Ah, vacation. A real vacation.

I’d almost forgotten what vacation was. For me the past few years, the ideal vacation was very simple. The idea of going to the beach was enough. Not doing anything, not seeing anybody, a good book, and doing whatever it took to feel like I was just watching time go by. It was like I was looking to be bored, almost.

And Chris, always running around in the background from morning to night with his surfboard and his fishing poles would sometimes ask me what exactly was making me excited about that.

And I’d always respond: Well, I’m excited about DOING NOTHING AT ALL!!! Why?

I think I probably was a little overworked—and I was about to book the “no-nothing-vacay” again, cocktail in one hand and sunscreen in the other when suddenly, between adopting our puppy (we wanted to bring her with us) and Zika virus, the idea of traveling across the world to plant ourselves on an exotic beach didn’t seem so appealing anymore.

So last minute, I suggested a trip I’d always dreamed about—a road trip in California in a VW bus.

Yeah, I’m like that, I’ve got a hippie side to me, ya know. Are you surprised?

Anyway, we made a few last minute arrangements and it was all set. A few weeks later, we were packing our bags.

Or rather, I was trying on all my clothes while my 22-year-old sister, Sacha, looked on, laughing at me. She’s spending the summer in New York and couldn’t understand how her big sister, high priestess of fashion, could get this excited about a camping trip, “how are you going to take a shower, again?”

But that’s just because my sister doesn’t understand anything. A high priestess of fashion sees EVERYTHING as an occasion to concoct a fashion series she can star in.

So this was Fashion Series No. 18 “Garance Goes Camping” happening right before her eyes. And Sacha, know that there are showers at campsites. Oh, and baby wipes exist too.

(At the same time, I’ve been living with my sister for a few weeks now, and well—I know it’s hot in New York and it makes you sweaty, but the number of showers she takes is actually pretty surprising. Like right now, I haven’t walked past the bathroom, but it’s very likely she’s in there taking a shower. Anyway.)

So I was trying to go with a “late 70s, early 80s camping vibe” with vintage tee-shirts and little shorts and big Fruit of the Loom sweaters. I could have gone for a more radical “practical and sexy outdoors girl vibe” (backpack and khaki shorts, Mario Testino is great for photographing that) or an “athleisure and avocado toast” look (yoga pants with a sunset print and a sweater saying “Kale Warrior” on it) but I already had print t-shirts and come on, this was California!!!

Anyway, we took off, with Lulu in our arms, and landed in LA, and a few hours later, we were in our van (for stylistic reasons, I would have preferred it to be vintage and colorful, but for practical reasons, it was from the 90s, had AC and could make it up a hill).

Shoot. Where was I with this post, and what was my point…?

OH YEAH sorry. Vacation, THE REAL KIND.

We left with a twinkle in our eyes and a few places in mind to visit, but nothing actually booked. Yes, you read that right. It was the middle of July and we had absolutely no idea where we were going to spend our nights.

No because a van is nice and yes, you can sleep in it, but you have to be able to park it somewhere. Bah.

I admit, and it’s really not to sound cool or whatever, but I have to say, I was chill. In the past, unplanned trips were kind of my specialty.

I hitchhiked all over Europe, camped in Portugal, traveled around Corsica with a tent and a scooter, and one day (ok, it was after a huge party and we don’t really know how we ended up there) but one day my friends and I even slept on a roundabout.

We didn’t realize it was a roundabout. We thought it was a little quiet spot to park our car and rest before driving the next day. In the morning, we woke up to the sound of honking around what was in fact a roundabout during rush hour right in the middle of Barcelona.

Chris, who I hope is not reading this post right now (Hey babe, I made banana bread, it’s in the kitchen and it’s super yummy, go get some)(you can always try distraction, right?) was slightly less cool about it. Maybe because he’s a responsible man who wants to be sure his family has a warm place to sleep, but he was absolutely insistent that we find an official campsite to spend the night. I was kind of in anti-responsible mode “oh come on, we can just pull over anywhere and sleep, we’ll find a campsite when we find a campsite”. But I had no idea how hard it would be to find a place to park along Highway 1. So we were, uh, not exactly the best with our approach to camping.

Let’s just say it was a little tense the first few days. Vacation in adventure mode isn’t for every couple. Basically, we were testing our limits, to put it lightly.

I’d like to take this moment to remind you of my intro and what my vacations had been like for the past few years—beach, beautiful hotel and a caipirinha.

WE WERE FAR FROM IT.

It was still sublime, though. The beauty of the California coast, its sunsets, its happy, jumping dolphins, its sexy surfers its In & Out Burgers (best burger in California) are no myth and our days were pretty close to perfection. We hadn’t even gotten to Big Sur yet, and we were already in paradise.

Plus, my fashion story was going well. My looks were perfect, I even found a little bandana to contain the hair explosion on my head, I was cute, I could see myself getting tan by the minute, and even my pedicure decided faithfully to spend its vacation with me.

One morning, just before we arrived in Big Sur, we stopped at Morro Bay, where there’s a big surfer’s beach that stretches out for miles.

