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Sometimes you just need to go where nobody knows your name.

Recently for me, that place was Southern California.

California, that lovely land where the humidity stays thin but the dreams are thick enough you can cut them with a knife. It’s an enchanting place. Like a siren on the beach, drawing you in closer and closer only to leave you dashed across her shores.

Los Angeles is a maddening city. This is my fourth trip to So-Cal and the only time I’ve rented a car. If the cost of living didn’t keep me away from LA, the traffic definitely would. My main reason for braving the insanity this time was to visit my good friend Joe, who is trying to have a go of this whole “making it big” thing in Hollywood. We both agreed that if you weren’t pursuing a dream in this crazy city, you’d be right mad to only subsist here.

So, in the interest of being true to our country-boy roots, we absconded and headed north up the coast in search of inner reflection and a few worthy tales to tell. We straddled the PCH for several hundred miles and touched down in Malibu, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and a few other exotic locales (to us, anyways). It was refreshing and dare I say, enlightening. I think the Pacific coast has a way of engendering such notions in we common, landlocked folk.

Before I left, I started reading Donald Miller’s “Through Painted Deserts””. At one point he talks about the need to leave what is familiar before you can truly see your situation in life for what it is:

It’s interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal.

I’ve found that I need these little retrospectives now and again. It re-establishes my place in life. It re-formats my mind and resets my defaults back to zero. Back to where they no doubt should be. Life is too big and too fast for us to let it slip by without absorption.

I think we could all use a good trip up the coast when we start to feel ourselves losing grip on things. Just a simple excursion where you don’t give a thought to where you’re going or when you get there. A chance to just appreciate the journey for what it is and let the destination figure itself out.

Just don’t get any funny ideas about actually staying there.

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Ryan Straits



Ghost States

The art of the in-between

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