it was the wildlife of America – from bears to raccoon, alligators to aggressive squirrels – and Monterey saved the best for last. Seal Rock left us with open mouths and an urge to just kidnap one of the slap-happy seals!
San Francisco was our final stop, and one of my favourite American cities. With lanes that dip and rise into hills, quaint shops and lovely views of the sea, we thought it was the perfect last city in America for us. We met people we loved, travelled with them for a short while, and enjoyed living in the civilized world again. And tried some tilt-shift photography.
And just like that, our American holiday was over. We’d braved snow, storms, a government shutdown. We’d learned how to build bonfires and cook burgers in them. We’d gone swimming in hot springs and driven on salt pans. We’d discovered unforgettable campsites and stayed at very forgettable motels. We’d run out of gas, run out of patience, run out of mayonnaise (hey, that qualifies as an emergency!). We’d discovered hidden reserves of determination, of innovation, of love, of friendship, and a hungry curiosity. We’d hiked up and down mountain paths and hill-sides, walked for hours in cities, and driven for miles across the United States of America.
And now, it’s time to fly over the oceans to Australia.