It was an early Saturday morning, on what had amounted to just a few hours of sleep, and an iced mocha was glued to my hand. The roads were clear, the sun was shining, and Cher’s ‘Just Like Jesse James’ was blasting from my stereo. In that moment I felt more free and happy than I had in years.
That was the day I started my solo seventeen day road trip journey.
The day I started to pick up all the broken pieces and put myself back together.
I don’t think even I realized how stressed and unhappy I was when I started that journey. I had spent months feeling beaten, personally and professionally. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and I couldn’t see an end in sight.
Until I placed myself behind the wheel, cranked the tunes, and let myself get lost in the journey.
I realize that it sounds bleak, like I was teetering on the edge, about ready to crash. Maybe I was. At that point I was still working in a job that was slowly crushing my soul. I spent day after day pouring every ounce of myself into that company, and it was never good enough. There was never a day when I was thanked, just meeting after meeting where my nose was rubbed into every single mistake I made, no matter how small or insignificant.
That doesn’t even touch the giant emotional baggage I had been storing away for months. Pushing it all into little corners of my mind, refusing to deal with how hurt, betrayed, and angry I was feeling.
That beautiful day in May was the beginning of something amazing though.
My solo road trip would take me from my home base in Montana to Oregon for a few days with my old roommate. Following that I would stay a few days in Las Vegas before heading to California to visit my Grandpa and then on to see the best friend in San Diego. My journey home would take me back to Vegas, a night’s stay in Utah, and then finishing my trip with my family in Bozeman for a corvette show.
I was thrilled with my plans, and spent months counting down the days until I could make it happen. I found that people fell into one of two groups when they heard my plans. The first group was flabbergasted with my plans. They couldn’t understand why I would essentially want to spend seventeen days traveling by myself. What if I got hurt? What about all the crazy people in this world? How would I be safe by myself? The second group was envious. They understood why this sounded like the ultimate dream vacation to me.
I don’t know that I could explain the allure to somebody who thinks this kind of trip sounds awful. I think a large part of it has to do with my lifestyle. I crave independence and moments alone to do my heavy thinking. When I am upset I drive. Aimlessly throughout the valley, with nothing but the blaring stereo for company, and it soothes me. I have spent 99% of my adult life by myself. I make all of the important decisions for my life, and while I have a sounding board that helps, I wake up every morning and go to bed every night by myself.
At the end of the day, I have learned that the only person I can count on 100% of the time is me.
Why wouldn’t my ultimate road trip vacation include that?
A trip where I was making all the decisions, every step of the way. I decided what time to get up and start my days, what I would eat, and what detours were worth my time and energy. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have not done half the things I did on that trip if I had been with somebody else. On my way home I took what ended up being a seven hour detour to see the Grand Canyon.
Just because I could.
I’m not saying solo road trips are for everyone, but for me, it was the one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I loved getting to visit my family and friends and making them apart of this incredible, epic journey. I was invigorated by the long hours of driving and the amazingly beautiful things I got to experience and see along the way. My camera was thoroughly exhausted by the time I got home. Most of all though, I was thankful for the thinking time, and the issues that I forced myself to mentally work through on those well traveled roads.
I forced myself to appreciate my better qualities, to recognize that while I have as many faults as the next person; I will never stop being a loyal friend to the people I love. I realized that the palm reader I met a few years ago is correct, I cannot change people, I can only change my expectations, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have come to accept that I am the type of person who forgives instead of holding grudges – no matter how awful or painful the circumstances were.
Most of all though, I realized that at the end of the day I may only have myself, but that woman is pretty damn incredible. She is strong, brave, witty, smart,willing to take risks, and cares with every fiber of her being for the people in her life, no matter what mistakes they have made
What can I say, I found myself on the beaten roads somewhere between here and California.
I wonder what I’ll find next year*…
*Definitely making that a yearly tradition. Probably for a shorter journey, but a solo road trip journey all the same.
**Photo Credit: Yours truly – Middle of nowhere Arizona and North Rim Grand Canyon National Park