Exploring the unknown is the number one reason for a road trip. Helping you move forward in life is reason number two. Life in all its splendour can unfortunately become stagnant. You find yourself stuck in the grind, following the same old routine and eventually realize that if you don’t change things up, your sanity could be at stake. A road trip causes an interrupt; it breaks through all your comforts and routines and puts you on the road (no pun intended) to higher thinking. Or, in my case, I started seeing the world through rose coloured glasses again. I was once again reminded of all the awe inspiring glory this vast blue and green orb we inhabit has. Of all the lessons I learned while on this road trip, simplicity and renewed curiosity made the top of my list.
Gary Vaynerchuk said it best in a recent video on his Facebook page when asked, “What would you do to move forward?”
“Do something that breaks the pattern. Something extreme. Like, just get on a train and go away for a week. Or something different. You have to break pattern.”
I went on this road trip to break the patterns that were no longer serving me, and to reboot my mindset. I’ve known for quite some time that I needed a trip of this magnitude. I needed something extreme that would push my limits and cause me to refocus. Sometimes you have to bow to your soul’s innermost wishes. You can’t ignore it. If you do, you know that nothing will change.
(Please don’t read into this that I’m suggesting you blow insane amounts of money taking a road trip across Europe or the USA. Keep it simple and get away for a week on whatever fits in your budget. The idea is to get away from the normal you and your grind.)
What I Learned
You would think that a road trip is complicated, wouldn’t you? The planning, the hours driving, and the unpacking and repacking of everything. Well, I’m going to vehemently disagree. Yes, I used a rather forceful adjective there. Sure, loading up a car and moving from hotel room to hotel room may seem the furthest from simple, but it is rather simple. I’ve lost you I’m sure. You’re caught up in “the best ways to pack your luggage” thoughts aren’t you?
Decision fatigue is removed. Yes, as far from reality as this one might seem, it’s not. You have less to worry about. You have only so much you can fit into your suitcase, so picking an outfit each day is easy. And if you’re a frugal health nut like me, you know your options are limited for food while traveling. My best friend on the entire trip was the grocery store. And knowing I couldn’t stock up an entire fridge as I had only a cooler bag with limited ice, I kept meals basic. Nothing could have been more peaceful to me (except for hiking through the Redwoods – that’s serenity.)
Breakfast was cereal with berries and almond milk in a hotel room coffee cup with a plastic spoon.
Lunch was an apple with almonds, coconut water and maybe a protein bar. Lunch had to be simple as it was usually on the road or while I was out seeing something.
Dinner was a salad (leaf lettuce, tomato, goat cheese and olive oil) or my only meal out at a restaurant for the day if I could swing a healthy option.
Most of your daily decisions that back home would seem overwhelming are removed. You have a limited wardrobe, limited meal choices due to health or budget restrictions, and entertainment is restricted by budget. What I’m getting at here is you don’t have your usual clutter orbiting you all day and overwhelming your state of being. I found I was very calm knowing that dinner would be a simple salad. No fuss, no muss.
Becoming (more) self-aware.
I’d say that my self-awareness is quite high. It’s been a priority for me since my divorce. I made a pact that I would no longer be a people pleaser, solely living for someone else and feigning half interest at their hobbies. Instead, I challenged myself to figure out what the heck it was that I enjoyed in life. Who was I? What sports did I like to play? How did I like my eggs prepared? You get the idea.
Becoming self-aware is the best thing you can do for yourself. Full stop. End sentence.
We do change, so self-awareness is something that you have to keep an eye on.
On the path to self-awareness, the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask questions. Always ask why.
Because of my limited funds, I was very cognizant of my money situation throughout the road trip. I paid attention to my moods and my spending habits. When I realized a pattern outside of my normal behaviour, I paused and asked myself, “Why? Why now? Why do I not want to do X but I want to do X instead?”
You want to know what I found out? I really don’t enjoy shopping or spending money. I know, eh? How’s that for irony?
How did I find this out? I kept asking myself, why are you shopping? Why are you doing this? Then, the thoughts shifted. You have only so much time in California, you don’t know when you’ll be back, do you really want to waste time in a store?
I became more aware that I was wasting time, energy and money if I shopped. Also, the satisfaction derived from just going on this trip was enough to reboot my shopping habit. Save first, spend later.
Yes, a 4-week road trip is itself a major challenge but there are those things that challenge your soul and values so much more. It’s about challenging misconceptions you have. Your old habits no longer serve you, creating new ones leads to growth and change. Should you go skydiving on a whim if you’re afraid of heights? Probably not. When I challenged my fear of heights years ago, I worked up to it slowly. I simply continued to put myself in similar situations that would cause me to shift my fear. With each new experience, I realized my fear was unfounded. There was no need for it. I wasn’t going to die.
With the more serious lessons came some fun and interesting ones. When you travel to so many places and interact with new and different people in each place, you’re bound to have a few fun stories.
The fun lessons…
I learned that I couldn’t ever again drive in Los Angeles. I was scared OUT of my mind and normally driving never scares me. It’s pure anarchy in LA.
I learned that NO ONE signals turns or lane changes in California, this is especially true in Los Angeles.
I learned that parking is $5 per half hour in Beverly Hills. Ouch. Oh and attendants will NOT give you change no matter how long you stand and stare at them.
I learned how to park a car in very tight spaces in the Hollywood Hills. Along with this lesson came another one, DO NOT have a car in the Hollywood Hills, or LA for that matter.
I learned that the Tenderloin in San Francisco equals loud, screaming and sometimes dancing homeless folk.
I learned that hiking alone with wild animals around equals slightly-freaked-out-much-faster-walking Michelle. Elk anyone?
I learned that when the sign says 4.3 miles, it’s not always 4.3 miles. It’s usually a lot more. I never found the end of that trail.
I learned that I am still quite able to pee in the middle of a forest if necessary. And that Starbucks napkins are a fantastic toilet paper substitute.
I learned that there are all kinds of washrooms in the world. Some are nice; some are scarier than the one in the movie Trainspotting.
I learned that when your gut tells you to get off at an exit to go pee, you should. Usually the next one involves a detour, which inevitably leads to you shouting at traffic lights and other drivers. Then fast walking half hunched over into Nordstrom rack searching for the washroom.
I learned that Americans call the washroom “restroom”. Thank you kind Starbucks employee in the financial district of San Francisco for reminding me of this and then talking loudly about it to your co-worker as I walked away. #funtimes #runonsentence #myenglishteacherwouldbeproud
I learned that no matter how badly you have to pee during a flight, never get up when the seat belt sign is on. Just pee yourself. Otherwise, you get in trouble and you have four United Airlines flight attendants reminding you to sit down whilst you beg to go pee because you couldn’t wait.
I learned that everything and I mean everything is VERY expensive in San Francisco. I’m still waiting for the bill for the air I breathed.
I learned that when you stay in that many hotels, AirBnB’s and B&B’s, you’ll have at least one psychopath in the room next door. Oh, and you’ll hear at least one couple having sex.
I learned to stop drinking coffee so I wouldn’t have to use the aforementioned frightening washrooms.
I learned that nothing gets a redneck family in Yosemite more excited than a Canadian saying eh at the end of a sentence. Yes, this happened. There was lots of hyper happy shouting involved. It was like Neil Armstrong walked on the moon for the first time – again.
Last, but certainly never least, I learned compassion, patience, the value of a dollar, the value of my time and how to be re-inspired by the world again.
What’s the longest road trip you’ve been on? What did you learn about yourself and your habits?
P.S. Travel Guides to come with more photos of my road trip.