Monday, May 11, 2015

Thanks, Harper Lee.

"Travel alone? Why?" 

If I've answered this question once in the last couple months...well, you know how the rest goes. A spring break trip with a couple girlfriends got me thinking about my life, my feeling of "treading water" and never really doing anything except shaking up my relatively predictable routine. For years, I've had aspirations of travel but no one willing to come along. After a text conversation with a friend and a gmail chat with my brother, I decided to seek my own adventure. Some research on good weekend trips with outdoor opportunities pointed me toward Asheville, NC, and at 10:30 one weeknight, I booked my accommodations for the weekend preceding my 32nd birthday. 

What inspired all of this? Harper Lee. Yep. Good ole Harper Lee published an article in a 1965 McCalls about children discovering the world. It's one of her rare nonfiction pieces that many don't even know she wrote. "When Children Discover America" inspired me to get out and explore America for myself; I've always said that I have little desire to go galavanting around foreign countries when there's much to discover here in my own country, so I asked myself what I've been waiting for. Myself didn't have an answer, so I made her buck up and make a plan, a plan without plans, so to speak. 

Booking my accommodations was exciting and empowering; my students were excited when we discussed the article (they read it during our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird) and the details of my intended trip leaked into conversation. Surprisingly, momma wasn't horrified that I was driving over five hours from home, by myself, for a weekend of hiking and adventure. My brother, always a cheerleader for adventure and travel, even got me a cool book for my birthday all about 36 hour trips to take across North America (36 Hours, 150 Weekends). 

I was feeling excited until I got wind that some people interpreted my solo excursion as a desperate effort to get away -- a depressed vacation lamenting my singleness. They felt bad for me and assumed I was going away sad, yet it's quite the opposite! My 87-year old grandfather was fit to be tied, exclaiming to my mother his distaste for women traveling alone, really doing anything alone. What most people didn't realize is the same week I booked my Asheville trip, I got a wild hair and planned a week-long road trip along the East coast: Wilmington, NC; Charleston, SC; Hilton Head, SC; Savannah, GA. I searched AirBnB and made bookings with three hosts along the coast, and I'm so excited about the trip I can't stand it. The call's been made to get a travel check on Pepe (my Pewter colored Altima...get it, Pepe le Pewter?!), and after stuffing report cards on the morning of May 23rd, I'm heading out on a solo road trip -- like Thelma and Louise, except just me and the open road...and no Brad Pitt. :) I have places to stay and no solid plans of what to do, and that's how I want to keep it. After years of wishing for a trip to Wilmington, I'm finally getting the chance to explore Dawson's Creek in all its glory, a chance to eat oysters in Charleston, a chance to run on the beach in Hilton Head, and a chance to drink a beer on the riverfront in Savannah while talking to strangers and eating ridiculously good (and buttery, y'all) food. 

All of this is to say that I'm tired of living in the shadow of myself. The world has tons to offer, and my brother is right: if I don't explore it now, I'll look back and realize that I had a wonderful time in my single life to seek adventure, and I wasted it. I refuse to waste my time waiting on adventure to fall into my lap, trip me from around a corner, or randomly show up on my doorstep. We make time for the things important in our lives, and folks, I'm important to me. My want of solo adventure doesn't mean I don't enjoy travel with friends and family and certainly doesn't point to any harbored depression, but it means I'm bold and courageous and independent and fearless. The Asheville trip was scary but fun, liberating and new, and I can't wait to feel uncomfortable and out of my element when I'm nine hours from home making friends with strangers and watching sunsets on the beach. Don't feel sorry for me. Get out there and seek your own adventure. 

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