Travel’s End (Or, How I Ended Up Back Home)

One night in North Carolina. That’s all I spent there, searching and searching for something to do, something that would call my heart to explore, and yet wasn’t too far away from where I was. And that went spectacularly not well. I think a small part of me wanted to be home, in a place I knew, with people I loved.

I drove for a little while in North Carolina before making the decision to attempt South Carolina again. I wanted to see Charleston. I’m not sure why; my decision to see Savannah wasn’t a great call, and that’s because I’m not a history buff or interested in the aspects of these towns. And I drove through Charleston. It was beautiful, but again, I didn’t want to stop.

So I drove through Myrtle Beach. During its off season. When everything is pretty closed. And I drove away.

By seven or so, I was by the Florida border. I was going to stop for the night, I really was. But I didn’t. I knew how far of a drive it was from Jacksonville to home, I knew it wasn’t worth stopping. So I drove straight home. My final day of traveling was pure driving.

I saw some snow at the South Carolina border rest stop, and threw a tiny snowball. And I took a couple pictures, and I spent some time walking around. And I realized I loved nature as much as I hate it. I mean, I truly hate it. Spiders, bugs, lizards, frogs… all of it grosses me out, and keeps me from nature. But the beauty, the trees, the way the light casts, the stillness… that’s what makes me want more.

And I realized I loved being on my own, nothing but a car and a dream. Yes, it got lonely, and sometimes all I wanted to do was call someone and have some human interaction. But I would gladly trade it all in to keep traveling with no worries.

I don’t think I’m ever going to be a world-class traveler. I don’t think I’ll ever truly leave Florida. But I’m not going to stop traveling. I’m not going to stop dreaming. And I’m not going to stop writing about the world as I know it.

1/8/18 – Day Six

I wanted to go to Savannah, but I ended up in Lumberton, North Carolina.

I did make it to Savannah. I drove through it, even. But I didn’t stop. The city didn’t call me; nothing there made me want to stay, not the buildings, the history, the ghost tours I could’ve taken. The Interstate called me. And so I followed it.

It took less than half an hour to reach South Carolina. It took around two hours to drive through it. And it took maybe twenty more minutes to find a hotel and food.

I honestly thought I would stay in Georgia. I loved Macon, and there were more things I could have checked out. But I needed to make it this far, to see if I could. Granted, I don’t particularly like it here so far. I think I glorified the idea of North Carolina so much that, arriving inside its borders, I was let down by my own ideals. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like North Carolina; it’s beautiful, and I’d love to explore it more. But I don’t want to stay here like I did in Georgia. Maybe it’s because I’m closer to family there, only half a day away. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m glorifying Georgia.

I did, however, get to see the Whistle Stop Cafe. I might have been expecting more, but arriving before noon on a Monday doesn’t give an option for many people to be present. I will say, their fried green tomatoes were the best I’ve had, and I don’t even like tomatoes. But it was a piece of history right in front of me, and it felt nice to see it. I did love the movie and the story.

I don’t know where my plans go from here. Home is tugging at my heart, a need for the old way of life is nudging at my mind, but I don’t want to leave without checking the area out a bit. Who knows. Maybe I’ll fall in love with a state all over again.

1/7/18 – Day Five

I’m still in Georgia, but away from Atlanta. I do like it here, and I like the feeling of winter. Winter is a season that Florida forgot, but here and now, it feels fresh and new, bitter and stinging and cold. And I love it.

I got lost in Atlanta today. Not terribly lost; phones and GPS have a knack for finding directions.  All because I turned left instead of right. And yet, I’m glad I got lost. I wasn’t afraid, I kept my head, and I walked more than I have in a while. My legs itched, my hands were cold, my face turned a splendid red, but I made my way through a city that looked forgotten as everyone focused on a game. And I stayed safe; I only walked along busy streets, never took a side street, and yet I hesitate telling this story. Some close to me might not like to hear that I got lost. But I did, and I didn’t, and I made it through the day. I even found my car much quicker than it took to leave it.

My goal was the World of Coca-Cola. And I spent a couple blissful hours there. And it was beautiful. I also might have gotten an addiction to Surge, years too late, but it’s a better Mountain Dew and I am in love with it. There might be a can in my bag right now. This place, it was beautiful and wonderful and filled with so much art and memorabilia, and I wanted it all.

I left Atlanta then, drove away from the city with it in my wake. Partially because I’m not a fan of the city, but mainly because of the big game tomorrow. I’m not sure what game, or who’s playing, but I knew it was football and I needed to put a good amount of distance between me and football fans. Growing up with parents who are in love with the game gives me enough warning to know what I’d expect from a game like this.

Tonight I’m in Macon, and I love it here. The small-town vibe as I sit outside of the city, the front desk guy who told me about a retro arcade in downtown Macon that I have to visit at some point, to the knowledge that I can keep driving towards Savannah and other places, and enjoy the world around me. I feel happy here. If I could sleep in a hotel for the rest of my life and explore places, I think I could do that. If I had to settle down here instead, I think I could do that too. But I think I have a couple places to visit first. Then maybe, just maybe, I could find “home”.

1/6/18 – Day Four

I’m sitting in a hotel in Georgia now, looking back over the last few days. The Keys were nice, but not what I wanted. I felt out of place there; I felt like a tourist. And though I loved the ocean views, the salt air scent, the sunshine and sand, I had to leave.

