Jack Deluoz, a celebrity who is tired from loads of parties, tries to get away for a few peaceful days at a famous canyon, called "Big Sur." He arrives at night, and is in fear of his surroundings. Instead of being filled with peace and happiness, his isolation and the wild nature give him a bad feeling. During the trip, Jack tries to find Buddha in the sounds of crashing waves and leaves, but it just isn't there. He writes what he feels is the voice of the ocean, which later becomes a poem called, "Sea." Soon enough he hears the ocean saying: "Go to your desire, don't hang around here." This statement, to a Buddhist like Jack, is an odd one. But he follows his desire, and goes back to San Francisco to get wasted whole-heartedly.
Though he didn't stay at Big Sur as long as he wanted, Jack still found a sort of spiritual meaning to the visit. This helped him think that his life does have a meaningful purpose. Throughout the story Jack never does find happiness. .
Once back in San Francisco, Jack finds out that his cat Tyke has died. Tyke was a symbol for Dulouz of a younger brother dying in his early childhood. Jack is extremely upset, and feels like some mythical being is playing a big trick on him. The only thing he thought to do was to get into the nearest bar and come out unable to stand. .
Jack finds some old friends who try to cheer him up, but they soon find that another close friend is in his deathbed. Dave Wain, Cody Pomeray, Lorenz Monsanto, Pat McLear, and Arthur Ma while visiting George Baso (dying), decide to go back to Big Sur with Jack. This group of friends with Jack has made him a lot happier, which makes the trip and the cabin a lot more enjoyable. They have a good time together, and in the late nights, Arthur, who is also a Buddhist, and Jack write Zen poems. The group goes back to San Francisco, excluding Jack, who stays behind hoping to find that bit of happiness and peacefulness he has been searching for.