It started well over 20 years ago — the fall of ’93 to be precise. I’d get in my car and just drive. I had moved from Fairbanks, Alaska to San Diego, California, and to say I was in a complete state of shock, would be an understatement in the extreme. It was one thousand and eighty degrees different and what felt like a million miles from home. Every chance I got, I’d hit the road like a prisoner out on bail.
I suppose at first it was a defense mechanism. Somehow, the wild and unknown streets of San Diego seemed a safer bet compared to the angsty college freshmen I was holed up with in the Tenochca Dorms at SDSU. I’d drive as though some unknown beacon was beckoning me in any and all directions. I went everywhere. And nowhere. Most of the time I didn’t even know where I was. I just drove.
Before I knew it, I started venturing further. In ’94, I picked up a car in Seattle and drove it back down the coast. The following year, I did it again, only both directions this time and with my cat, Nico. (Don’t judge.) We listened to Mazzy Star and slept in seedy motels; living on poetry, wine and Camel Lights. On weekends, I’d drive up to Santa Barbara and visit old friends or head to LA (and/or Vegas) with my college buddies for a weekend of revelry. Sometimes, I’d drive to see my sister who was going to school in Phoenix. Eventually, I moved to Las Vegas and continued my nomadic ways, driving all around the valley. Anywhere. Nowhere. Everywhere.
Fast forward to the next century and countless journeys later — I was married and soon after, a mother. I imagine most people slow down a bit after having kids, but I believe I sped up. It quickly became my mission to share the world with my children, as well. In fact, our road trips grew exponentially after they were born. One day they will almost certainly tell people, “Our mom took us on the craziest adventures.” Though they’d gripe and complain at first, we’ve come to a mutual understanding now and I think they love it. They realize I can’t stop; that I don’t want to stop.
That’s the way it works, you see. Travel is a dangerous drug — with unimaginable highs and equally empty lows. But more importantly, it’s also a love song. There’s a power that comes with being connected to more of the earth and there’s an energy that propels us to keep looking. Some might say it’s an escape. Others may argue it’s about discovery. Perhaps it is both.
I find there’s a space on the road where time doesn’t quite exist in the same manner as real life; an amalgamation of past and present. It doesn’t matter if it’s an epic, “must-see” place or just an obscure, little town in the middle of nowhere. Often I’m struck most by the minutiae; the old-school diner, the perfect font on the storefront’s sign, the lone horse watching from the side of the road, the random people we meet along the way, or finding fragments of what once was.
For the roads that have been so often traveled, I’ve learned to find beauty in looking at the same thing over and over again. The expanses of empty, desert land easily become a moving meditation. I memorize the hills. I know every exit and photo opportunity. I scan the landscape like a hawk, looking for what I’ve missed; that which I haven’t noticed yet. There must be something else there…
But in my dreams, I’d be able to keep going. I’d simply take off and never come back. There’s so much more for me to see! Some might say I must be running from something, but I reckon this constant need to travel is more like a puzzle. I’m collecting pieces and pictures, understanding the lay of the land, in both a physical and abstract manner. If life is about the journey and the story is in the details, then perhaps the road is just a map where we find the world within ourselves.