***As the road trip has come to an end–there will be a series of posts involving hobbies accomplished; places seen; lessons learned; and an over-encompassing post of it all–but for that post–whew, I’ll need a few days to reflect. For now–here’s a little post about choosing the right Travel Companions.**
As my mom clicks through my photos of the trip, she comes across a picture of David in his red Florence hat staring off into the Badlands.
She sees me smile as I remember that day silently in my head. She continues to scroll and comes across a photo of Kim standing with her back to a giant tree in the redwood forest, her arms out at her sides. I giggle, again, remembering that moment of the trip.
My mom turns to me and says, “And you are all still talking?”
A cheerful grin spreads across my face, “Yep. Still talking.”
Prior to leaving on the trip, a lot of people asked me who I thought would be the one to throw off the balance of the squad. I couldn’t come up with an answer so most of the time I joked-“Well..I have a feeling by Seattle Kim and David will be best friends–and I’ll be standing on the side of the street under some big gray sky with two duffle bags holding my thumb out.”
Clearly, that didn’t happen. And although, we had our moments of tiny bits of conflict, we all handled it in a mature – simple – way, by retreating to our cell phones or our books for a few moments of silence before blasting out another song to sing and dance along to.
Travel companions are the most crucial part of any journey. Sometimes, when you need alone time–you’ll still need to be in some vicinity of them–including the backseat of the car. It’s important to concern yourself with the travel mates you choose before you worry about what path you’ll take, where you’ll stop, and what mountains you hike–or else the entire trip itself will feel like an uphill battle. If you choose the right people to travel with–then the right path will unfold on it’s own–there won’t be a wrong way.
And the truth is, you’ll know very early on in a trip if it’s going to work out or if you are going to have to turn around after you sit down for your first cup of coffee. I can’t tell you what the signs are of this–because I just know that if you gel, then you gel, and if you don’t gel–well then the trip will start off in hell. Some ways to approach travel mates in general? Avoid selfish words: “My plans,” “My trip,” “It’s my decision.” Remember–if you are going to tackle an adventure with other people–then it’s always “our.”
With that being said: I couldn’t be more grateful for my two travel-mates, David and Kim–who didn’t know one another until a month before we took off. Of course, because they didn’t know one another, I knew that there was a risk involved, but I went along with it anyway–because in my heart of all hearts I had good feelings that it would all work out.
David is one of my best friends in the city–whom I had met on the side of the street while he working on White Collar a year and a half prior. It wasn’t til 8 months later that we really began hanging out and getting to know one another. What developed was a beautiful friendship that involved many weekends filled with laughter, karaoke, serious chats, and dinner parties. I remember one night even telling David, “Please don’t move away–ever.” A few weekends later, we decided to go sky diving together. That weekend, I invited David to join me on the road trip adventure- and a few weeks later, he texted me to say that he definitely was in–that if he didn’t do it now, he wasn’t sure when he would. I knew David would appreciate this trip just as much as me by that simple statement.
I met Kim during my acting class last spring. At our first class together, Kim told me she worked in publishing, and I told her that I was working on a book–but that I was hesitant about where the book would go because of the lower number of hits on the site (at that point) and because well I really hadn’t started writing the drafts yet. She asked me if I had read the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I told her I hadn’t–and then she summed it up quickly for me–telling me that what many projects will see is a steady stream of low numbers–and then suddenly–something will tip the scales and numbers will rise exponentially.
She said, “Don’t worry. You’ll see a tipping point.”
We had only known one another a few moments, but I was grateful for this instant sort of belief in my project–even if she didn’t know very much about it.
In contrast to my friendship with David which involved many weekend movie outings, dinners, and game nights, Kim and I had just a few coffee dates–and taken a flying lesson together– before I invited her to join me on the final hobby of the year–the road trip. Our coffee dates had involved some of the best conversations I had in years–about the world, the way people connect, and life.
The night before Thanksgiving, Kim called me and said she was 100 percent in for the trip.
Again, at this point the two had never met. Like David, I knew Kim would have a great appreciation for whatever we explored on the trip. I crossed my fingers that their ability to appreciate the world around them would created a trio of triumph by the beginning–and end–of the trip.
Then–as earlier mentioned–one month before take off, we all sat down in David’s apartment, and began plotting out a route. When we tell people about that meeting, we describe it in two ways.
1. Serious: Planning meeting.
2. Slightly Joking: Final Judgement
With my fingers crossed, neither of them came to me to say “I can’t travel with the other.” Phew–I wiped the sweat off my forehead.
And thank goodness they both came along.
We hadn’t even stopped for our first coffee break when I knew it would work out. As we drove over the Virginia state line, we all pointed out that the sun would be rising soon and that we should look up a good spot to catch it. As David drove the second leg of the first route, I began Googling based on the city we were approaching: Fredericksburg. Fortunately, a list of locations and images popped up on my search right away. “On to Fredericksburg Battlefield,” I declared. Collectively, we had made our first agreement on the road.
And from there everything continued to flow effortlessly.
Buy a pack for the top of the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.
Then agree to never use it after Colorado? Yes, Yes, Yes.
Stop and enjoy all the food we could? Yes, Yes, Yes.
Wake up at the break of dawn in Memphis to catch a stunning sunrise? Duh
Stop at a field in Carlsbad, NM and breathe in a brilliant sunset? Why wouldn’t we?
Fed Ex all the books on Tape back to NYC that David and I were so excited about? Probably for the best.
Pay a little extra for safety in a small town of Arizona? Yes, Yes, Yes.
Spend 6 hours at a place called the Wave and lessen our time at the Grand Canyon? –Of course. To us, it was living in the moment.
Buy two Bieber CDs and make them two of the most played albums in the car? Yes, Yes, Yes.
And that was just into Los Angeles. We still had half a country (and parts of Canada) to agree on–and for the most part, we did.
And then– a month and a half into the trip, as we reached Ohio, I came across a 5k that would take place after returning to NYC, that I wanted to sign up for –one in which the racers get to compete on the JFK runway. I tickled with excitement and that excitement carried over as David and Kim decided that they wanted to join as well. With groggy eyes, I smiled. I’m not sure I had the opportunity to really express to them in that moment how happy I was that they wanted to do the run too. I knew up until that point we were all getting along great, but to know that we had already made it through one month and a half of a trip in severely close quarters with one another–and that we were already making plans to spend time together after–well that thrilled me in a little kid kind of way.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Manley
Throughout the journey, Kim and David pushed me to challenge myself–David on the ice at Arches National Park and Kim in her eye opening statements about how the world looks–how home looks; they both challenged their own selves and one another, and they each embraced the trip with as wide of open arms as I did. Our quarrels, though few and far between came only in the moments that I would expect them to: during times of exhaustion; hunger; and too close of quarters for a bit too long. It was very clear along the way that our journey–though, only limited to just under 2 months, could have gone on much longer–and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
Thanks Kim–Thanks David.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Manley