While it is hard to be alone and harder to pass through towns where memories abound, there is an upside to roadtrip living to be found even in the midst of having one’s life ruined. It is arguably the reason for going on roadtrips in the first place, but it’s most vital to remember that the underlying issue here is a reminder, not a conduit to the only way of living that way. This is a giant note-to-self, yes, but also a note-to-others who may find themselves mired in daily life not on the road, to daily routines or travails that are tiresome and yawn before one like an unending maw of drudgery.
What am I talking about?
When one is on the road, one lives a certain way. There is an expectation to each day, it dawns full of promise, one has a plan or schedule (or maybe no plan and no schedule!) or at least the outline of possibility. One makes demands from one’s day. “I will have fun today!” one says to one’s day. There’s an expectation of seeing people, doing something outgoing and entertaining, eating at restaurants one chooses and likes. There is a vacation/holiday atmosphere, by definition. Even when alone, I’ve been playing cards or seeing baseball games or camping, and when with friends there’s all the trappings of seeing old friends and hanging out. Even if one just hangs out all day, a day with friends is a special time. The point is that every day becomes special and savored on a trip.
But the larger point of living this way ought be the realization that it is not the trip that makes it so. It is merely that this is what we come to expect from living on a roadtrip. (Or I do, at least. It must be noted that some people don’t travel much and others get super-stressed and crazy whenever they do and so don’t actually enjoy it or let go.) One builds in Waffle House visits or even gets the thrill of Frosted Flakes being available as part of the free hotel continental breakfast (an old trip tradition for me that still makes me feel eight years old and excited about the world again). And suddenly one is atop the world, able to control one’s destiny and steer a course, even in the wake of heartache and homesickness. There is something about the coverage of land and the unknowns of a day that portends excitement that courses with energy through one’s veins. This surely must have been what drove the wagon trains west, the migrants of any era across their respective seas, the oldest of our ancestors out of our first primal valley.
But again, it need not only be so when on the road. It is easy on the road, intuitive, the very nature of being away from a daily routine dictates the thrills and elation and hope. But the challenge of life after a roadtrip is to build as much of that energy as possible into regular daily life. Which arguably is a challenge to not live anything that could be labeled as a “regular daily life”. Which is not to say that one can’t have a schedule or a routine or a day job, but merely that each day at home can be viewed the same way as a day on the road. Time is what we’re given and some of us may feel like there’s too much of it (okay, maybe that’s just me). But time is also an opportunity and there’s no difference between the me who feels all this possibility out here in Kansas or Colorado or Mississippi or whatever and the me who feels stuck in Jersey, or indeed whenever I get too tied down to a day job or a set of commitments. The context is different, but the potential is the same. So trips like this are not just to take a break from the routine, but to actually try to break the routine, to harness the energy of real life and raw openness on the road and apply it to daily life back on the home field.
It’s all, of course, easier said than done. There are tangible reasons why it’s intuitive to feel this way out here and intuitive to feel laden and squashed back home. But just remembering and reminding are a good start. A lot of it is about how you look at your day, a mere matter of perspective. Demand something from your day (these are instructions to me, but also to you). Insist that you will take time to be creative, to think, to do something that matters regardless of the context of your life. Something you’d be proud of. Something you’ll want to remember on your deathbed. Make contact with people, just because they’re there. Even if you won’t get to see them for years, reach out. Let them know they’re loved. It is the connections we have with other people and with the creative cognizance of our own souls that really matter in this life. The rest is just figuring out a way to maximize that. Or it should be.
Go. Do. Be. Pretend you’re on a roadtrip for the rest of the week. I’ll be trying every week to come for a long time.
(Remind me to do this if I seem to forget.)