Little did we know, there, right in front of us, was change. For months I had been planning the trip of a lifetime. I had made spreadsheets and mapped out countless routes. Organizing each stop to create the ultimate, soul searching road trip. My itinerary was set, my budget saved, my car fixed, everything was ready to go, or so I thought.
With only 18 days left before departure, my travel buddy decided that a three-week trip was not manageable for his life and would not be able to attend. Though it was a hard blow, I tried to understand that not everyone can run away for twenty-four days and disappear. Still, who would I go with? Myself, that's who. I dug deep and told myself that I would find the person I had been looking for for years. Me. I would be reintroduced to myself on this trip and learn more, because I would only have myself to rely upon. It was settled, I would be going solo.
Cue my mother. She had other ideas in mind. Stating that it was too far for a young woman, that the car wasn't as reliable as she hoped, and the whole thing was just not a safe bet. I can respect that. It was, indeed, a long journey. I mean, I would be gone for nearly a month, alone, on the open road, but I had traveled alone before. I knew, however, that neither my mother or I would enjoy those twenty-four days if I didn't have a travel partner, so the search began. Following that, the search continued.
I had asked several people, explaining that the entire budget, minus their food and souvenirs, was completely covered. That all they would have to do was get in the car and enjoy a free, priceless, experience. It was a no-go. No one was able to commit to such a venture, but I refused to miss out on my adventure, so a reaffirmed that I would be going alone. I accepted it. I reveled in it and the count down began. My mother panicked.
Shortly, the phone rang. It was my mom. She was at work at the hotel she's been at for over ten years. While managing the front desk she had been talking to a girl about my age that was out on her own solo adventure. My mother said had she closed her eyes she would have thought she was talking to me. This was where the change happened. The girl had found herself lost in life, like I had. Single, unemployed, confused, and wondering what would happen next. For us, the road does something magical. It brings a sense of peace and belonging that we struggled to find elsewhere. Life had brought us so many hurdles that our legs began to grow weary. So, we improvised and let the car take us the rest of the way.
The girl from two states over and I met at a quaint little coffee joint about 30 minutes north of my home. Two complete strangers had never been so familiar. We talked for over an hour with the complete understanding that the person opposite us knew exactly what the other meant. We found that we didn't have to explain ourselves much, because, in fact, we were completely similar. Our standpoints, beliefs, struggles, and statuses were so mirrored that in was undeniable.
I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I invited her to join me on my trip. That's crazy right? Trusting someone in the world today to not only walk into your life, but into a dream that had been in the making for years. I did though. I would accompany her on the remainder of the trip she had set out on in the northeast, then we would begin the journey I had planned and head west.
We left. Two strangers packed into her tiny car for the now 40 days of what would shape the rest of our lives. Again, or so I thought.
I have had back problems for the past two years, and wouldn't you know it, it resurfaced the first day on the road. We drove north to Niagara Falls. It's a nice water feature, but when you take into consideration my back, the fact that we weren't a couple, that we don't like over populated areas, and that we were on a budget, it wasn't our favorite place in the world. For the next few days we camped. Using apps to find cheap campgrounds, we worked our way through New York and Pennsylvania. By the end of day four, my back would hardly let me stand and a call from home with the news of my car needing more repairs stopped our plans in their tracks.
I had never felt so robbed of something in my life. I cried. I cried a lot. Not only was I missing out on the most epic adventure I'd probably ever have the opportunity to take, I was missing out on that feeling. You know, the magical feeling I get from the road. The sense that I have a place in this world. A place that can slow down all of the nonsense of daily life and put things into perspective for me. I was missing out on the chance for experience, learning, and inspiration. I felt my dream come crashing down and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
There were still two days left before we would return to my hometown. In pain and heartbroken we sat at the edge of a small lake in Pennsylvania. It was abnormally cold for the end of July. There on the bench we finally admitted defeat. The trip that had been almost coveted was now water, like that of the lake before us, and it slipped effortlessly through our grasp.
We sat there in silence for a short while. I think both in shock, trying to see how we would readjust our lives once again and what to pursue and how to do it. It didn't seem real, but it was. I missed out on the trip of a lifetime. I had to forfeit everything I had been working towards. Somehow, though, knowing that there was someone else, just like me, somewhere out in that great big world and surfacing with a friend that's willing to drop everything and run away to explore with you, takes the edge off. But only just a little.
We made it back to our lives reluctantly. I had only known her for a week, but it felt like a lifetime. It was quite a trip.