Well, this map is now looking exactly as perfect as I’d hoped, with a couple of weeks to spare in fact.
When the spark of this idea to complete the continental map before my 50th birthday came into existence, I had 20 states to cover and an entire 4 ½ months to cover them in. Out came my Passion Planner and my Breakthru Journal (thanks Cindy) because I knew that this would require a bit of planning.
I didn’t plan it this way but 17 of the 20 states I visited this summer, I visited alone. Just so you know, traveling alone is not a common thing for a Cuban, Catholic, married, conservative woman born into this Herrera family of ours, at least not traveling for pleasure. What does ‘alone’ mean to someone in the category I just described? Traveling without someone you know and certainly not without your husband. I found after my first trip ‘alone’ to Africa in 2014, that traveling alone is pretty awesome. That trip had me promising myself that I would take a trip ‘alone’ at least once per year, even if only to the West coast for the weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my promise (on steroids). Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with family and friends just equally love traveling alone.
During this ‘Summer of Anywhere-but-Here’, I’ve reconfirmed how much I love airports. Yes, that’s weird for some but I love to people-watch and make up my own stories of what’s going on with them; I love to meet new people who are generally less afraid of answering when I ask “what’s your dream?” because they figure they’ll never see me again. I’ve had some great beautiful conversations with perfect strangers because I’ve been alone. At these airports I love to look out for those rare good-customer-service experiences at airport Starbucks (WHY?) and love that I’m with no one to complain about the bad ones, at Starbucks or anywhere else. I’m aware that it’s happening but am satisfied with simply tipping accordingly in lieu of hearing someone bitch about it. Memphis and Ft. Lauderdale are awesome by the way.
I’ve been able to check off, not only this big goal of completing the map, but along the way have checked off a lot of things which have been in my bucket for what seems like forever. I’ve experienced most of them through my own filter which I love because I tend to really enjoy and at least like everything because everything has something to offer. I’m not a complainer and find myself always in search of the silver lining and I promise you that that’s been much easier to do because I’ve experienced a lot of this alone.
I’ve enjoyed the questions too. They’re varied: Why are you doing all the states?; Are you traveling alone?; Did you really sleep at a truck rest stop in a Pink Beetle?; Aren’t you afraid of getting lost?; Aren’t you afraid of breaking down in the middle of nowhere?; Why isn’t your husband with you?; What do you do for a living that you have all this time?; Can you really drive 18 hours a day with only one 5-Hour Energy?; Can I take a picture of your car?
This 48-by-50 adventure had me visiting some beautiful parts of our amazing country, which I knew I’d get to eventually just didn’t want to wait any longer. To be fair, unless there was a specific place I wanted to visit in each state, I’d sort of wing-it, knowing full well that my amazing talent for getting lost would lead me to find exactly what I needed to find. You see when you travel alone, it’s okay to get lost because no one is there to have a panic or mini heart attack when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, with no telephone reception. I’ve found out a lot about myself in the places where I’ve been lost and have loved every minute of it. In every ‘lost’, I find myself a little more.
If I’d break down, I’d look for the ‘why’ it’s happening and for the ‘what’ I am getting from this. If I’d see a hiking trail, I’d simply pull off to the side of the road and take a 10 minute or a 3 hour hike, depending on how much water I had with me. Eating when and where, staying when and where and driving when and where are just added benefits of traveling alone.
However, the true benefits of traveling alone are more than just these tangibles – it’s in the really getting to know yourself, what you’re capable of, what your limitations are and how to break through them; It’s about loving your own company enough that you are alone but not lonely, listening to yourself, searching your soul and finding answers to questions you hadn’t even been asking before but needed answers to. It forces you to experience vulnerability – first with the unknown and then with everything else and opening yourself up to that vulnerability is a BEAUTIFUL thing. I’ve been emotionally and physically uncomfortable during my travels and above everything else, I’ve reconfirmed what I’ve believed for so long that life really does begin at the end of our comfort zone.
At every turn, I heard ‘So do not fear, for I am with you;’ – Isaiah 41:10
Adventure On 🙂