My return journey, including a compelled overnight stop in New Jersey, has deposited me back in Boston, where I’ll have to settle for this boring view from my apartment:
In the past, the return journey has always carried with it a sense of dénouement – gratitude that this happened but disappointment that it’s over. But this time was different. As must as I enjoyed all the sights and experiences of this trip – and I did – when I took that eastbound ramp onto I-70 out of Terre Haute yesterday, I felt nothing but excitement. I knew that in only 2 days I’d be waking up early and once again stumbling down Mission Hill and up Huntington Avenue towards NUSL. I knew that soon I’d be back in my routine of morning classes, afternoon reading, and evening freedom. I knew I’d soon have the chance to complain about classes and professors to people who felt the same way (or who would tell me I was wrong). And most importantly, I knew that soon I’d see my school friends and classmates again and have the chance to share with them more of the “Breakfast Club moments” that made this year so special – and that every mile I drove would bring me closer to that. My speedometer rarely dipped below 80.
So I guess this means that I failed at my goal of escaping. Although I’m not sure I ever really wanted that, anyway. I just knew I needed to escape. But that was probably always going to be impossible. What I needed was to stop thinking and worrying about what this new year would bring and how I could still cling to my best memories of the past year. But, try as I might, I never stood a chance of controlling what popped into my head. And with a vehicular musical repertoire (both the radio and my own collection) that had me making constant text-to-self connections, the result was practically inevitable.
Clearly, this trip felt different than my past adventures. Even though Lindsay and I had been planning it for months and every destination was one that we both wanted to see, for some reason I couldn’t get as excited this time as in the past. Maybe it’s because I was so busy in the weeks beforehand that I didn’t have time to build it up. Maybe it’s because quirks of scheduling prevented us from reaching interesting natural areas (read – mountains). But those feel like excuses. I think the real reason is that, over the last year, I’ve changed.
As I was planning my first road trip in 2011, when people would ask if I was taking someone with me I would answer, “Why would I do that?” A non-canine travel companion would prevent me from doing what I really wanted to, require me to share the space of my castle-on-wheels with another person, and force me to wait my turn before using hotel room bathrooms. It would be like being locked in a car with a roommate. And it had been a long time since I’d had a roommate I’d wanted to spend any time with.
But now that I’ve made a connection with a new group of friends (and been around all of them for at least 20 hours every week since August), I’ve had a hard time spending extended periods extended distances away from them. For the first time in a long time, I’ve needed the company of people as much as I’ve need time alone. And an epic solo road trip can only provide one of those.
So where do we go from here? Will I be taking another one of these adventures? Well, as I’ve told myself recently every time I’ve tried to plan something months in advance: we’ll have to see what happens. It’ll probably depend on the degree to which I’m able to reconcile that tension between my need for solitude and my need for community. And it’ll be tough to pull the trigger if I feel like I’m leaving that community behind, even if I know I’m being irrational. Even this break, when I knew that everyone at school had scattered across the country for the week, just being away for so long from the city where we all live felt like I was leaving an important piece of myself behind.
All that said, there are still plenty of places I want to see: I feel like I haven’t spent enough time in the Rockies (especially those Canadian ones) or the Northwest coast. I’ve still never been to Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, and (of course) Alaska or Hawaii. I haven’t seen the most interesting parts of Texas, and (as I learned this week) there’s a lot of interesting stuff in Kentucky. So the next time I have some time off (maybe the end of August or maybe February), I’ll see what I’m up for. Maybe all I need is a group of three…
Chazak, chazak, v’nit chazeik.