I maintain this blog for my own enjoyment. And, when it comes to my enjoyment, it all depends on my mood. I have started and restarted drafts about my road trip thus far, all to a fruitless end.
One of these days I’ll accept the fact that life can’t be perfectly organized and that even if I am a picture of order in my professional life, I prefer chaos when it comes to creativity and expression.
With that said, here’s some disorganized, long-winded thoughts and experiences from my road trip so far.
I’m traveling solo across the United States. I’ve dreamed of throwing up my hands and heading west since I was seventeen. At the time, I thought I could escape all my troubles if I took off to California. I even wrote an obligatory California song about it.
Then at age 24, I, a high-achieving college graduate, lost my job in management during the recession. I ended up unemployed for six months, then waited tables for eight more. When it all happened, I wanted to take off to the Utah desert, but I didn’t. In the end, this life-lull proved serendipitous because it lead me to teaching. However, I couldn’t see that at the time and beat myself up everyday for not escaping out west.
Eventually, after living 9,000 miles from home for two years, I learned that travel does a lot of things, but doesn’t “fix” you or your situation at all.
After acquiring this wisdom, finally, the time is right. To take off. No schedule, no rules, no budget. Just go and figure it out as it happens.
Some Rosy Highlights
About an hour from my first real destination, Denver, I made a last minute decision to take the scenic route (Highway 86). There, I was alone in a landscape I can only describe as “Teletubbies.” These are the moments of exhilaration that travel gives me. I am all alone in a new land, shouting, “I’m a Teletubbie!!!” Then…THEN, I saw it. The first snow-capped mountain of my trip. An squeal of joy came from my little Hyundai. I imagine that the landscape of my heart is filled with snow-capped mountains. I think they’re the most beautiful sight on Earth.
The desert comes alive at sunset. What looks so dry and harsh in the heat of the day turns to a kaleidoscope of color and wonder in the waning light of evening. I watched sagebrush turn teal and sand dunes turn purple in southern Colorado. White Sands, New Mexico appears on the distant horizon as a glowing, hazy white strip amongst the pink of the desert sunset. If you arrive at the right time at Saguaro National Park, you can watch a huge, orange sun sink behind the distant mountains, turning the whole Sonoran desert a rosy pink. A dozen pictures can’t capture these subtle shifts of light.
The little city of Alamogordo stole my heart for whatever reason. Imagine if a classic Route 66 town and the Panama City strip had a a child. Picture old neon hotel signs flashing and imposing, multilayered mountains. Alamogordo is the gateway to White Sands National monument, and it’s also in close proximity to an air force base, missile test range, and the Mescalero Apache reservation. It’s a kind of strange mix of culture and history, and I found it fascinating. While there, I took the time to simply relax and enjoy myself. I understand that this is a vacation, but adventures like this have their fair share of stress. I took a tour on a pistachio farm and pondered what it must be like to live here. I drifted along in the campground’s pool, reflecting on baptismal, watery memories of my youth and who I really am. I made a second, evening visit to White Sands, where my car, Tinkerbell, turned over 100,000 miles in a stormy sunset–rainbows included. It was then, too, that I learned what it felt like to be caught in a sandstorm in bare feet and a tank top. Everything felt new, magical and perfect, and I can’t remember a recent time when I was more content.
I personified cacti. I met one that I metaphorically compared to myself and ended up moved to tears on a beautiful mountain overlook. Life is lovely and complicated.
An interesting solace I’ve stumbled upon on this trip is that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone–especially myself. I had plans of hiking miles and miles for hours through the Rockies. I had my backpack and gear ready. I mean, I’ve done some serious, hard-core adventuring in my day. But that day, I felt sick from the altitude and opted for a drive to the summit and more leisurely strolls. I did hike to the summit of High Dune at Great Sands National Park. High Dune was not Star Dune, the highest point, but hiking in sand is miserable and I was content with my achievement. Because it’s been so hot in New Mexico and Arizona, I’ve been getting an early start in the mornings then hiking until I’m too hot to bother. Maybe it’s only for a couple of hours or for a couple of miles, but that’s okay. I don’t want to die of heat exhaustion all alone in the wilderness.
I’ve accomplished a lot of physical feats and feel like a modern-day warrior when I think back upon them. But, you know what? I don’t have to be a warrior if I don’t want to. I can just wander around if I want. I think that mindset happens in your thirties. You think, “Meh, I’m happy, and that’s good enough.”
So, I guess you’re pretty envious of these glorious adventures. But wait, it’s not all glamorous.
How does it feelTo be without a homeNo direction homeLike a rolling stone
Well, Bob, I feel pretty homeless at times. I’m filling all my water bottles with cold, filtered water at every grocery store/gas station/museum/park that I can. I’m making sandwiches out of the back of my car. I’ve been hunkering down outside of (sometimes closed) business to steal their wifi. I’ve brushed my teeth at a Walmart after sleeping in their parking lot for the night.
The mixture of high elevation, bone-dry air, and temperatures exceeding 100 degrees has wrecked my sinuses, leaving a lot of bloody nastiness in tissues all across this fair country. I also feel that I’m beginning to look like a mountain (wo)man. I’ve got that wild-eyed, desperate, disheveled look of someone who has been displaced from civilization. The hours between 12:00PM and 6:00PM are spent trying to find air conditioning and respite for a very nominal price. At the end of each day, I am caked in sunscreen, sweat, and dirt.
The pictures of me you won’t find on Facebook are those of me setting up my tent when it’s windy, looking more like a furious ship’s captain than a traveler. Or, of me trying to apply sunscreen when I’m so sweaty that I’m sure I’ve become an amphibian.
Anyone who’s tried to travel cheaply and extensively knows that it is sometimes just hard.
I’ve been waiting for the Cambodia leg of my trip. This refers to the month-long Southeast Asia journey I took in 2013. After about 10 days of frantically running from place to place, my friends and I needed to STOP. Cambodia was a hazy, slow meandering: eating at the hotel two out of three meals each day, getting massages, taking naps, reading books in hammocks, and giving in to overpriced milkshake urges. Not surprisingly, it’s the part of the trip that I remember most fondly.
I’m at that place. I’ve traveled through eight states and visited five national parks in eleven days. I don’t feel that I’m rushing. I stay at each place for as long as I want. The desert is beautiful, but unbearably hot and dry in summer. I want a temperate climate with water. I want to take naps and read my books and write down my thoughts while looking at beautiful scenery. Slowly. Somewhere soon, I will find a place that I love, and I will STOP for a while. Maybe I’ll get a cheap motel or hostel.
Alright, kids. The mood is up and that’s all I’ve got for now.