JULY 2010 – Reposted after learning the passing of Carol in Dec 2018. Rest in peace, you legend.
*This post may seem familiar…if so, that means you read my entry to My Destination’s travel competition over a year ago (and I love you for that). I recently came across the article that inspired this post and wanted to remind myself about the catalyst that changed my way of thinking.*
I love to surf. I’m not the greatest – far from it – but catching that first wave creates a powerful addiction. It’s the closest thing to becoming one with nature; like floating on air. You’re trusting nature to carry you forward, letting go of everything you rely on most…it’s exhilaration and faith in its purest form.
Like life, surfing is more about the journey than the destination. And it was surfing that led me to one of my most memorable human connections.
This tale didn’t start with a beautiful backdrop on an exotic beach. It started where some of the best stories begin: deep in the pages of a magazine at a Barnes and Noble bookstore.
It was another weekend in my mundane corporate life. I was studying for my CPA, despite spending my days daydreaming about more. More adventure, more purpose. A copy of Surfer’s Journal Magazine caught my eye on the table next to mine; naturally, I couldn’t resist the urge to procrastinate on debits and credits and get lost in a daydream about crushing some nice waves. I wasn’t prepared for what I would find inside those pages. I came upon an article about a woman named Carol Schuldt, a lifelong California surfer who still body surfed every single day of her life… despite being 70 plus years old. She owned a big, pink house on the beach, and her generosity was beyond measure. She believed that EVERYONE should be able to live near the ocean, despite the ridiculous prices, so she opened her home to younger generations who couldn’t afford living on the beach. The article spoke about her passion for the ocean, and that manifestation in her actions. The way a trail of sand followed her everywhere she went, and her unwavering love for the earth.
I was entranced. What was it like to feel that passion for something?
That’s when I remembered why I’d gone to the bookstore in the first place…to continue my pursuit up the corporate ladder. See, society conditions us to do the things we do; but every once in a while, a daydream will remind us of our true desires, which we often overlook.
It was then, at that moment that I decided to leave Corporate America, pursue my passion, and start over…It began with a flight to Cambodia.
In my mind, when someone inspires you to do more, to think differently, you need to follow that inspiration. You need to let people know that they’ve changed everything. I promised myself that if I ever went to California, I would thank Carol for her inspiration.
Years later (yes, years), I was on a road trip up California’s Pacific Coast Highway, armed with nothing but a picture of Carol’s house from the article. I told my friends we were going to make a quick stop to meet Carol. They laughed. I didn’t. We drove up and down that beach until I finally spotted it: the Pink House.
My heart was racing. Was I really about to knock on a complete stranger’s house because of a magazine article? Yes. Something about the way the article was written made me feel less like a complete weirdo; like she would understand.
Nobody answered the door and I was completely crushed. I had built up my excitement, and it deflated like a balloon in seconds.
Just then, my friend noticed a card on a tree across her house. The card read: “If you have any questions on this tree, please call Carol at this phone number.” I remembered reading about Carol planting trees across the great highway, and then it clicked. Fate did not disappoint – I had a phone number! I called and learned she was out in the garden. Walking in, I told her about the article I read and while I hoped she wouldn’t think I was a complete creep, I was really inspired by her and wanted to meet her. True to my gut, she welcomed me in warmly and listened to my story. She far surpassed my expectations and was humbled learning of her influence, simply by living her life. We sat and spoke for hours and her words continue to inspire me to this day. She even offered me – a complete stranger – room in her home in case I didn’t have a hotel. And that’s when I knew that trusting my instinct was the right move.
It may seem crazy, it may seem whimsical, but this random journey re-affirmed the realization of what my subconscious had unknowingly led me to so long ago at that bookstore: don’t ignore those daydreams. Sometimes they’re telling us something we don’t even know we need to hear.