Headstands at Año Nuevo Beach. Image by Charlotte.

LA –> Berkeley

Have you ever found yourself on a spontaneous adventure? This Thanksgiving weekend I decided to drive north to Berkeley, leaving my Echo Park oasis behind for a few days of fresher, chillier air.

For those of you who have done the drive to the Bay and back, you know how monotonous the scenery can get on the 5 Freeway. The pungent waft from cattle ranches doesn’t come and go as quickly as you’d hope, which is why I decided to treat the time between Point A and Point B as its own little vacation.

Here is what I learned, some tips to help you plan your trip, turning any commute into a spontaneous adventure!

1. Hunger is the best sauce…

If you get up and go as I do, often forgetting breakfast, just keep telling yourself: “Hunger is the best sauce, hunger is the best sauce!” and your next meal will be all the yummier for it.

I left Saturday morning, hitting the road at 6:40 AM. The first leg of the trip to Santa Cruz was five hours, but I had a good motivator: hunger. I called my cousin who went to college in the town and could recommend a delicious sandwich/bakery/coffee shop, which I immediately entered into my iPhone. Google Maps, take me to Kelly’s French Bakery at 402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, California!


Breakfast at Kelly’s French Bakery. (French pastries not shown.) Image by Lucy Copp.

2. You can have your own fairytale adventure.

When in doubt, shape your trip with pop culture references.

From Kelly’s, I continued north on Route 1 to Butano State Park, a fine place for unprepared car campers like me. I arrived at the campground to find my best friend (the prepared one) already at our site with our tent pitched and firewood gathered!

It was only 2 PM (I thought back to getting up at 6 AM and thanked myself for fighting the struggle and resistance to get up and on the road.), so Charlotte and I took a 1.5-hour hike through the grounds, which resembled the fire swamp from The Princess Bride, but with fewer flame spurts and rodents of unusual size.


The Fire Swamp in Butano State Park. Image by Lucy Copp.


Our drive-in campsite! (Cars not pictured.) Image by Lucy Copp.

3. All you need is what you have.

After an evening of recalling our most ridiculous college nights and reheating scraps of food  over the campfire (a frequent dinner of the spontaneous traveler),  we put our heads to a pile of sweatshirts (a frequent pillow of the spontaneous traveler) an hour after darkness and fell asleep.

The next morning we packed up and headed to the coast for a hike on the bluffs. This is where I discovered the billowing clouds of cotton candy sea foam manufactured by the California coast! Every crashing wave pushed forward a fresh new batch of sea foam, which blew away down the beach, shrinking as it went.


Perfect, whimsical sea foam. Image by Lucy Copp.

4. Make detours into destinations.

Before arriving at my final destination in Berkeley, we had to check out Pescadero, conveniently located off The 1. Pumpkin ice cream, local honey, hat shops — this small town will charm your socks off because it feels so preserved despite its proximity to the greater San Francisco area.

Finally, it was time to reach Point B, and I realized how much I had learned about travel on my spontaneous adventure. Rather than creating an agenda of things to do and places to see, which often leaves me anxious to “do it all,” I let time determine what was possible. Giving myself a time block allows me the chance to explore and be spontaneous. “California sea foam” was never on my travel agenda; it just happened between life’s schedules and plans.

How do you make a necessary commute into a spontaneous getaway? How can you prepare for an adventure without over-planning? Share in the comments!