Wednesday, September 22, 2010

behind the wheel exclusive

As I type this, I am sitting alone in a stuffy motel room eating takeout. 

Glamourous, wouldn't you say?

I hear three (four?) words almost daily - "I'm so jealous." It'll come from a friend that I call from the road or maybe a friendly stranger I meet along the way. And I can always count on my hosts exclaiming it at least once.

I am not complaining, because I get it. I do. I am traveling around the beautiful United States of America for six weeks with the sole responsibility of keeping myself safe while I enjoy it in each and every way I am able to. Already it has truly been a spectacular experience and I am so thankful for the opportunity. But, and yes there is a but, that jealousy is too much to handle.
To begin with, I'd like to remove the silver lining surrounding Road Trip USA:
  • Although I revel in my independence and can oftentimes be introverted, I do get lonely.
  • Driving is absolutely, positively exhausting. I made sure to never commit myself to more than 8 hours, but even as little as 5 can be painful.
  • I am so tired of my snacks. This is not a negative reflection on their taste or ability to satiate, just my own dissatisfaction with the mundane repetition. Still, I will continue to eat them out of necessity.
  • That financial necessity I speak of is draining. Without gas, I am on a $30/day budget. I can come in below the limit on a long driving day, temporarily giving me more wiggle room, but otherwise, I have to constantly be neurotic about my spending which includes highway tolls, museum admissions, parking meters, restaurant meals, and the occasional oil change. I do not enjoy being this way.
  • Blogging can suck. After driving and exploring cities in 48 hours or less, trying to recap every little thing that happened, upload photos, and edit videos takes a lot out of an already wiped out me. That's not to say I'm going to stop though, (I love it and you too much,) you just might want to prepare yourself for my photo-heavy posts and rambling vlogs.
  • I almost always feel unbalanced. Just because I was never one to maintain a consistent exercise routine, doesn't mean that I don't crave daily movement. Being stuck in a car is limiting in that sense. In addition, I continue to have a mental battle food-wise. If I'm only spending one or two days in some of America's culinary capitals, I want to make sure I sample as much of their specialties as I can. Then again, I hardly ever have the money to do so, and in these situations will often revert to my snacks. On top of all that, I have no desire to gain weight. And, if we're really being honest here, would be truly unhappy if I do gain any more than I already have. Since, yeah, I don't know the logistics but I can certainly tell that I have. If only I didn't care.
  • Knowing that trip is six weeks long is never not daunting.

Furthermore, there's the fact that this entire phenomenon did not happen by chance. I envisioned the idea, planned and saved for it, and now am simply making it happen. It is not an impossible feat. Then again, I realize that I am in a uniquely ideal situation to turn my driving dreams into reality: I have no family to worry about (at least not the kind that it would be my responsibility to take care of), I had no career to end (although if it could begin asap that'd be very much appreciated), and I no longer have any scholarly obligations. Plus, I have a new car and GPS that needed breaking in. 

Yet I can assure you that you could do it too if you really wanted to. If you were to give a travel aspiration (say, a cross-country road trip) high enough priority, eventually it would happen. It might take years, it might have to be streamlined in budget or time, but after all that dedication and hard work, one day your life will be ready for such an adventure. And I don't doubt that this tactic could make other dreams come true as well, when the time is right of course.

Perhaps it is easy for me to say these things though. One of my most childlike qualities is how easily I am able to get my hopes up. Tell me something is probably going to happen and I will believe you with all of my heart. I'll create daydreams upon daydreams based on the event. I'll conjour plans of fantastic outcomes and consequences. To assume that I'd then be disappointed by the chance that it never actually takes place... is most definitely an understatement. So, now that we have that part of my self understood, note that I thereby always do everything in my power not to be the disenchanter of my own expectations.

Try it some time :).
Anyway, the end. I apologize for my less-than-stellar mood and sincerely hope that I don't offend anyone with my bluntness. You see, I was planning on posting my vlog from Oklahoma City to Denver, along with a few clippings about my short stay in Kansas. That is. until I was driving to Santa Fe today and got caught in a dangerous downpour that forced me to get off the road before my intended destination and pay too much money for a stuffy motel room. On the bright side though, because even in my grumpiness there is a bright side, the takeout is no greasy dinner but rather a salad bar creation from Whole Foods. Besides this morning's Colorado hike in the Garden of the Gods (which seems like ages ago), it is the highlight of my day.

Oh, but wait! Admitting all of the above does not mean that I do not appreciate this road trip, this personal journey, this American adventure, because I do. I do, do, do. Probably more and more every day. Even in the midst of my frustration I know that I am doing an amazing thing for myself and that, as others have suspected, my life and perspective will forever be changed by it. I do not and will not ever regret challenging myself to this experience. It's been as fun as it's been hard. I have really had as wonderful a time in these past 9 cities as I continue to claim that I have. I've already learned so much. I just wanted you to know that.

Alrighty then, that's really it. Sweet dreams.


  1. chin up, danielle! of course you are going to feel a bit lonely along the way - it's a solo road trip and you're HUMAN. but as you know these feelings shall pass, you'll get to your intended destinations and will wholeheartedly enjoy your time, despite budget restraints, the ample parts of your day that are spent seated in a car, etc. this trip is SO worth it and SO awesome and I won't say that I'm jealous of you (I love my life - truly) but i will say that I admire your adventurous spirit. keep on keepin' on!

  2. this might be an epic comment.

    i applaud your honesty - there's no use in putting up a front of "omgthisisthebestripeverallthetime." but i'm sure you remember from your time abroad - not every moment is perfect. as much as i idealize that time in my life, there were just as many times where i was holed up in a coffee shop with a notepad and my own company, because i was, in the end, alone. and that can be very hard.

    i think you, like me, crave social interaction on a regular basis and feel strongly about the important relationships in your life. sometimes i forget that alone time is SO important, even if it doesn't feel great. i'm trying to remind myself of this and not flip out when i don't have plans, because being content with our own company is an important thing.

    i know sitting in a motel room with whole foods takeout doesn't seem glamorous. but it is also so, so independent, and that IS glamorous. the fact that you are doing this trip, by yourself, for yourself, and the fact that you are surviving, even if it requires an unexpected stop in a motel is an incredible thing. don't sell yourself short over the frustration, k?

    as for the rest, i can sympathize that they are all annoying - tight budgets suck, bad food sucks, and not feeling your best physically sucks, i know. but remember, all of those things are temporary, and they will change when you're in "real life." in the meantime, now that you've listed everything that is awful about road trip usa, why not list everything that is good? because i bet you can come up with just as many bullet points, and the mental rewards probably outweigh the temporarily "meh" physical ones. :)

    also. i love this: "I thereby always do everything in my power not to be the disenchanter of my own expectations." ditto. it might make us perfectionist-overachievers, but it gives us lots of life experiences. never a bad thing.

    email me soon, ok? :) love you!

  3. I totally second everything Leslie said above. I know there are downsides and hardships and crappy situations when it comes to taking on such a huge thing, but the fact that you are DOING IT trumps every bad meal, boring snack, gas station stop and bad rain storm. You are always going to look back on this trip with so much love and admiration for yourself!

  4. crunchygranolagal, leslie, & Caitlin: I love you three. Thank you!


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