I had only planned to drive 8 hours that day and thought that was going to probably be rough. But at the end of those 8 hours I felt so good and the time had gone by so fast I just decided to keep on driving. The worst part of the drive was the first 4 hours trying to get the hell out of Oklahoma and Texas running away from the flat pastures dotted with cattle, the endless brush lands and the heavy gloom these places put over my head. Once I crossed into New Mexico it was like someone turned the lights on. The clouds scattered, sunshine, desert, road for as far as the eye could see, high speed limits, windows down, sunroof open, music went up. And it was like one of those scenes from a movie, yes I imagine life like pictures and scenes sometimes. Hair whipping around my face, singing at the top of my lungs, tears, and laughing and more tears and yelling and more singing. Wheels turning, miles disappearing behind me, the sun's gleeming rays hitting the sand and pavement, at times blinding and shooting off in a million different directions. I realized just how much shit inside I had to dump. I was alone. Responsible for once for just me. I could focus on myself, drive as long as I wanted, stop wherever I wanted, eat as I needed or felt, listen to what I wanted, scream if I wanted, feel things without thought, let all guards down. I didn't have to be strong for myself or anyone else. I could just be...
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David ThoreauIt was day one of my 18 day trip and it is one of the ones I remember the most clearly.
I've never gotten to take a trip by myself and it wasn't something I thought of ever wanting to do until a couple of years ago. I'm a crazy adventurous soul and all the more so now that I have begun to claim who I am and dig my truest self out of the depths of the dust and cobwebs and embrace that being. Over the last year I imagined what it would be like to adventure on my own. To explore oneself as you explore the world. I love to travel. I am not one to sit in comfort zones at home and pine away life. I have a constant hunger to see things, taste other cultures, experience life. To realize there is so much more to this world than what I have known in the south, than what I have grown up in. To not listen to others experiences of places and take their word for it but to open my mind up to new things and possibilities while experiencing it for myself. When this trip became a possibility it felt too good to dare hope it could be real. That it could happen and when Sam kept pushing the realness of it being able to happen back onto me I would get afraid to hope and trust that this could happen if I wanted it and try and push it back off. Even up to the moment of packing the final bag into my car at 7 am on that Saturday morning and backing out of the driveway I was still thinking, wait am I really doing this and that adrenaline and sheer heart pumping excitement kicked into my being as my wheels started rolling away from this little town.
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton
On into Arizona planning to stop for the night in Flagstaff. As I was driving in here it was getting dark and I was trying to take in the first glimpse on my trip of mountains and lush greenery, tall pines and warm forests that were beginning to surround the interstate. Historic flagstaff at night on a weekend; I walked around for what felt like hours. Neon lights, historic hotels, quaint shops and restaurants and bars with live music from bass cellos, to bands, to vocalists, lined the streets. There were back alleys with strings of twinkle lights and outdoor patios to sit at. There was a kids movie in the park happening that night and the park was filled with families and blankets strewn out in front of the big projector, food carts and balloon carts and laughter and little people noises. Then a passenger train would rumble through the big station there, the pedestrians and cars stopping with the dinging of the railroad crossing mixed with the train whistle blaring, the train cars whizzing bye so close the wind whipped from them around you and you felt you could reach out and touch the crazy movement. I was soaking every light, every sound, every movement in. Opening my mind up to feel. Watching people interacting. Watching every dog out being walked by their owner getting smothered in attention from strangers. I watched the live music through glass fronts the people inside nodding back and forth to the music while others seemingly unaware of it talking amongst themselves. I watched the group of middle aged jolly's roll by on a pedalpub their laughter and shanangans amongst each other contagious and found myself grinning and adding riding one of those things with a group of people onto my bucket list. It all felt right. People moving and living and laughing and being. And I wondered what some of their stories are. Wondered what their lives were like. Wondered what was being those smiles that made them who they are today. The movement and interaction and life. I wanted to meet some of them.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
I was up at the crack of dawn rested though and went on a chilly walk to a cozy little coffee shack and back. But I was just ready to get back on the road again, excited and anxious to drive that just over a hour drive to get to the Grand Canyons for the day.
“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya StarkI drove slower than christmas through the winding roads taking in the tall trees and stopping for picture or two. It was a foggy cloudy morning every now and then a drizzling rain falling from the sky and I wondered if that was why no one was out on these roads or seemly going to the grand canyon that day. I had expected for a weekend for it to be crawling with tourist and visitors.
"Little men with little minds and little imaginations go thru life in little ruts, smugly resisting all changes that would jar their little worlds." I refuse to be one.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
"Sign me up for the deep life."
"I do not play with death. I play with life."
I see the details of life around me and I see my life. Metaphors to our stories, our journeys we have been given; I feel the emotion attached to everyone. From the scratches on my shoes, to the holes in my jeans, the gritty brown dirt that flies everywhere when disturbed, and the rocks that can dig into your feet or even tweak your ankles if stepped upon or off of wrong. The wrinkles in the tree trunks cut to the ground and the rough gnarly edges that process left. The grandeur of the canyons and the fog that shifts in to try to hide it. The luminous mountains dusted with snow. The rushing river so beautiful and yet at times so threatening. The mist from the waterfall kissing your body and yet also crashing on the rocks below making explosions. The rocky hills leaving you breathless; heart pounding as you fight your way to the top. The birds singing around you or the wind roaring angrily through the trees and valleys. The stench of the death of a nearby animal. The vultures circling overhead. The desert that stretches on as far as the eye can see looking parched and hopeless that then at the end opens up to glorious sights looming on the horizon. This is when the choice to feel everything deeply reminds me why that is a good thing. These are things that give me the reminders that life is hellishly beauty and that I was made to be vulnerable in my hellish beauty. Made to share. Made to inspire, to love, to heal, to grow. Made to live life alive.
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go and make you own trail."
I stayed in Cedar City that night but didn't do much exploring. Got a hotel, got out of the wet clothes, ordered take out for dinner, had a hot shower, watched a show in bed, silence...an entire room to myself. And silence if I wanted. Woke up with the sun and stayed in bed the entire morning. Because I could. Just being alone with myself and my thoughts. Reading and pondering and gazing out the room window at the snow tipped mountains.
"I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments."
That day my awesome experience was a happen chance meeting and striking up a conversation with a random stranger next to me at a gas station, that turned out to be a school counselor, that then led to having dinner and hours of deep conversation about life. And just like that I am reminded sometimes choosing vulnerability, to try out trust, put yourself out there and getting out of your comfort zone can bring you some of the most rewarding and life giving experiences. Crazy thing and a totally God lined up circumstance turned a rare and across the country good hearted, deep minded stranger into a friend.