Travel is a great way to see the world and experience its many cultures. Although it’s very exciting to fly far away to a place like Africa or Australia, local adventures can beckon just as strongly. Introducing his book, Travels with Charley (Charley was a French poodle), the famous American writer John Steinbeck said: “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

One of my favorite locales closer to home is the central California coast. Even though I live in Washington state, I make a point of planning a driving tour to this magical area once a year. Traveling alone over winding roads that hug waterways and natural cliffs is a magical experience that frees the mind from worrisome thoughts. And letting serendipity and intuition guide you as your journey unfolds is a refreshing change from tiresome schedules and deadlines. Because the pace is slower along this remote coastline, “being in the moment” is a likely possibility.

Beginning in Monterey and heading south on Hwy 1, your first encounter is with Point Lobos State Reserve, a fascinating ecosystem rimmed by strangely shaped rocks. This small cove is where photographer Edward Weston created some of his most compelling nature images. Next is famed Big Sur, a popular hang out in the sixties for those who wanted to get away from it all with majestic cliffs and commanding views of the Pacific Ocean. Further south are the small communities of Cambria and Morro Bay – both quaint beach towns. The harbor in Morro Bay offers sights of fishermen bringing in their catch along the waterfront. East lies the valley of Paso Robles, for those who enjoy wine tasting.

Also be sure and check out Avila Beach near San Luis Obispo for a relaxing respite from your adventures. You can continue on Hwy 1 just south of here or join the herd on 101. Finish your day with a visit to the picturesque town of Solvang, nicknamed “the Danish Capitol of America” and voted one of Sunset Magazine’s 10 Most Beautiful Small Towns. The Dutch people, architecture and shops allow for some great story telling photographs to be made. For those of you wanting to explore the California coast north of San Francisco, check out the even more remote section of Hwy 1 from Bodega Bay to Leggett.

Whatever your travel plans, be sure to allow extra time so you can stop and smell the roses (having a dog along could help…). After all, it’s the journey not the destination. Safe travels!