80+ tortillas, 2 jars of peanut butter and 20+ energy drinks
A handful of new friends made
5 bagels, 7 muffins and 4 bananas taken from a Hampton Inn
Countless new experiences, lessons learned and adventures had
I’ve had a couple of days back in Maryland to try and settle back in and look back again on this trip. I did the math, mostly out of curiosity to get the stats from this trip. Miles and hours driven, gas used, states crossed, tortillas eaten… After having done all of that, it just became even more evident to me that the trip as a whole was absolutely unquantifiable. No set of numbers can describe this experience. No maps or data can really convey the nature of this journey. The way that this trek made me feel was both emotionally and physically draining and yet revitalizing. The adventures that we went on, everywhere that we explored. The gourmet meals we prepared, such as campfire pasta and an array of tortilla combos – peanut butter and Nutella, bananas, potato chips, granola, Taco Bell hot sauce… Any and all combinations you could think of. Sounds good, doesn’t it? That became our comfort food. All of these things (and more) formed every experience and every day on the road. I don’t have words to describe what an experience this trip was. I can try, but I don’t feel like anything I could come up would stand up to what it really was. I’m just happy to be back home (and in a real bed) so that I can begin a whole new adventure.
“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
– Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
While on this trip back to Maryland, I’ve really come to realize how much of a hindrance expectations can be to an experience. Regardless of if it’s a positive or negative expectation, it’s unnecessary. There’s no reason to base what’s to come from past happenings or maybe on something that you think may occur in the future. Then, the concept of remaining in the present comes back. I’ve written about that before, but everything I’m learning and unlearning is connected. That’s starting to become apparent more and more to me; everything is connected and everything has a balance.
Whether it’s something as basic as a seemingly silly stereotype or something more complex like “What am I going to do with my life?”, I feel like I need to start letting go of those expectations and attachments. There were several instances on this trip where Bryant and I would find ourselves in potentially unfriendly and uncomfortable situations, based on where we were in the country. Granted, it was usually a bit over-exaggerated and done somewhat jokingly. However, being the only people of color and the only ones without camo and confederate flag embellishments wasn’t the most welcoming of atmospheres. That being said, we had gone into a couple of these environments hesitantly, with a “let’s just do what we have to do and get out” kind of mentality and were proven wrong in the best ways. The clerk at a gas station in Texas went out of his way to make a fresh cup of coffee for Bryant when we stopped late one night. We were in the middle of a 700+ mile trek from New Mexico to San Antonio and were beyond exhausted. Not only did this guy offer to make some coffee just for us, he also gave it to us for free for being patient for waiting. That definitely wasn’t my first guess at how that would go, us walking into a tiny gas station in the middle of Who-Knows-Where, Texas at 10 o’clock at night. Just the other night we were so hungry on the road and had gotten sick of tortillas and peanut butter – which we were running low on anyways – so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Tennessee. We had just passed an area on the highway where we just saw one confederate flag after another, which didn’t feel like the town would have good vibes. We walked in and were immediately greeted by the host and manager with big, genuine smiles. It was such a warm, friendly and fun environment. I’ve still got to remember to write them a good Yelp review. Those were just a couple of small instances where my expectations and the stereotypes that have been ingrained in my head were proven wrong by some really good people.
Situations like that have shown me that you really never know what might come of a situation and to go in with an open mind. When looking at the bigger picture, I often question myself and the possibilities for my future. It’s a pretty daunting thing, the future. I overthink and stress about it way too much. But why? It doesn’t even exist. I could set expectations or create scenarios of how things will go, but to what end? That will be of no benefit to me. I’m trying to learn to release some of the anxiety and tension that I have and be more open-minded and free in every facet of my life right now.
As we make our way to the East Coast, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this trip. I have learned a lot of things in the last few weeks. I reaffirmed that I love being on the road. I love the freedom we have, I love the change of scenery and I love the people that we’ve met. Everything is new and unexpected. So many things I never expected I would do in my life. I never thought that I would be so overjoyed to pay $2 for a shower. It was a privilege to do so. I never thought that I would become a master at making my “bed” in the backseat of a sedan at whichever Walmart was “home” that night. This trip has been unbelievable and wonderful, even as it’s coming to its end.
