As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Victoria, hiding in a corner with my headphones on and crossing off the final items on my work to-do list. My car is half-packed for the Great American Road Trip, missing only my day pack and pillow (a luxury I can bring, because I packed light and there’s lots of room in my car). And by the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on my way.
It’s hard to believe that an idea I’ve had for years is finally happening. For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve dreamt of travelling around and connecting with more of my online friends in real life. So you would think that I might feel nothing except joy and excitement. But the truth is, I’ve spent the past week riding an emotional roller coaster.
First, I was stressed about trying to get all my work done. Somehow, I accomplished more in the past seven days than I did some months this year, which proves how much I can do when I set my mind to it. But then the “see you later’s” started. And then our sweet dog, Molly (12), was showing symptoms that needed to be addressed by a vet – and from there, my thoughts began to spin out.
What if something happened to her when I was gone? What if something happened to any of my family or friends? How would I ever forgive myself if I wasn’t here? How would I even deal with that when I was alone on the road, where it could take me days or even a week to get home? The worst what-if situations kept popping into my head, likely heightened by how stressed I was about work and the fact that I wasn’t sleeping well. But they were bad enough that I almost delayed the trip.
I almost texted friends to say I’d have to come a little later – or skip their states altogether. I wrote the sentences and almost hit send – but something made me pause. Positive feedback from the vet helped, as did reassurance from family that everything would be fine. But I also knew the voice in my head was fear, and that I couldn’t let it stop me from going on this trip.
I wish I could say I am one of those people who gets on a plane or goes on a trip and simply exudes their sense of adventure. You know: the ones who seem to have no fear and can ride the waves as they come. True nomads, in every sense. But I would be lying, if I said that. To be brutally honest and real, I have to tell you that I’m a little scared to leave home for two months.
When I was considering delaying my departure date, I hit pause on those text messages to friends and asked myself what I was afraid of. The answer had nothing to do with the road trip itself. If my car breaks down, I’ll pay to fix it. If I feel scared to camp somewhere, I’ll pay for a motel. Those are the only things that could really go wrong and, fortunately, money could fix them. So, I’m not scared of that.
Instead, I’m scared to leave my family and friends (and dogs) for two months – and as I dug deeper into that, I realized it’s probably because of how much I’ve come to rely on them, this past year. I’ve explained before that I moved back to Victoria to help my family. But I also don’t think I could’ve gotten through the last year if I hadn’t been surrounded by the people I love. All the laughs, walks, hikes, adventure days… and constant kisses from the dogs. I’ve needed it, to stay sane and happy.
So, in this world of inspirational posts and motivational quotes, I’m going to tell you the truth, which is that I cried a lot this week. I cried at home, in the car and at the animal hospital. I even cried at my favourite breakfast spot (thankfully, they know me and didn’t mind). I’m sad to leave. I’m sad I won’t be able to see the people (and pets) I love for a while. I know this road trip is going to be full of challenges and personal growth. And I’m scared to go through some of it without loved ones at arm’s reach.
But I’m more scared of missing out on everything the next two months could hold for me on this road trip. And even though I can’t say for sure that I’ll get in the car and exude a sense of adventure, at first, I have a feeling most of my concerns will float away when the ferry leaves the shore.
I shared these feelings with my friend Katie, who has done a lot of long-term solo travel, and she said something I’ll never forget:
You could read that and think it only relates to making decisions that will help you stay safe. Personally, I’ve learned the importance of trusting your gut so many times that I know I will always take the measures needed to feel secure. But her words remind me of the reason I want to stay safe, in the first place, and that’s because I have an amazing life to come home to later.
For as excited as I am to explore for the next two months, I know I will be equally excited to cross the border and take the ferry home in October. I can’t wait to hike in Montana, hangout with new friends in Minnesota, spend quality time with old friends in Colorado, and camp all along the California coast. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. But on that last day, you’d better believe I’ll be smiling on my drive home, as I think about seeing the dogs and sleeping in my own bed again.
PS – I can’t say for sure how much I’ll blog about the trip itself, but you can follow along on Instagram. Keep in mind, the pics I share will be of places I’ve already seen and left behind (a safety tip I read on many solo female travel blogs).