A Tripping Interview- Susan Caster's Big Sur Adventure

Susan Caster recently won a two night stay at a Tripping vacation rental as part of our “I'd Rather Be Tripping" Sweepstakes which she used to fly out to California in August and spend a weekend in Big Sur with her daughter. This interview chronicles her adventure. All pictures shown here were provided courtesy of Susan.

Tell us a little about your story. Where did you go on your trip?

I was with the Peace Corps in Ghana for four years before embarking on a career as a teacher and principal. However, my first passion was science, and after some soul searching, I found a way to pursue a new, socially conscious career in the sciences. I am currently working with a Natural Resources Department in Georgia on a turtle conservation, evaluating their habitat and studying their behavior.

My daughter works in San Francisco, and when I won this vacation with Tripping, I contacted her to find a trip that we could take together. I flew out to California to see the West Coast after a long time away and become a little closer to nature. I spent my first weekend in San Francisco with my daughter. We then embarked on our adventure to Big Sur. Afterwards, I volunteered at Point Reyes for a week doing invasive plant removal, and finally traveled East for a week in Yosemite before heading back home to Atlanta, Georgia.

What do you remember most about your journey?

This trip was really a celebration of survival. About a year before, I had been diagnosed with cancer. It came as a shock to me and my family. That said, I was optimistic I would be able to fight through it. After a long road, chemotherapy, treatments, and then recovery, I was declared cancer-free. The treatment process was a difficult one for me and as a result, I was really excited to celebrate my achievement.

Though I'd been to California before, I wanted to see the my daughter's home and experience the remarkable wildlife surrounding San Francisco. Ultimately, my time there was so inspiring that I'm already planning to make a trip back to explore the Pacific Coast Trail.

My trip was filled with beautiful sights of the flora, fauna, vistas, and of course, the Pacific Ocean. In Georgia, we don't have those big swaths of undeveloped old growth forest like California has. It was wonderful to see that conversationists there have worked so hard to protect these beautiful natural places outside of San Francisco.

One of the most memorable moments of my trip happened while I was volunteering at Point Reyes, I saw dolphins and harbor seals from close by, and thought, “it doesn't get better than this." It was a magical experience, that's how it was the whole time I was in California.

What were some highlights from your weekend in Big Sur?

We drove down the scenic Pacific Highway 1 and made a couple of pit stops in Santa Cruz and Castroville to try their famous artichokes on the way down to Big Sur from San Francisco. The drive itself was breathtaking. It really leaves quite an impression on you with tremendous views of the cliffs, vast expanses of mountain landscapes, rolling roads, and the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

During our first morning in Big Sur, we drove down to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, one of the many state parks you'll find in Big Sur. It was quite a weekend. One of the highlights was seeing the harbor seals at Bird Rock. Aside from being absurdly adorable, the opportunity to see wildlife and be able to interact with it in it's natural habitat is pretty remarkable. I would recommend this route to anyone traversing Big Sur.

Another highlight was the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive. I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the local guides, but I loved how they took care to make our trip more immersive. They pointed out individual landmarks, including the Lone Cypress tree. I was really impressed with the size and history associated with the location.

How was your experience with your Tripping rental?

Our rental home was in Heart Circle Mountain in Big Sur, California. It was a charming two-story house with redwood trees throughout the property, hammocks situated in the back yard, and a jacuzzi we could use as desired. My bedroom was upstairs and had a skylight with a view of the nearly-full moon – it was so beautiful I didn't want to go to sleep!

We had a bit of trouble finding the house key when we got there, but although the owners were out of town, they responded promptly to our email to help us find it. They did a great job providing us with privacy and the space to get more comfortable. There was a notebook with instructions covering anything we might need.

The little things were what really made the experience. When we arrived, there were flowers on the table and Ghirardelli chocolates left for us. There was a TV upstairs with Planet Earth videos for us to watch during the night and we actually took some time and watched a few episodes.

There were small trails leading away from the home with a table and another hammock situated at the end of each one for us to relax in and get cozy.

Do you have any final thoughts about your experience on Tripping?

Having this vacation rental made the trip a lot more convenient and it also made it possible for us to do more than we would have otherwise! A huge thank you to Tripping for providing me with the experience of a lifetime.

Visit Tripping to find your own perfect vacation rental in Big Sur or any of our other top destinations.

This post was written by Carole Baden, Tripping blogger.