It had already been two days since we’d left LA (Yes, Big Sur is only four hours from LA, but we decided to take our time) and even though our nights weren’t great, packed into average campsites we found last minute, we had started to figure it out: the trick was to start the van as soon as we woke up, get on the road and go have our breakfast on the beach like pros.

The little kitchen in our camper was perfect. I could make my tea, a bowl of fruit and cereal, and Chris made his eggs and bacon. I’d eat his eggs, and especially his bacon, he’d look at me sideways and make more bacon, and all the surfers would watch us in admiration (who is this ideal couple with their adorable dog and VW bus???) and come over to talk to us. (Which is the one thing I love about Americans. No, there are two things: 1) It’s natural for people to talk to others, and natural for other people to talk back 2) when you admire something, you say so instead of just being jealous) and we’d make them coffee (okay, I’m exaggerating a little – I didn’t offer them coffee that often, because in the US, everyone has a coffee grafted to their hand at all times. I’m surprised they haven’t invented a mug that you can hook on your surfboard so you can throw back a cup of Starbucks while catching a wave)

GREAT, RIGHT?

So great. And the best part was, that day in Morro Bay, Chris went to talk to a surfer and came back with something that changed our entire trip: an attachable mug for surfboards the aforementioned surfer’s secret camping spots (which I won’t give you, not even if you threaten me, otherwise I’ll be hated by four generations of surfers and since I’m already not very good at surfing, it could be my demise)

And that’s when our trip went from “ok, this isn’t so bad” to “THIS IS MAGICAL OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU BABY WOOOOOOH!”

Interlude “But why camping, Garance!? Where do you go to the bathroom???”

Okay, I’m going to try to answer this question honestly.

Because I spent three hours on the beach one day trying to find the answer. Where does it come from, this desire to struggle when I could easily go glamping in a yurt at Treebones resort ($800 a night for a probably sublime experience but it’s still in a tent?)

Is this really me?

Haven’t I reached an age where I should be walking around in a mumu by a sexy pool, with oiled skin, looking satisfied with my life?

And I concluded that yes, this is really me. A part of me I haven’t explored very much in recent years, sure, but I did grow up in Corsica in total nature and I’m not afraid to bathe in the sea for a few days (not afraid at all).

But most of all, it’s a part of me that needs adventure, needs to not know what might happen in the next hour. I thought that over the years, I didn’t want that anymore, but ever since I met Chris, who loves nature more than anything, it’s reminded me how much I love it too.

And it also reminded me how easy it is to lose yourself in other people. I won’t say more about that, but more and more, I’m realizing how important it is to stay connected to yourself and not get lost, not forget who you are.

As for going to the bathroom, well, you do what you can!

End of interlude.

So suddenly, with the surfer’s secrets in hand, our nights became just as sublime as our days. The deeper we got into Big Sur, the more we lost our connection with the outside world (figuratively but also literally: we had no phone signal) and the wilder our campsites got, the more sublime it was.

And the less my fashion series worked (it’s cold in Big Sur, you can’t swim in the ocean, and once you get up in the mountains, there’s a dry heat and bugs bite your legs, so the sexy little shorts stayed at the bottom of my bag. As for my pedicure, it started chipping the day I went hiking with my shoes full of sand, and as for my makeup kit, hahahahah is all I have to say about that), the more time went by between showers, and the more I stopped caring, the happier we were, the more connected we were. Connected to ourselves, to nature, to the stars, to our little dog running around like crazy on the immense, empty, gorgeous beaches.

We had lots of small struggles. Our van broke down and right in the middle of our vacation, we had to go back to the city to drop it off and rent a car. My VW bus dream was over, but actually the car was good too. Our dog also got a fish hook in her tongue, but we saved her…

We came back happier, calmer, and more clear-headed than ever.

And dirtier than ever, ok ok.

Big Sur is incredible. And really, really, being in nature nourishes our souls, I’m sure of that. Immersing myself in nature as often as possible has become one of my intentions. But the most amazing part of all was the disconnection, the adventure, the discovery.

The disconnection because it’s crazy how much phones have changed our lives. We are constantly in public, connected to others, and it’s harder and harder to be close to ourselves and those we love, to know what we value, what matters to us…because our brains are crammed with the lives of people we don’t know and things that aren’t really our business. The worst part is we think we’re aware of that—but it’s only when you really disconnect that you understand how addicted we’ve all become. Being cut off from the world for ten days is probably the greatest gift you can give yourself, especially as a couple.

The adventure part because well, even though we weren’t touring the world on a boat or anything, not knowing exactly what would fill our days, not planning anything or organizing anything—that creates new space in your mind and opens the door to surprises…And it’s also a reminder that most of the time, even when you don’t control every single second, things usually go pretty well.

Vacation, real vacation, because besides coming back recharged, we came back changed, with a new perspective, a new relationship to ourselves, and I’d even go so far as to say, a new relationship to life.

That doesn’t mean I’ll never go drink cocktails on a beach again, but it means that from time to time, getting away from your habits, and seeing another way of doing things is incredibly important.

If you want to see my photos of Big Sur and the descriptions in detail, you can find them on my Instagram!

Translated by Andrea Perdue