Joy: A Waterlogged Travel Log

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Morning joy and dance in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Yesterday I put my feet in the ocean for the first time in over a year. Technically it was the Potomac river, but it had sand and seashells and strong waves and felt like the ocean except for the fact that you could see land on the other side of the water.

A few days ago while camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I encountered a fog so thick I had to stop driving.

When I go to bed every night, my sheets feel damp and the pages of my book are clammy.

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Mist in the Blue Ridge Mountains

I’m still drinking water like I’m in the desert. I’m visiting lots of public bathrooms.

In short, water is everywhere. I keep warily eyeing the trees and ponds and rivers that I see now on a daily basis. I don’t trust them. I half expect them to disappear. I suppose after four years in the desert, I can’t quite let myself believe that I am really back in the forests to stay. That no one is going to make me leave.

That I may once again think that it is unremarkable to be surrounded by green things.

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Yes, we are one nation.

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Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

This country is big. HUGE. And while there are many differences across the states, we are also all ridiculously, similarly human. I present a handful outrageously over-simplified findings from over three weeks on the road:

  1. People are bad drivers everywhere. I repeat, everywhere.
  2. Mexican is the go-to cheap, yummy food that you have when visitors are in town.
  3. There are kind, generous people everywhere – they let you stay in their houses and feed you and show you around their town.
  4. Using turn signals has gone out of style.
  5. Using the left lane for passing only has also gone out of style.

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    Straddling the Texas-New Mexico state line

  6. People are fiercely proud of the place they live; regardless of whether they moved there and never regretted it, or whether they feel ambivalent and/or mildly trapped there, it is home and is something to be loved.
  7. Having visitors is a good excuse to revisit your favorite places.

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    Inside the Texas state capitol building

  8. People have very strong opinions about where you park.
  9. Outside of New Mexico, a New Mexico license plate is an oddity to be stared at.
  10. Anywhere, a car that is packed full to the gills is an oddity to be stared at.

 

Road signs

A funny thing happens when you travel. You re-learn how to say “yes,” and also how to say “no.”

“Why yes, I will stop to take that photo.”

“Sure, why not check out a honky tonk bar?”

“Awesome, that exit looks like it has something cool to check out!”

“No, I will not go back to your apartment with you.”

“Nah, I don’t need to pay that much to sit in some hot water.”

“Thanks for the invite, but I think I’ll enjoy some alone time today.”

The words “yes” and “no” are our basic markers as we navigate our day-to-day lives. We can choose to get off at exit 1A, or we can choose to stay on I-40 for another 7.2 billion years.

NM2VT_7_TN IMG_0788 bw squareYet when we are at home with our friends and our routines, the opportunity to shape our day by choosing one option over another isn’t always as pronounced. At home, our days can feel driven by obligation, or expectation, or sheer habit. On the road, every moment feels like a momentous choice.

Texas: YES.

Arkansas: YES.

Tennessee: YES.

Adventures: YES.

Spending a rainy day inside this hostel with tea and grad school application essays: YES.

Remembering to live in the moment: Oh, yeah… I mean, YES.