When I was 22 I moved from Kansas to California. It wasn't a well planned out move, not one I thought ahead about. I never made a grand plan for myself that I was following, I just wanted out of Kansas. The year was 2001, it was just a few fragile months after September 11th and I was still left incredibly shaken as many were. My mom had taken me to NYC for my 21st birthday a few months prior and I had been inside the Twin Towers just days before they tumbled town. By mid September of that year I was in a full blown panic about my life. What if the world ends and I haven't seen any of it yet? Where was my epic experience that I read about so many other people having? What am I doing in Kansas besides sitting on the couch, watching TV and occasionally going to class? Who am I?
What can I say other than that? I was young. I needed to have that great adventure to go and find myself, figure out the meaning of life and explore the big wide world. So that's what I did. I made the decision to move and within 48 hours the U-haul was packed and I was gone. I can't explain it, really, other than a driving force within myself saying that there was something greater out there for me and I needed to trust my gut and just go. I had a boyfriend of almost 2 years, I was in college, I had a job, but I told no one. I just packed and left. Quietly. I knew if I told people I would get talked out of it. I knew if I gave myself more than a couple of days to think about it, I would talk myself out of it. So I just took the leap. I had a few phone calls along the way on my brand new cellular telephone asking me if I was going to make it to the bar that night and I just responded "um no, I'm almost through Colorado and I'm on my way to the West Coast...what do you mean what do I mean? I mean I got out. I. Needed. out..."
I dumped a truckload of my greatest personal possessions at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Norco, California and I went to stay at my grandparents house in Lakewood until I could get my bearings and wrap my head around what I just did. I spent a solid week in tears on my mom's shoulder regretting my decision and on the phone with my best friend asking over and over if I had made a terrible mistake. They both said the same thing: give it some time, get yourself a plan, make yourself a goal, see how you feel in a couple of months, but at least give it a chance. So that's what I did.
I sat with my mom on the dining room table with a map of California and a computer. I had to figure out most of all where I wanted to be. I missed Lawrence, I had lived there for years. I missed the small college town feel of it, I missed the safety of it and I missed the people in it. I wanted a town with the same feel but I just wanted it closer to the beach. Then I came across San Luis Obispo page of the California Atlas. Home of Cal Poly Tech, small population and close to the ocean. Perfect. And just like that, I was off again.
That Spring changed my life forever.
When I got to San Luis Obispo, I went straight to the local hostel. Hostel Obispo. A quaint little village all by itself in its own right. I talked to the owner, Elaine, and explained that I wasn't a "passing through" kind of traveler. That I was on a Krista journey. She agreed to let me stay longer than the 3 day maximum in exchange for housework and small chores. I quickly agreed and unpacked my things upstairs. The girl's room was small, with 3 bunk beds. I grabbed the top bunk furthest away from the door and threw my backpack into a locker in the hallway. The bunk across from me on the bottom had a blanket tucked into the mattress above to make it sort of like a closed off fort. It had a sign attached to it that said "STAY AWAY." Just as I was getting ready to check it out, Elaine walked in and said that it belonged to another live-in guest named August. She said I needed to try and warm up to her because we'd be working together and that August would be showing me the ropes. She scared me already and I hadn't even met her. Little did I know at the time, August would become a huge part of that time in my life. About a week later, a girl named Jessie, traveling from Wisconsin, completed our group. The three of us were all on the same mission in different bodies. We wanted to experience our lives.
We never left each other's side from there on out. It was like the universe had aligned our 3 paths for us to find each other and soak up as much knowledge as we individually had to offer as 22 year old kids. We weren't just fast friends, we were sisters. And we stayed that way until the end of summer. We hiked up Montana De Oro, we surfed, we napped on the beach, we told stories to each other about broken hearts, we taught each other how to cook, how to play cards, how to strum the guitar, and how to properly handle our quarter life crises. We got piercings and made sourdough pancakes. We biked down Higuera Street and strolled through the Mission San Luis Obispo De Tolosa. We wore flowers in our hair and walked on train tracks singing 80's songs. We were each other's wing men.
I loved that hostel like it was another character I met along the journey. All of its creeks and cracks made it who it was. The front door was dutch and the top was always open. The front desk office was to the left when you first walked in the door, and behind it there was a small living room and fireplace. I remember on the coffee table there was a travelers log book. It told stories of how all these people from all over the world ended up in this one living room in central California writing in the same book. There were people in and out of this place that I would have never even known existed. People that wanted to meet other people and opted to stay in a communal living atmosphere rather than a quiet hotel so they could get the whole experience of traveling. I met a couple from Australia who helped me change my flat tire. I met a soccer team from Canada that I could drink under the table. I had coffee with a boy named Bean from San Francisco. I met and camped with new friends from England that drove a rented convertible sports car they couldn't fit inside but loved it too much to trade it in. I learned how to say "I have explosive diarrhea" from a Japanese boy. I fell in 22-year-old-love with Peter from Germany.
We would sit around together telling stories, drinking beer, laughing, and just being in awe every night at the bigger force that brought each of us on the same path, even if for just a night. And every night was different. Different people, different stories, different vibe but always fun. I don't remember all these years later each and every one of them or what their stories were, but I remember the feeling. The feeling of total appreciation for just being blessed with the opportunity to meet these people. The opportunity of being able to have an experience so amazing that many people are never fortunate enough to have.
There I was, living out of a tiny bag, sleeping on a bunk bed in a room with a mix of my closest friends and different people from all over the world every night. 6 out of 7 days a week I would jump in my car and drive as far as I could in a different direction just to see what I would find. Every morning I woke up to being stunningly clueless at where each day would bring me. For months I did this. I eventually found a front desk job at a fancy hotel in Pismo Beach just so I could keep up my constant gas card bill. Until one day Jessie suggested we go camping for a few days in San Clemente. That few days was a game changer. Life as I knew it suddenly halted after that "camping trip." But that's a story for another day...