Big cliffs and big hearts

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Driving up the Big Sur made me glad I was going north rather than south. Driving north, there is a lane between you and the plunging cliffs on tight bends. Driving south, there is a metre between you and waves crashing on rocks 100 feet below.

Growing up on the east coast of Australia I thought I was used to spectacular coastlines. Big Sur put that on another level. The place is so remote there is no mobile reception. Which is lucky because any possibility of being on the phone while driving the windy roads of Highway 1 in this area would lead to unexpected car-swimming.

I could rhapsodise about the nature, hiking through the redwoods and the elephant seals. But I think you get the picture (and if not, check out my photos at the bottom of the page). What I really loved about this place was the people. Here are three examples of loveliness:

1. Going to the supermarket in Cambria and experiencing my first taste of old fashioned American service. From the old man stacking shelves who goes up to me especially to ask if I need help finding anything (it must be my special 'lost in a new supermarket' look). To the boy there especially to bag your groceries (paper or plastic, ma'am?), and carry them to your car. That's right, not mumble and glare as you frantically try to bag your own, as do London's charming 'assistants', but actually you know, help. Crazy.

2. Meeting Free Range Humans 'in the field'. I met a British couple staying in my accommodation. Steve and Karen got to their 50s and decided they didn't want to wait for retirement. So they sold up their UK house, packed up their lives, and are cycling all over the world. They've been at it for a year now (which impresses me as I can't cycle for more than a few hours). Follow their adventures at

3. Generous Californians. This is a recurring theme. The Big Sur example was at the "Coast Gallery" a little cafe and art gallery near the northern end of the drive. The guy making my coffee asked about my trip. I told him where I was going and we clearly had the same views on where to spend time. 

"Man," he said, after hearing I chose San Diego over LA, and Austin, Texas over anywhere else, "you're the smartest traveller I've met. Where are you headed now?".
"You got accommodation? If not my girlfriend and I have a spare room, you can stay with us".

This goes top of my list of Things That Would Not Happen In England, Ever. 


How does Cambria (and the Big Sur) fit the life of a Free Range Human?

Wi-fi availability: Excellent in cafes. Again. However there is NO mobile phone reception. This has dented my BlackBerry habit substantially (possibly this is a good thing)

Costs: I didn't spend much, but I took advantage of the kitchen. It's pretty tourist oriented if you go out to eat. Accommodation was good in Cambria, but it's ridiculously expensive in the Big Sur itself (and this is coming from a Londoner)

Attitude: Lovely. See above!
Good places to work from: I was wi-fied up in my accommodation in the evenings, however spent the days out walking (and being photographed by Chinese tourists, oddly), so can't really comment.
Conclusion: I love it. A nice place to come to be a recluse, however you'd have to be ok with no mobile, and needing a car. 
Follow Marianne's Free Range Adventure by weekly email here! (plus you'll get free tips on how to make the Free Range lifestyle happen for you too)
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