So I went home for a day. Even though I had only been gone for less than two days, it felt different, like I didn’t fit anymore. And as much as I wanted to be there, to go back on everything I decided to do, I knew I couldn’t do that. I have to try to find my own way in this world, or else I don’t think I could go back to the way things were.

So I came to Georgia, and I stopped outside Atlanta, in a decent hotel right outside the airport, where every time it feels quiet another plane leaves or takes off and rattles the building around me. I briefly explored the city, and I hated it. It was too big, too confusing, too much of an urban area filled with aspects of cities I hadn’t come across in Florida.

And yet, driving up through the lower parts of Georgia, I think I fell in love. The way the trees lined the interstate, sparsely green and somehow still alive. The way I didn’t recognize gas stations, or saw restaurant chains I hadn’t seen before. The way the drivers seemed more laid back, not as much in a rush. The way I sit here, hands freezing, enjoying temperatures not reached in Florida.

Tomorrow I explore more. I want to see the World of Coke. I want to drive backwards and see the Whistle Stop Cafe. I want to visit my cousin, even for just a little bit. And I want to see a more rural Georgia. Maybe this is where I’ll be happy, maybe not. But I have time to explore, and that’s what I want to do.

1/3/18 – Day One

This is hard. Packing up my car and driving away is hard. Driving for ten hours is hard. Being in a new place, one you’ve never heard of before, is hard.

And yet it is exhilarating. For the first time in my life I am completely on my own, making my own choices, staying where I want to stay, seeing what I wish to see. There is every emotion rushing through my body at this moment, fear and confusion and joy. But the dominating feeling is determination. Because I can do this, and I will.

I drove all the way to the end of the Keys just to drive away. I wanted to watch the sun set, but it seems like the whole world did, too, and I don’t have the patience to figure out parking and walking and crowds. Instead I drove over the bluest water I’ve ever seen, a deep teal, the color of sea glass. I saw destruction and devastation and rebuilding. I saw chickens crossing roads as if they owned the place. I watched the sea turn the color of storms, until all was black around me.

I drove across Alligator Alley, and I saw more turtles than I have ever seen lying on the side of the roads. And I pitied them, to an extent. We invaded their homelands, and we carved up the land. But there were fences across almost the whole stretch, on both sides, and yet the turtles still tried to get across. And I admired their determination, though I pitied them for it. And I wish my luck to the next turtle who tries to cross over.

I conquered a strange fear and drove over the Skyway bridge. Years ago, I had a strange recurring dream where I had to drive over a bridge that was incredibly steep, and was only wide enough for one car. It was pretty much a roller coaster, and if you wavered at all, you would fall. And in my dreams I had to drive it a few times, because I would forget something, and each time I remember feeling scared. Now, as I drive more, each time I get to a bridge that seems steep, I am both excited and scared. I think my fear is that I will pull a Princess Diaries, and my car will roll back down and I will cause a wreck.

And yet, this bridge is the steepest thing I’ve had to drive. I felt like a kid driving up it. If there weren’t cars in front of me, I probably would’ve coasted down, watching my speed but throwing caution slightly to the wind. As it was, it felt like a roller coaster I controlled. And I can’t wait to drive it again to go back up the state.

So now I write this in a little motel, anxious and excited and tired. I think I thought there would be more deep thoughts here, but there weren’t that many. Instead, I accomplished more. Maybe tomorrow there will be deep insights into the world and myself. But for now, there’s only turtles and a bridge, and a teal sea beneath me.

New Beginning

It is hard to find the words to express what emotions fill me as I look back on the past year, to express my fears and hopes for the year ahead. Each year in retrospect becomes a whirlwind of thoughts and memories, and each coming year becomes a daunting black hole that sucks all ponderings into a stew of nervous wondering. But I will attempt to explain, so understanding in the new year can be grasped at some point.

I have been graced by many opportunities this past year. I have gotten the opportunity to run my own classroom of one-year-olds, and train someone who has become a better friend than I could ask for. I have seen snow, though the reason behind it is not the most pleasant one, but it awakened in me a need to travel and to live that I haven’t had in a while. I watched my sister get married, and remembered the importance of family as members I hadn’t seen in what feels like ages gathered in a barn to dance the night away. I have met children who opened my eyes to a childlike wonder I had forgotten. My year has been privileged, and I am lucky to realize that.

And yet, it has been a year that has thrown me into contemplation. I have questioned my happiness, my position, my goals. I have felt stuck, frustrated, angry. I have cried more than I should have, I have wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, and I have laughed with a circle of friends that I never thought I would have. I have come away with bruises, with an ability to protect myself, with the single goal of doing a sit-up completed. I have never felt more.

This new year will be the same; I can feel it in my soul. So I embrace it. I search for it. And I invite you to come with me.

There is nothing to hold me down now. With much regret and a heavy heart, I quit the job that has given me a form of meaning these past two and a half years. With anticipation, fear, and excitement, I dropped everything for this journey. And it will be a journey. I am packing my car and leaving once the new year is starting to pale into normalcy.

I don’t know where I’m going, and I like it that way. All I know is that I want you to be there. Because maybe, just maybe, my journey can help you.