We’ve stopped at a cute little coffee shop so I could write a bit and to take a break. Okay fine, it’s just a Starbucks. I was trying to be hip but it’s 2017 so there’s Starbucks everywhere and they have free wi-fi and iced tea, give me a break. Back to the point – here are a few of the things that I’ve learned from this trip:
Being on the road has led me to appreciate certain things that we normally would take for granted. Easy access to restrooms and running water, for instance. The lack of public restrooms in certain areas was surprising (and unfortunate. Sorry, TMI). We’ve been brushing our teeth with bottled water. I literally washed our 3-day old dirty dishes in a bathtub. Wi-fi!! It’s been hard to adjust to not having wi-fi all the time. I’m a millenial, what do you expect? Gosh.
Although this trip has been great and full of amazing new experiences, it had its rough patches. As novel and liberating as living on the road is, it takes its toll. It can be really stressful after a long day to not know where we would be sleeping. Some Walmarts don’t allow overnight parking, which we really relied on. A lot of campgrounds are walk-up only and we wouldn’t arrive until after dark. We didn’t always plan or expect for that, so a couple of times we’ve been SOL without a place to sleep. We’d be scrambling to find somewhere, exhausted, late at night in an unfamiliar location. We always made it work though.
That’s another important thing I’ve learned about road tripping – who you’re with is really what dictates how the trip is going to go. Regardless, living on the road is going to be hard. That’s just a fact. There aren’t always ways to plan everything and even if there are, they rarely work out the way we would expect. We’ve spend days’ worth of time just driving (and getting lost). We would go days without a shower or a good hot meal. It’s draining and frustrating. Despite these trials, both of these treks have been more successful than I could have imagined. I got really lucky. Bryant and I work really well as a team and complement each other. We made it through obstacle we came across. Even when things got tense and we both were exhausted and irritable, we could take that step back to clear our minds and re-evaluate. Making the journey cross-country with limited funds and resources was daunting, but I had a good road trip buddy by my side.
Spending one night car camping after another did get pretty old. Just another night that my entire body will hold against me. I never really realized just how lucky I was to have a bed to come home to every night. It doesn’t even have to be a nice bed, just something other than the trunk of a car. The aches and pains have been (somewhat) alleviated by our daily hikes and excursions though. Whether it be a park, trail, historic downtown area or what have you, we made it a priority to divide the day with some type of exercise.
I’m going to wrap up real quick since we’re about to get back on the road and head to Memphis, TN. I’ll update when I can, but I’m just so excited to be home next week.
We’re using today as an “off-day” of sorts. Getting some errands done – laundry, stocking up on tortillas and peanut butter, cleaning the car a bit. Just spending time in and around the city, it’s so crazy just how different everything is here compared to back in Maryland. The landscapes, the weather (specifically the absolute lack of humidity), the people, the architecture… It’s definitely new and refreshing.
Last night we had driven about 6 hours straight from Fresno to Las Vegas. We did the basic tourist-y things when we arrived around midnight. We took a picture next to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and we drove down the Strip and then called it a night at a local Walmart.
I had originally planned to spend today doing some of the common activities in Vegas (don’t worry, Mom – we would have skipped the strip clubs and casinos anyways). This morning we weren’t really feeling it. We kind of had a vague idea of what we wanted to do and then even that changed. That’s one thing that I really appreciate about being on the road. Not having a strict itinerary or schedule. We can do whatever we want. We prioritized and instead of wandering downtown among the commercial and the excess, we’re getting done what needs to get done and then we’re headed to the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. Even though I know it to be true, sometimes I need to remind myself that being outdoors is always healthier for me. As much as I do enjoy spending time in cities checking out iconic spots, when it comes down to it I always feel better when I spend time in nature.
Waiting at the laundromat usually is no fun, but we are in Las Vegas, which seems to have its own unique spin on things. There are arcade games and slot machines here. We decided to put aside about $15 for the slots and it definitely paid off! I ended up earning over $110 and Bryant got about $0.80. A successful day for sure. Who knew we would walk away from washing our clothes having made a profit? I guess that’s Vegas for you.
After an extended pit-stop in Corvallis, we’re back on the road. As I’m writing this now, we’re leaving Sacramento on our way to Yosemite. We’ll be stopping in Arizona, Nevada and Utah to explore the national parks, New Mexico to make some alien friends and then onward through Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee… Wherever we end up is where we’ll end up. Eventually, we’ll make our way back to the East Coast. Until then, it’s time for all of the adventures and exploring we can manage and more.
