Going it Solo Down South in Baja
Klean Ambassador Sean Jansen chronicles his journey on the Baja peninsula: surfing, fishing and exploring alone, showing how there is a certain comfort in travelling solo that can be just as rewarding as shared experiences with friends.
I almost pulled the plug on the trip. Sitting throughout the cold, dark, and snowy Montana winter all I dreamt about were sunny skies, long swell lines of surf, and crystal clear warm water. But my own personal fear and doubt nearly talked me out of the trip. But I remembered the swirling depression of over working in snowy mountains and a quote I learned long ago, “If you don’t take a step towards fear, you’ll always turn around and run away afraid.” And with that ethos, I strapped the boards to the car and meandered my way towards fear.
I don’t really know why the butterflies in my stomach were overwhelming at times prior to the trip. In fact, I nearly fainted at the local Walmart re-stocking for the trip a day prior. I used to thrive on coming down to Baja, chasing swells and getting away from CDC guidelines and all other popular news propaganda warnings. But each trip over the past 15 years had always been with a buddy or a group of friends. This trip I wanted to do solo. I learned long ago that simply because no one wants to go with you, never meant you shouldn’t go. With that powering my engine, I’ve backpacked in bear country alone, surfed shark infested waters, and paddled to remote shores with only curiosity and a map as bedfellows. Never have I let someone declining a trip invitation stop me from achieving my own success and for the last five years, I began halting my invitations and steadily wandered on my own.
I wanted Baja to be amongst that list of solo endeavors to check off, and with each mile driven further and further south, deeper and deeper into the second longest peninsula on the planet, the curiosity and excitement were the crane on my personal construction site, lifting fear and depression foundations off my shoulders.
I learned long ago that simply because no one wants to go with you, never meant you shouldn’t go.
Baja is a little longer than the state of California. In California, there are major interstates and five lane highways that can test our speedometers and get us to our destinations in astonishing time. Driving Baja is like taking Highway One through Big Sur for 36 hours straight. One lane, blinding curves, no service for safety or entertainment, and traffic consists of constant military check points, and the free-range cattle that are oblivious to the high beams and horn blows. Are the roads paved in Baja? Makes me giggle even asking and writing the question. Construction will divert you onto washboard roads that I’ve comically coined as the, “dirt road massage.” The roads that are paved are laden with potholes big enough to do serious damage. But these roads lead to some of the best waves I’ve ever seen, the best food I’ve ever eaten, and some of the prettiest desert and mountain scenery on the planet. One of these roads led me to my first therapy session for my fear and depression, and a peeling right hand point brake was prescribed by my Mother Nature Psychiatrist.
After hours of driving down a bumpy dirt road, I was salivating. Not because I was thirsty, which I was and grateful that Klean Kanteen hooked me up with all the water holding and coffee swirling kit I would need for the trip. But rather because my trip was coincidentally timed with one of the biggest swells to hit for the year, and I had just seen my first waves of the trip and my home for the next week.
The wind is always strong in Baja, but usually straight offshore and perfectly placed for the long groomed swell lines marching into its bays and beaches. The rocks on the shoreline are sharp and rugged, but wetsuit booties covering your feet prevent injuries. The desert sun is brutal but sunscreen saves the day. But none of that is a thought of after hours of slogging through the desert to see 200-yard waves peeling through the point to greet your journey. With marathon sessions of a wave after wave conveyor belt it’s hard to bring yourself to come in despite the sun brunt lips, wetsuit rash, and noodles for arms. But nothing a few more waves and some Al Pastor tacos can’t fix. The drumbeat continued for over a week. Constantly groomed swell lines travelling from thousands of miles away were worth every doubt, second thought, and butterfly attempting to flap me away from this desert bliss.
Going it alone teaches you things. Teaches you to get out of your comfort zone. Either to ignore the voice in your head, or to write down that thought to cherish for future inspiration. Teaches you it’s ok to feel discomfort but reminds you to grow on it. Teaches you to learn by watching, learn by doing. Learn your discomforts and thrive in them, learn your joys and do your best to repeat them. Ask strangers for help or learn it through failing over and over. It’s ok to be indecisive with your choice of a campsite or get excited about the evening without a reservation. To be ashamed of yourself when you feel guilty for something or most importantly, be proud of yourself for doing something new no matter how great or minuscule.
Going it alone I discovered is a super power. I had trust in my Subaru to help power me there, trust in my prior knowledge to remind me of what to expect, and trust in my physical health that I was more than capable of accomplishing my goals. I doubted my mind but learned to overcome it by meditating on the joys of the trip other than the worries. I turned off panicked messages and words from loved ones who doubted my safety and cranked up the volume of the healing that can be done.
The ultimate lesson learned was that I was never alone after all. With a generous offering from a fellow traveler my surfboard was saved from imminent doom. The morning chirps from local birds sung their sweet good mornings to my ears everyday. The passing dolphins and fish in the shore break frolicked and said hello with their presence. And lastly, the incredibly friendly Mexican people always smiled and offered fish caught or fresh tortillas, cautioned changing road conditions with hazard lights or flashing high beams to warn of something concerning up ahead.
I have no proof of my trip beyond the scribbled words of my journal and a self-timed camera on my tripod giving glimpses of what I rode. But all I really needed from this trip was proof to myself that I was capable with memories to cherish, and that to me is worth more than anything. Going it alone and being ok with it and not just ok, but thriving on it with more of what’s to come.