A few days ago, I got in my car. With a deep breath, I turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of my parents’ driveway.
I had meticulously filled my car with my favorite belongings and necessities for the road.
I had been held in the I-won’t-see-you-for-several months embrace of my parents.
I had double checked for the fourth time that I hadn’t left anything important behind.
And then I did the thing I had been talking about doing since February.
I started heading west.
Gratitude spilled out in the form of tears as the reality sunk in, driving on Interstate 80.
I had been looking forward to palm trees and beaches and the start of this new season in California. But ahead of me lay thousands of miles of In-Between.
Not that I was dreading this trek across the country. I not-so-secretly love long drives in the car. And while the magnitude of this road trip was unprecedented for me, I had a sense of giddy anticipation for the journey ahead.
As the sun steadily rose in the cloudless sky, the familiar cornfields melted into the open plains that stretch through Nebraska.
In the late afternoon, my eyes strained to see the faint purple outline of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the sky.
The next morning, my car swiveled through the jagged mountain terrain, past cobalt mountain lakes, with placid surfaces mirroring their surroundings. Slanting morning sun cast shadows of evergreen armies, standing salute on the sloping foothills.
My little Ford Focus sped onward through highways that ribboned around the stony towers, the gray and greens blending into rust-colored plateaus of Utah.
Maybe it was the elevation, or maybe it was the beauty that made my chest ache. There were moments that I couldn’t contain my elation. It felt wrong to be zooming past this glory at 80 miles per hour.
As I passed the continental divide and started the downward slope, I entered a part of the country I had never been to before. The beauty of the foothills I was driving through seemed to reflect the foothills of this adventure I was embarking on. This was uncharted territory. Stripped of everything familiar, I felt exposed.
It was as if someone had turned up the saturation and contrast levels of my experience both internally and externally.
Alone with my thoughts, I’d oscillate between giddy excitement for what these next few months would hold and dread at the realization that I am now essentially homeless and unemployed. I’d revel in my solitude one moment, and feel the pang of loneliness around the next bend in the highway. I would feel lulled into a mundane daze at the endless miles ahead of me, only to feel a surging burst of excitement when another beautiful mountain range would emerge on the horizon.
I think anytime I find myself venturing out into the unknown, the vulnerability leads to an intensity of sensation.
It struck me that this trip felt a little bit like falling in love. That feeling when the whole world seems to have a filter of vibrant colors.
Like falling in love, travel is uncomfortable and there’s so much uncertainty about how it will all turn out.
But your heart is ignited and your eyes opened to the possibilities and breath-taking beauty that other people might have passed by.
The beauty felt is almost painful. There’s this urgency to claim it, possess it, to share it.
Both of these experiences leave you forever changed.
With any pursuit of the things the things our hearts long for, there is a rawness that grips us to the core.This vibrancy is not to be feared or shied away from with numbing defense mechanisms. It is to be leaned into.