In the ‘70s and ‘80s, California surfers Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson went on a global odyssey that included Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, France, Spain, Ireland, Mexico, Barbados, and Fiji. Both wrote, Peterson shot photos, their travel articles appeared in Surfer magazine. They were a spur in the same way that The Endless Summer was, maybe even more so. A perfect, empty right seen through the crack of a tent pitched on an empty beach; an old car with a surfboard strapped to the roof winding through grassy hills, pumping left reef break in the distance; a beach camp fire with glassy barrel in the background—Naughton and Peterson made you want to swan dive into the exotic.
I encountered these pieces in my teens. I was a high school student in Los Angeles, I had no money—flying off to Africa or Europe was not an option. But I could hop in the car with a few of my surf buddies and head north to Santa Cruz or south to Baja, which I did, as often as possible. And thanks to Naughton and Peterson, I embraced these places as if they were halfway across the world. I was an adventurer, I thought, and I’m on a big adventure, I’m wrapping my arms around the unfamiliar (or, to use more contemporary terminology, I’m ‘getting out of my comfort zone.’). And these road trips delivered. They may have only covered a couple hundred miles, but they were new, or more succinctly, they renewed. They gave me fresh perspective, they reset. They did what traveling ultimately does: they imbued my life with a sense of urgency; they created what I like to think of as 'chapter breaks.'
Road trips are readily available. All you need is a full tank of gas, a few days free, and an open mind. If you live in the city there are oceans, mountains, rivers, rocks, and trees to metaphorically slap you in the face. If you live in the country there are densely-populated hubs of breathing bodies that are their own kind of nature. And then there’s an even more unique way of road tripping.
The artist/former UCLA professor John Baldessari had a game he’d play with his students. He’d pin a map of Los Angeles to the wall, blindfold a student, hand him/her a dart, and have them hurl it at the map. Wherever the dart landed they’d visit on a field trip. Which is to say that the great unknown is right outside your doorstep.