Tag Archives: Esalen

In search of a calmer karma

Friday 3 to Sunday 5 October
Esalen, Californian Coast, USA

Several months ago, when we first began planning this trip, Simon read the (excellent) advice that one should aim to gather experiences, not sights. After all, we are going to a lot of places just by the very nature of our travels; it is what we do in those places that will really be memorable.

So we looked out for one-off, can’t-get-this-anywhere-else opportunities, which is how we found ourselves at Esalen. After all, what could be more Californian than a weekend workshop on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at the original hippie hang-out?!


Esalen occupies a particularly stunning section of the Californian coast. The institute was established in 1962, and was the birthplace of the “human potential movement”. Today, it hosts a range of courses and workshops, as well as providing a beautiful retreat. Its facilities include accommodation, a farm, a kitchen that produces the most delicious fresh food and hot springs.




We were fascinated by the incredible wildlife, including the hummingbirds (which sound like a jet engine when they pass close by) and blue jays. The monarch butterflies were amazing, too; far bigger than the ones at home. They apparently migrate over 2,000 miles each year to their breeding grounds in Mexico.



We also met some lovely people, including fellow Brit Rich (we bonded over tea, of course), who is travelling around the world visiting “intentional communities” and blogging about what he finds.

Video of the day
If you are wondering what mindfulness is all about, this video should enlighten you!

PS Thanks to Ed, and to Helen (who took me to The Orange Tree) for originally piquing our interest in mindfulness.


Travelling through California

Thursday 2nd October – Friday 3rd October
San Diego to Esalen, USA

From San Diego, we moved north through California, to a place called Esalen (of which more in our next post). The journey was simply spectacular, and the photos just don’t do it justice, but here’s a bit about what we saw.

Train journey, San Diego to Salinas
An early start on Thursday – the alarm went off at 4.30am! Our train from San Diego (called the Pacific Surfliner) was at 6.05am. As we left the city we followed the coast and watched the sun rise over the beaches to the north of the city. There were plenty of surfers already in the water as the sun rose.



We had a short time at Los Angeles station, before we boarded the Coast Starlight, which goes all the way to Seattle.


Travelling through the sprawl of Los Angeles seemed to take an age (we must have spent at least an hour in total passing through the city and its suburbs). But eventually we left the suburbs behind, passing huge amounts of agriculture.


And, especially in the Santa Barbara area, beaches and bays one after another.




The Coast Starlight train, and Joanna in the Sightseer Lounge Car.



We finally arrived at our stop, Salinas, at 8pm. Salinas is an agricultural centre in California, and was the hometown of the author John Steinbeck.

Bus and van journey, Salinas to Esalen
A slow start on Friday, and after a long sleep we headed to Salinas Transit Center to catch a local bus to Monterey, where we had a chance to relax for a few hours.


We were picked up in Monterey, and driven south to Esalen along the coast road in Big Sur – surely one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The road winds along the coast, giving the most beautiful views of the bays and beaches along the way.

All in all, the most spectacular journey imaginable!

Fact of the day
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