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.