Remember that one time that I was like “I moved to Oregon!!” and now I’m referring to my time there as an “extended pit stop”? It’s not that there was anything wrong with Corvallis or with Oregon. It’s not that it didn’t feel like home. Corvallis was a cool place and it gave us the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people. So then why did we leave? Nice place, nice people, good jobs, a nice house… Nothing was wrong. But it just wasn’t right either.
Leaving Oregon had nothing to do with my physical, geographical location, but rather with where I’m at in my own life. In my own mind. As much as a part of me wants to settle down and make somewhere home, I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that. The things I want to learn, discover and grow within myself are infinite. Although my physical location isn’t what really matters for this journey, I feel like going back home to Maryland is the best way to facilitate the process. I am so grateful for my sojourn in Corvallis and for all of the people I’ve made friends with. I’m just as excited that we’re back on the road and get to experience so much as continue to trek across the country. And I truly am excited to go back home to Maryland. I miss spending time with my parents, with my pup, with my friends and really spending time with myself. These past few months have been a whirlwind and I’ve made some of the greatest memories in that time. I’ve learned a lot too. I feel like I have some direction I want to go in now, but I haven’t made the effort to really focus on it. At least not in the way I think that I need to. I plan on doing so much when we get back to Maryland and I am so eager to continue this grand odyssey.
In the meantime, I am going to continue to chronicle this pilgrimage back to Maryland, where the next chapter will begin.
I thought that I would be writing this post while waiting for my flight to DC. Instead, here I am; slouched on a futon in our friend’s living room typing up this post. Things happen, plans change – that’s life. We’ve been running with it from the beginning and it’s been working out pretty well.
Bryant and I traveled over 3,500 miles in 14 days. That’s 12 states, 3 time zones and way too many hours in the car. We did so many incredible, exciting and new things. This definitely was a trip of “firsts”; from Bryant’s first boat ride in New Jersey to my first time at a hot spring in Oregon. We visited some great natural wonders and just about every flea market in between. We now have plenty of memories from this trip that will be with us for this lifetime and the next.
The plan was to leave Maryland on July 26th and drive across the country. We didn’t have much of a plan, except for a few things we definitely wanted to visit along the way. Just so long as we arrived in Oregon in time for my flight back to Maryland on August 9th, we were free to do whatever we wanted. We made it here with a couple of days to spare and spent it with friends, exploring the town. We had all of yesterday to spend with our friends, so we planned an outing and game night followed by an early bed time so I could get up in the morning to head to Portland. A couple of hours into our outing, I felt a pang of emotion. I didn’t want to leave Oregon. But I just said to myself that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to and that’s life. I’d be back later in the year anyways. Hopefully. So I was going to do what I had to do which was get on that plane back to Maryland in the morning. Almost the same moment that thought went through my head, another one came up – I really don’t have to get on that plane back to Maryland. And now here we are.
These past few days have been a whirlwind but I am so excited for what’s to come. Instead of spending my entire day at the airport, waiting in Denver for two hours on my layover back to the DMV, I get to be right here. At home.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past but we can’t relive it; and we hope for the future but don’t know if there is one”
– George Harrison
Time truly is misleading; it can be complicated and confusing. But when it comes down to it, it’s really pretty simple. All we have is right now.
I was originally going to call this blog Sempiternal Ataraxia, meaning an everlasting and eternal feeling of emotional tranquility. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s an impossible and unattainable ideal. Nothing lasts forever. We all wish that some things could and we also wish that some other, less pleasant experiences and feelings would disappear. We can’t control those things and so they’re not worth wasting our energy worrying over. It’s also not worth spending our limited time and energy striving to achieve this non-existent feeling of eternal peace. I think that what really matters is that we try to realize what we have right now. I spent a lot of time – and still spend too much time – worrying about all of the “what ifs” of the future and the regrets from the past. It’s not worth it. You can’t change the past – what’s done is done – and the future doesn’t really exist. I’m working on channeling that energy I would be spending on worrying into experiencing the present. Into right now. Love, beauty and life are multi-faceted. In order to fully experience them, we must feel both the ups and the downs, the joy and the pain. Sometimes we just need to put aside the stress and negativity. Today is a beautiful day. Take the time to embrace it. Live for right now.