We flew back Saturday night after turning in our (considerably dirtier) rental car in San Francisco. I stared out the tiny oval window of the airplane at some of the same roads I’d taken over the past two weeks (which felt like two months) and had a stronger affinity towards gazing those winding paths than watching the in-flight movies. The feeling of sitting at home right now is difficult to describe. When I went on my first big road trip, and spent those 5 weeks feeling freer than I thought I could feel, coming back “home” was positively heartbreaking. At the time, I didn’t have an apartment or a job, as I’d given those things up in order to see what that kind of freedom tasted like. I relied only on the hope that nothing would go wrong. I remember lying in bed at Katie’s parents’ house the night before we left (our temporary home between our apartment and our travels) and feeling so anxious about what I’d gotten myself into that I could barely even be excited. Part of me didn’t even think it would really happen…I thought that something, somehow, would prevent us from actually going. Somehow I’d wake up and realize that this was a stupid idea and that I was being reckless.
I’ve never been big on change. It’s always comforted me to be sure of what was coming next and be able to plan it out to excess. To predict complications ahead of time so that I could pre-plan my means of overcoming them. To never put myself in a situation that I wasn’t completely sure would succeed. To rely on consistency.
Traveling to me was interesting and fun when I was younger, but something wakes up inside of you when you first set out on the road the way we did. Something wakes up that never goes back to sleep. It swims through your bloodstream and becomes essential for breathing, existing, flourishing. It’s the thing that causes the pit of your stomach to ache when you don’t have it…when you physically yearn for it. Traveling by car means seeing all the things that most people try to skip over when they go away. The open roads. The empty fields in the middle of nowhere. The abandoned houses. The tractor trailers and rusted pickup trucks. The towns with less than 300 people in them. The vast nothingness. The fear of being lost. The silence.
These are the things that I’ve fallen in love with. The in-betweens. The things that you can’t categorize and that you didn’t know existed. The places you never thought you’d ever end up. The way it feels to wake up in the morning and not be entirely sure where you’ll fall asleep that night, just that it’s somewhere new. The fact that despite believing that you were “cultured” and aware of diversity in your life, that you realize you didn’t have a clue about how many different ways people could live on the grounds of one single, united country. Learning that trusting strangers is not always naive, and that sometimes your “independence” can be isolating you. Blasting the car radio with the windows down, screaming into the openness—like a child with nothing to lose. These are the things that you’ll always hold on to…The highs that you’ll keep on chasing.
These trips don’t feel like vacation to me, because being on the road feels more like “home” than home does, and being in one place has a fascinating ability to feel foreign to me now. No matter what, my heart will always live inside the pages of a road map, chasing secrets with my headlights down the endless gravel…