Photo by Cecily Breeding
Less than 5 percent of my high school graduating class left the state of Michigan for college. I went the farthest. When I told them that my destination was California, their eyes widened as they mentally compared a brutal Detroit winter with Christmas on the beach.
When I arrived in California, I soon experienced the dejected feeling of anxiety that comes with missing home. I craved the smell of fall leaves and the sense of warmth after returning from a day in the snow. It was a hard transition from a cozy spot on my family’s hearth to a new and foreign locale.
But then I fell in love — in more ways than one — with this beautiful, dysfunctional state of ours. The summer after my freshman year, I rode my Novara Safari bicycle hundreds of miles from San Francisco to the Malibu campus. I camped under redwoods in a Hennessy Hammock and cruised through Big Sur. I watched the sun set every day for two weeks and ended many days in the surf. I found solidarity with the divorcee who wandered the coast in search of a new identity, with the three Mormon brothers who took me out to dinner and with the lesbian couple who let me hitchhike to the nearest bike shop. I saw the diversity of Californian landscape and life as I passed by elephant seals in San Simeon and vineyards in Ventura.
Since then, I’ve lost myself in the Last Bookstore in LA, climbed sand dunes in Death Valley and watched whales breach off the coast of Monterey. Once, when some friends and I were camping in Joshua Tree, we couldn’t figure out how to pitch the tent, so we laid it on the ground like a tarp and slept on top. Another time, some temporary knee pain forced me to spend a couple days with no cell reception among dew-glazed redwoods and the midnight trickle of an ocean-bound stream. I now look fondly on that space as my favorite in California (see p. 29), and I am reminded in retrospect that temporary setbacks make for a better view of the stars.
This magazine is meant to inform, inspire and echo the wanderlust shared by all who want to see what California has to offer. It is the shared result of many months of dreaming, writing and gallivanting across the state with a Toyota Rav4 and a GoPro. It took financial sacrifice, long nights in front of a computer and the support of friends and family for all those who contributed. Ultimately, though, this publication comes from a desire to share the places and the stories that inspire us with the campus so many of us have come to love.
Follow Nate Barton on Twitter: @NateBarton