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(Last Updated On: January 14, 2021)

It has been a year and 2 days since I left the state I had lived in my whole life. I can’t help but reflect on my travels and how that journey shaped me.   When I started my journey with my hometown in the rearview mirror (so cliché), I was so focused on the outcome of being somewhere else. A fresh start, with new possibilities and raw dreams. That was the mantra I used to distract myself from the pervasive, terrifying thoughts of “What am I doing??” as I crossed state border after border.  I had not given much thought to the adventures I was about to experience that would forever change me.

Phase 1: Anxiety. The first leg of my road trip was a 14-hour drive to Lincoln, Nebraska. My poor mom received many delirious phone calls when I burned through all my podcasts and couldn’t listen to my music playlist yet again. The thought of getting back in my car made me want to scream. My car was packed to the brim and I felt claustrophobic; trapped with everything I owned and my disconcerting thoughts. Packing all your belongings into a vehicle really makes you appreciate what material things you can live without. I will say thank-you to my mother who somehow coerced me to drag my food processor across 12 states (life really is simpler with it).

Phase 2: Doubt and Excitement. And then it happened. The disheartening, nauseatingly flat landscape gave way to mountains. The slopes and ridges insidiously creeping up on the horizon as I neared Denver. It hit me in Denver, where I stayed with a friend from Graduate school, that I didn’t have a legitimate reason for leaving my home state when questioned. Not that I needed an excuse or reason, but it proved to be a little awkward, and instilled self-doubt. I found myself “Donald-Trump-Style” circling around words that never actually answered anyone’s questions: “Why did you leave?”, “Where are you going”, “For how long?” Um. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

Art day at Sand Flats

Phase 3: Reflection and Validation. Often when you just up and leave your hometown, friends, and family, people assume “Ah, running from your problems?” I had no “problems” in Michigan. I had a great life there, with a really good job, and with amazing friends. It was almost a subconscious yearning for something different, as if my soul felt it didn’t belong in the Midwestern-cookie-cutter lifestyle. Go to school, get a job, buy a house, get married and have kids! Oh, and do this all before you are 30 years old. HAH. I began putting my life on hold for “when I move west”. I self-sabotaged every promising relationship with a guy and changed my phone number WAY too often. I made sure nothing could tie me down.

Sunset at Sand Flats in Moab, Utah

Phase 4: Nostalgia and Hunger. Now here I am, sitting in my apartment in Seattle, feeling the beginning stages of the travel bug once again. The anxious-like-tickle that kind of starts in your feet and warms your chest. I think back to the days blurring together. Setting up my tent and tearing it down day after day, national park after national park, as I ventured towards this new life in the west. It changes you. You realize how big the world is and how small you are. How incredible the earth is, and the importance of protecting it. Simple things are the nicest things. Genuine humans are not as rare as you think.

Phase 5: Action and Repeat. Maybe I am not made for routines and habits of the 9-5 world. I truly don’t believe anyone is. I would be perfectly content waking up somewhere new every morning. It is more than that though. When you travel, you learn; about yourself, about the world, about values, and about perspective. This influences your actions and pervades your thoughts. It makes you a better person.  It makes me sad when I hear people say, “I wish I could travel like you did, but my life is just too complicated”. Uncomplicate it. After experiencing this shift in attitude, priorities, and values, I find myself telling people: If you really want it, you will do what it takes to make it happen. I bet I could negate any excuse you come up with, but you don’t have to believe me, go find out for yourself.

Comment where you would road trip to if you could go anywhere. Tell me what would hold you back.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Miller on September 8, 2017 at 2:51 am

    I love this post!

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