Around the USA
This story was submitted anonymously to the Stories of Travel collection as part of the May SEEQ sessions.
My experience was driving around the USA for over 2 months in 2010.
It all started with an idea from my wife (right around her 29th birthday) that she wanted to check this off her bucket list before she turned 30. She floated the idea to me and in my nature, I say “sure let’s make it happen!”
After making sure it wasn’t just the alcohol talking, we decided to plan out this trip. As we planned the trip we started to focus on a few things… what interesting things can we eat, what are the must-see places in the US, what are the hidden secrets of the US, and who can we stay with and visit along the way? That morphed the premise of the trip from “fun idea” to potentially the most experience packed 67 days of our lives.
We spent about 9 months preparing for the trip with lots of planning and lots of saving money. We also laid out how we were going to capture the memories. We decided on a joint blog as well as individual tumblr feeds that we would use to share our individual perspectives. Its really a shame Instagram wasn’t around for this!!
I remember the first part of the trip was stressful. We went to visit my family in NJ and as usual in the mid-atlantic, traffic was awful. We were behind schedule for a family event that we were trying to make. We also had a muffler issue and our honda civic started to sound like a Harley. And then the car electrical system was acting up because we had plugged too much into the power inverter that was plugged into the cigarette lighter. As we screamed at each other driving up the Garden State Parkway, our trip nearly ended on Day 2.
After we put all these issues behind us (an extra long stop for a mechanic to work on the car) and escaped family obligations, the trip seemed to be on the right track. We saw many beautiful scenes in New England – but it stil felt a little tense. I think, in retrospect, it was the population density and the perception of being really expensive that scared us into thinking we had misjudged how affordable and relaxing the trip would be.
We camped at a KOA campground in Acadia national park. I had never been to one and figured it was just a tent camping plot of land. That all went away at 6am when the seemingly never ending caravan of RV’s started up their engines and rolled by our tent on their way to get on the road. KOA campgrounds needed to be removed from the itinerary!
It wasn’t until we got out of the east coast that things really opened up – both landscape-wise and mentally. It made me realize that the ability to see extremely far distances is something that I was not accustomed to in life and it is mesmerizing and addicting. The wide open roads and huge sweeping views of the landscape. mountains in the distance, cloud formations usually blocked by trees – likely normal to people who lived here – were all I could think about.
A few other key moments…
Camping in Yellowstone. The person who took our money and told us where to camp showed us on a map where we should set up… casually drew a line across the map (straight through our little plot) and said “this is the path the bears usually take”. I’ve never seen a bear and this was not what a newbie wants to hear.
Driving into the redwood forest and seeing the trees continually get bigger and bigger. I had never seen any tree so huge and they were everywhere. It felt like a completely different world and climate under those trees. We camped there too.
I thought some of the highways in Virginia were boring… until I drove across Texas and was on the same straight highway for more than a day.
What did I learn?
I learned that there is a huge variety of scenery and people to experience in our own country.
I learned that in general, if you arrive somewhere with a smile and a good attitude, people will take care of you and be helpful.
I learned that I needed to get away and didn’t really know it before my wife mentioned this idea.
I learned that I can sacrifice day to day comforts in order to experience new things.
I learned that not knowing where you’re going to sleep tonight… and having everything important to you in one place… can be at the same time extremely comforting and also scary and makes you question things like owning a home and having possessions.
I learned that being way from familiar settings periodically is essential to me.
I started to plan how this could be more of a part of my every day life and how I could design my life to allow for more experiences like this.