It used to start with me saying, “I’m going on a road trip around the United States.” These days, as a time-saving measure, I’ve adjusted it to: “I’m going on a four-month, solo road trip around the United States.” Oddly enough, this only eliminates the need to explain the “solo” or “four month” parts to about 60% of people. Still, it seems worth it.
After that, I get the following questions in no particular order:
How are you traveling? (by car)
What kind of car do you have? (VW Jetta)
Where will you be staying? (combination of camping, couchsurfing, and staying with family/friends)
What about your job? (it will be there when I get back)
Where are you going? (I pull out the business card with the map on it)
Are you headed south or east first? (south)
So these are the places you’re going? (and much more, the cities on the map are placeholders to show the general shape of the trip)
What will Rob do while you’re gone? (continue to live his life as an independent person)
After the questions comes the advice. While all of it is unsolicited, that doesn’t make it unwelcome. I get a lot of suggestions of places to go, which I dutifully take note of in my Evernote account, even if I know I won’t be anywhere near the place they’re suggesting. Occasionally I’ll get offers to introduce me to a friend in some particular city who is likely to put me up for the night. I make note of those too.
As my departure gets closer, I’m starting to get a few “you know it’s not too late to change your mind” and “it’s okay to come back in the middle if you don’t want to be doing it anymore.”
But the thing I hear in almost every single conversation is: “I’m jealous. I wish I could do something like this.” That’s when I ask my one and only question:
“Why don’t you?”
No one really has an answer. Usually I’ll get a muddled “I know, I know . . . ” that trails off into nothing. Sometimes I’ll get an exhale through the consonant sound “psh” or a quick expression of embarrassment. I think it’s because no one wants to admit the real reason: they forgot about it.
I don’t mean they forgot like you forgot where you left your keys, or forgot the lyrics to a song. I mean like the got distracted with other things and, well, they just kinda never got around to it. I’m not very old, but I’m old enough to know that “never getting around to it” is the death knell of everything grand you ever thought you might do.
I’ve been getting a lot of credit recently for being brave enough to go on this trip (their words, not mine). But that doesn’t mask all the other times I’ve managed to not get around to something incredibly important. Like how I wanted to talk to the 99-year-old woman at church about her life, but I never got around to it between when the thought occurred to me and when she died some three years later. I had three years to do it, but I just sort of forgot.
Like how I wanted to have the same conversation with my grandpa, who is now pretty deep into dementia, and whose responses can no longer be accepted as fact. I had years to do that, too.
I had years to write a novel, years to learn to dance, years to play the guitar or speak French or read Jane Eyre. Over time I managed to do some of those, at least partially. But I spent so long not doing them, and when I look back, I can’t seem to recall what I did do with all that time. I suppose you just get so caught up in the things that are easy and the things that seem pressing that you just sort of forget the things that you thought would make your life worth living.
Tomorrow I leave on my adventure. Don’t forget to go on yours.