The idea of taking this road trip morphed out of a desire to visit parts of the world I’d never been to before and realizing that a great deal of that unseen world was in my own country. I had thought of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but after watching a documentary I realized that three months of doing almost nothing but hiking and eating dried fruit wasn’t the way for me to get out of a routine and see more diverse landscapes. For a long time I'd been sifting through travel magazines, dreaming of all the places I wanted to see. And with only two weeks vacation every year (and that time being used to visit my family) I didn’t see how I could ever travel to all the places I wanted to see. And I knew that even if I could I probably wouldn’t spend money on a plane ticket to visit some place like Boise for the weekend. It made sense that the best way to do this was in one long trip. And I knew I couldn’t wait for retirement to do it.
From there I started to envision how I could make this happen. When I mentioned to my parents that I was considering “bumming around the country in a van for a year” (which is what I imagined at the time) I never would have expected their reaction to be so completely positive. They worried about my safety, but other than that they were extremely supportive. Calling this “something important.” And I can’t express how motivating and strengthening their support has been.
While on the road I noticed quite a lot of people just like me - traveling for extended periods of time. I never noticed them before. But now it’s hard not to: someone with their car packed with junk, sitting alone at a restaurant writing postcards, or camping when the weather isn’t ideal. And the thing is, everyone’s doing something different. A retired couple living out of their trailer for the rest of their lives, guys on motorcycles driving the California coast on a week off, college-age kids living more of a drifter existence - getting jobs and staying in one town for a couple months before moving on. And each person’s travel experiences were right for them. I found something that fulfilled my own vision of how I wanted travel to be, but there are so many options.
Somewhere along the way I started to get this great feeling that the possibilities are endless. There is so much world out there left to see. When I started this trip I thought maybe doing this would satiate something inside of me - that when I completed this trip I wouldn’t feel such a desire to travel. But what I’ve found is that your longing to see more and experience more only increases. And I don’t think there is anything quite like it. The biggest thing standing in your way of seeing the whole earth, is the consistent desire to go back to the places you’ve already been.
Now that it’s over, I plan to move (and don’t ask me where, I haven’t decided yet). And I’ll have to find a new job soon and go back to a semi-normal life. But this trip has been amazing. And somehow I do feel different. My priorities have shifted a little bit. I can tell staying in one place is going to be a bit of a struggle, but I’m hoping to fight it off with weekend backpacking trips. And living in a new town will give me lots of new places to explore. And eventually, I think I’ll be one of the retirees I’ve seen on this trip, visiting my kids and grandchildren often, but otherwise just traveling as long as I can.
Whenever I've told someone about this trip, the most common reaction is that they’ve secretly wanted to do the same thing (or that they’ve already done it). This kind of a journey seems to be such an archetypal desire, it’s tragic that everyone doesn’t experience it. I can understand it’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as you might think. And it is so worth it.
“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday,
placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting,
so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear.
Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of,
giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.”
– Freya Stark