Remember when I said I was going to take two weeks off from the blog, so I could relax during the rest of my road trip and would come back on October 10th? I lied. Well, I didn’t lie at the time… but my thoughts changed, plans changed, and dates changed shortly after – and this became a pattern I cycled through over and over again in the final few days of my trip.
“Can I crash with you next Tuesday?” I would ask.
“Sorry, this Saturday?”
“Actually, can I come tomorrow (Friday)?” [insert cute emojis so friend doesn’t hate you]
I apologized for being scattered, and those apologies were sincere. But I wasn’t sorry for the why behind the questions, which was that I was ready to go home.
After seven weeks on the road, I had gotten everything I wanted from the trip, and even more that I never expected. The thought of seeing or doing anything more felt like it would push me into the travel version of information overload. I didn’t need more, when I’d already gotten more than enough. So, my plans changed and dates changed… and now I’m back home in Victoria, and it feels so good to be here.
If you remember, it didn’t feel particularly good to be here during the week leading up to my departure (August 15th). I cried every single day. My friends thought it was stress (I was definitely overworking myself). My family thought I was worried about the dogs’ health. And I thought I was just scared to be alone/without loved ones for two months on the road. But it turned out we were all wrong.
Within the first few days of the trip, I realized I was scared to leave home because I felt like I was the glue holding so many things together – and I didn’t want to leave, out of fear that it might crumble and fall apart in my absence. Nobody had asked me to be that glue. But with all the changes we went through last year, I had inadvertently stepped into that role, in an attempt to keep as many things as “normal” as I could. And I didn’t realize how heavy it had been weighing on me until I physically detached myself and drove away from it.
As soon as I hit the road, I felt a weight lift off of me. I could breathe a little deeper, smile a little brighter and laugh a little louder (though I’m not sure my laugh needs to be any louder). The only person I had to take care of was me. Every decision I made – where I slept, what I ate, where I ventured to and who I saw – felt executive, and mine was the only vote that counted. “Trust your gut,” has always been my M.O., but this trip was also about doing “whatever will make you happiest” – and that’s exactly what I did.
That’s not to say every moment of the trip was rainbows and butterflies. As I shared with you, I struggled to manage some of my freelance work. Honestly, writing, in general, felt impossible (though I did keep a journal). I wished I’d had the courage to say no to everything, take the full seven weeks off and just enjoy the trip for what I really needed it to be – a vacation. But at least I took some lessons from the experience that I can implement in future trips (of which there will be many).
Aside from struggling with work, my time alone on the road also helped me make the decision to let go of a couple relationships that had hurt me to hold onto. These weren’t fights that needed to be had, but honest conversations where I said, “I care about you, but I can’t keep pretending this is something it’s not”. While that was difficult to do and say, I knew it would make me happier in the long run. I’ve always believed that letting go of negative relationships gives room for new/healthier ones to enter. And while I obviously can’t give you any scientific evidence to prove that theory, I can tell you that the rest of my trip was filled with deep connections and the beginnings of what I think will be incredible lifelong relationships.
If you asked me what the best part of my trip was, I would say the people I spent time with all along the way. I loved some of the cities, the monuments were beautiful and the weather was amazing (it was always summer). But the things I’ll remember most were: the three hours of laughter caught on camera that magically included 11 minutes of usable footage; the deep questions we answered on long hikes; the honest conversations we had late at night in the dark; the tears shed over our morning coffee; and the last-minute breakfast date and free pancake gifted by a server who loved our energy and simply thought we were awesome (this was the best). These are the moments that made this adventure so special, and also taught me what I need/want in relationships going forward.
Before I left California, I had three separate conversations with three different friends that all led to the same conclusion: I’m so grateful to have been able to go on this road trip, but I never would’ve been able to do it if I hadn’t changed a few different areas of my life first. I couldn’t have afforded to go if I was still in debt or had no savings. I couldn’t have taken that much time off if I still had a day job. I wouldn’t have taken the leap if the shopping ban hadn’t taught me what I truly value (travel). And only after two of my girlfriends opened up and shared how alcohol has played a role in their life did I realize I definitely couldn’t have had this same experience if I was still drinking.
More than anything else, I know that last point is true. If I was still drinking, I would’ve used alcohol to help me get through most social activities. I would’ve let my alter ego takeover and portray a very different version of myself to strangers (who then may not have wanted to become my friends). And it would’ve stripped the depth out of every interaction I shared with someone. I’ve also mentioned the theory that your maturity and emotional intelligence caps out at whatever age your addiction kicks in, so at age 27 I think I acted like a 19-year-old in many situations (mostly in my relationships). Now, I can see that I’m 31 on all fronts. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn and grow from this trip if I was still letting alcohol control any part of the experience.
In the final homestretch through Oregon and Washington, I started to notice more drivers passing by in vehicles filled top to bottom with their belongings. I tried to imagine the mix of excitement and anxiety they might be feeling about moving to a new city, perhaps for a new job or new relationship. And wherever they were going, I secretly hoped each one of them was doing whatever would make them happiest. That’s what I was doing whenever I changed one area of my life, and each change has led to more happiness, which led to more change and even more joy. By the end of this trip, I felt like the best version of myself – and I am so grateful that’s who I got to bring home with me.
I can’t finish this post without thanking everyone who took me in on this journey: Anthony and Amy, Derek, Kayla and Branon, Clare and Drew (and Boris!), Carrie and Ryan, Julie and Jared, Wendy and Matthew, Amy and Kristian, Garrett, Judy and DK, Claire and Ian, and Kathleen and Brent. Thank you for letting me make your home feel like my home. <3
And I just have to say: America, you’re already pretty great. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.