So Much Goodness

I drove from Portland to Bend. I took nearly 100 photos. I could easily write five different blog posts on what I saw and did today. It’s already 11PM and I haven’t sorted through any of the photos from today or yesterday. I only just now updated the map in the sidebar.

And this is just Oregon.

I’ll write more about what I’ve actually been doing in the next few days, but I felt like I should get something up since I haven’t posted since I left. So far I’ve learned that I need to add at least two hours onto all my drive times because of how often I like to stop at roadside attractions. I’ve also learned that I can’t help but look at every experience in terms of how I could relate it to someone else, and the meaning I might be able to express. I guess that makes me a storyteller.

Or an egoist.

Every Conversation I’ve Had in the Last Four Months

It used to start with me saying, “I’m going on a road trip around the United States.” These days, as a time-saving measure, I’ve adjusted it to: “I’m going on a four-month, solo road trip around the United States.” Oddly enough, this only eliminates the need to explain the “solo” or “four month” parts to about 60% of people. Still, it seems worth it.

After that, I get the following questions in no particular order:

How are you traveling? (by car)

What kind of car do you have? (VW Jetta)

Where will you be staying? (combination of camping, couchsurfing, and staying with family/friends)

What about your job? (it will be there when I get back)

Where are you going? (I pull out the business card with the map on it)

Are you headed south or east first? (south)

So these are the places you’re going? (and much more, the cities on the map are placeholders to show the general shape of the trip)

What will Rob do while you’re gone? (continue to live his life as an independent person)

After the questions comes the advice. While all of it is unsolicited, that doesn’t make it unwelcome. I get a lot of suggestions of places to go, which I dutifully take note of in my Evernote account, even if I know I won’t be anywhere near the place they’re suggesting. Occasionally I’ll get offers to introduce me to a friend in some particular city who is likely to put me up for the night. I make note of those too.

As my departure gets closer, I’m starting to get a few “you know it’s not too late to change your mind” and “it’s okay to come back in the middle if you don’t want to be doing it anymore.”

But the thing I hear in almost every single conversation is: “I’m jealous. I wish I could do something like this.” That’s when I ask my one and only question:

“Why don’t you?”

No one really has an answer. Usually I’ll get a muddled “I know, I know . . . ” that trails off into nothing. Sometimes I’ll get an exhale through the consonant sound “psh” or a quick expression of embarrassment. I think it’s because no one wants to admit the real reason: they forgot about it.

I don’t mean they forgot like you forgot where you left your keys, or forgot the lyrics to a song. I mean like the got distracted with other things and, well, they just kinda never got around to it. I’m not very old, but I’m old enough to know that “never getting around to it” is the death knell of everything grand you ever thought you might do.

I’ve been getting a lot of credit recently for being brave enough to go on this trip (their words, not mine). But that doesn’t mask all the other times I’ve managed to not get around to something incredibly important. Like how I wanted to talk to the 99-year-old woman at church about her life, but I never got around to it between when the thought occurred to me and when she died some three years later. I had three years to do it, but I just sort of forgot.

Like how I wanted to have the same conversation with my grandpa, who is now pretty deep into dementia, and whose responses can no longer be accepted as fact. I had years to do that, too.

I had years to write a novel, years to learn to dance, years to play the guitar or speak French or read Jane Eyre. Over time I managed to do some of those, at least partially. But I spent so long not doing them, and when I look back, I can’t seem to recall what I did do with all that time. I suppose you just get so caught up in the things that are easy and the things that seem pressing that you just sort of forget the things that you thought would make your life worth living.

Tomorrow I leave on my adventure. Don’t forget to go on yours.

The Things You Miss When You’re On the Road: Part One

I was thinking yesterday about how much I’m going to miss my bathrobe. I really like wearing bathrobes. Perhaps more than a person ought to. But there will be no bathrobes on the road. I’ve laid out the clothes I intend to take, and while they are all comfortable to a degree, none can quiet match hanging out in yard after yard of cotton terry weave.

Longing for the bathrobe I hadn’t yet given up got me thinking: What makes me so sure I’ll miss it? I once thought I couldn’t live without a microwave, but I did it for two years and on the whole considered it an improvement on my eating. So what else do I think I’ll miss that I might not care about at all?

  1. Bathrobes
  2. Watching movies
  3. Having a second monitor for my computer
  4. Refrigerators
  5. A great range of clothing choices
  6. Always being able to immediately wash sticky things off my hands
  7. Comfortable temperatures
  8. Days that don’t require planning
  9. Seattle rain
  10. Familiarity

*I have purposely excluded people, because in my experience the people you miss most when traveling aren’t always the ones you most want to be around, but the ones that would enjoy being where you are, doing what you’re doing. You miss them because you can’t help but think about how much they’d love to be on the trip you’ve taken.

This post is labeled Part One because when I return, I will use this list as a marker of some of the (possible) misconceptions I had about the trip. Now that I’ve made my list, I’m starting to think that the biggest differences will be the stuff I missed during the trip that I didn’t think to put on the list. But I suppose that’s always the benefit of letting go of the things you’re used to having. You find out what you don’t need, and what you can’t live without. I’m just hoping the things I can’t live without will all fit in my car.