Saturday, April 15, 2017

Putting the "Travel" in "Traveling Mandolin"

This was awesome. (2011)

This was also awesome. (2013)

Most of you know that I used to travel... a lot. I used to be constantly planning for the next trip, beginning at age 20 with a solo month-long trip to Bellingham, Washington, and ending at 25 with the Pacific Crest Trail. When Zach and I returned from that six-month phase of life, we were returning to settle down for real.

We bought a house. We joined the Historic Frenchtown Association, and I became the secretary. We planted fruit trees and got Internet service. I raged and wept through a lot of existential angst, and came out the other side smiling and settled. I had been a bird, I said, but now I’m a tree.

Several weeks ago when we were visiting Zach’s grandparents in Sacramento, we were talking about work or change or routine or something like that, I don’t really remember. I just remember bursting out, “We should take an epic road trip!”

Zach balked at the suggestion, out of practicality. We talked through it. We sat down and did the calculations— there’s no way we could afford this, right? Oh wait, I think we can, if we just have this budget. Twenty dollars a day for two people? Pfft, yeah, I could do that! I have done that! We can totally do this!

So in mid-May, we are throwing three months’ worth of possessions into our backpacks, leaving our house in the care of Zach’s brother, and hitting the road! The trip begins with driving my brother to his job in Yellowstone, but from there we’re ditching the rental car and hopping the Greyhound. We’re sending in applications to HelpXing hosts right now, and hoping to meet up with Zach’s dad later in the summer to travel for a while. If all goes well, we’ll be home by the eclipse in late August.

Planning for the trip— reactivating my HelpX profile after several years, figuring out free camping spots, plotting Greyhound stations, looking for volunteer opportunities— has been so much fun. I had forgotten how fun trip-planning is. I had forgotten how much I missed this.

And yet, along with that excitement, I realize that if we had decided to stay home over the summer, I would’ve been just as happy. This is somewhat of a surprise to me, but I’m okay with it. There’s so much I want to do in St. Charles— gardening, neighborhood projects, urban homesteading skills, chicken-keeping, community building— and I can’t wait to do it. 

I feel like I should feel torn between these two halves of me, this longing for travel and longing for home that have been part of me for so many years.

But I don’t. In fact, I feel more whole than I’ve felt for a very long time. I love the idea of traveling, and I love the idea of staying home— but where I expect conflict between these extremes, I find harmony instead. 

Apparently I’m a tree and a bird at the same time. I don’t question this. I simply embrace it.

In the meantime, if any of you has suggestions for places to visit or things to do in the western United States, please send me your ideas! This is an open-ended trip, and we’re keeping all the possibilities in mind. Thanks!


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