Lessons From the Road: Four Things My Latest Road Trip Taught Me About Being Me*
*It would be helpful if you read my entry, "Talking To Pluto," before reading this entry, but it's not necessary.
Let's skip the catchy intro, and get right to the content. I have a lot to say. Here's the four things I learned from my latest road trip:
1. I have no interest in the spectacle places.
When I first planned this trip, my intention was to go from Omaha to the Grand Canyon via a stint at the Great Sand Dunes and an interlude in Sedona. But here's the thing, I've been to the Grand Canyon...twice. It's a beautiful place, no doubt about it, but it is overrun with visitors, and when I think about it, I mostly think of the lines and the concrete parking lots and the smell of kettle corn (of which I am not a fan) in the air. I feel that way about a lot of what I call the spectacle places. So why did I plan a trip to the Grand Canyon? Why did I think I needed to join the spectacle when I know it's not my scene?
I will make it to Sedona this year. I've never been, and it's been calling to me for awhile. Beyond that, though, what rang true for me in this road trip (you know, the one I spent straddling the western Nebraska/eastern Wyoming border, rarely encountering another human being and living for days without a cell signal) is that I crave open space. I desire to roam the deserted places. The Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, they're all gorgeous locations with breathtaking views, but I don't need breathtaking views, I need breath. I need to room to breathe, to shed all the heaviness of life in a world that runs 24/7. I don't travel for clickbait, and I have nothing to prove at this point in my life. If you need me, I'll be hold up by some random lake I found after driving an hour down a dirt road, 65-miles from the nearest gas station.
2. My minivan camper is too small to function as a workspace on the go.
I made an entire YouTube video about this one. Check if out it you want the whole story:
3. I need sun about as much as I need water.
I've known for years that I get severe Seasonal Affective Disorder. I've learned how to lesson the effects of it, but every winter (and in Nebraska that means November-March), I struggle. This trip helped my understand my relationship to the sun as something more than another facet to pathologize about my life.
What if some of us biologically, physiologically, need more sun? What if our cells require it for life like a plant does for photosynthesis? I knew I'd feel better emotionally and spiritually after long days scalding my skin under the intense rays of the High Plains' sun. I didn't expect to feel physically changed by it, especially so quickly.
Prior to leaving for this trip, and even the first days of travel, I had this tension headache that had set up shop over my left temple and moved on to occupy the whole left side of my head and neck. As part of my autoimmune life, I had this weird new rash on the left side of my abdomen (what is with the left side of my body?). My digestion had been off; I had no appetite. ONE day baking in the sun took all of that away.
At first the sun aggravated my headache, and I didn't know if I'd be able to tolerate it. I lied on my yoga mat directly under the afternoon rays, and after about ten minutes, that headache (the one I'd have for almost a week), dissipated. Gone. When I changed my clothes that evening, I noticed the rash looked sort of dry and withered. By morning, it was gone, and I was ravenous. I ate three full meals that next day, something I hadn't done in probably a month. Maybe some of us, maybe a lot more of us than we think, need the sun for optimal physical function.
What does that mean for me? Read on.
4. The closer I get to being the wild woman in the woods, the more real I feel.
Okay, not necessarily the woods, but it sounds good and it works for dramatic emphasis. The reality is there's probably not enough sun in the woods to sustain me. By "the wild woman in the woods," I mean the closer I can get to the land, to living off of it, to playing on it, to going to bed with the moon glowing above me and waking to the morning sun moving across my face, the closer I feel to god, and the more I feel like a real person.
Let's clarify some terminology. By "god," I mean something larger than me, some force of energy that vibrates through every stick and stone and ripple. I feel it in the wind, and it moves through me like an electric current of divine bliss. I guess that's what I mean when I say it makes me feel more real, more alive, like the embodied soul/source/universal energy that I am.
I didn't shower this whole trip. I did brush my teeth (I don't know, that feels important to say), but I didn't shower, and damn that felt good. I didn't have a mirror except for the ones on the van, so I didn't really know what I looked like, and that felt good. All I got to be was me, real me, away from the gaze and one with something that felt like pure life force.
There was this moment one day when I was lying by the lake, I heard a sound off to my right and turned toward it. But what I saw wasn't what sat directly in front of me, what I saw was me, adorned in my green shades and my yellow floppy hat, tending to this huge vegetable garden and surrounded by a rainbow of flowers growing tall in the sun. I saw chickens pecking about in the grass and Edward sunbathing on the porch, all surrounded by big blue skies and wide open space. That's what's next for me. That's the life I'm moving towards. Sometimes you choose the path, and sometimes the path chooses you.
We could probably all benefit from a road trip to nowhere. No Internet, no cell service, not even another human being to talk with. Just you and god, in whatever form you choose. Strip everything away, get as close to nature as you can, and see what you hear when you put your ear (literally) to the ground.