End of the Road
After 31 days, 2 vehicles, and 12 states strapped to the seat of a car my body ached from the forced stillness and my mind was fatigued from the constant awareness required. As I approached the final leg, I was ready to bring the road trip to an end. It had been a success.
The states are, simply put, beautiful. There really are amber waves of grain and majestic purple mountains from sea to shining sea. The west with its vast sprawl separated by massive mountains, deep canyons and endless deserts is undeniably remarkable. The midwest plains and southern hospitality exemplify friendly charm that roll right into Chicago’s famous architecture filled skyline; a welcoming finish line.
One thing I didn’t expect to feel along the was isolation. Almost immediately I became aware of how the American way keeps us disconnected in many parts of the country. Spacious distance, individuals cut off by their respective cars, hotels vs. hostels for travelers encouraging us from interacting. In common situations where there are unspoken rules of interaction; at a store, a gas station, a restaurant, polite conversation rarely goes beyond the usual script and people don’t care much for meandering outside of those boundaries. That’s not to say I didn’t meet several nice people interested in a chat but I found the culture of the states to often be suspicious or annoyed of anyone too friendly or inquisitive. A mind your own business mentality.
Compared with most of my travels across the globe, driving across the states I speak the language and understand the culture. I am less reliant on others and solitary more frequently, always alone in the moving metal box or closing the door of a hotel room. Outside of the states in both cities and rural areas I generally travel by public bus, train, or on foot, like much of the world. In many places people are less private, less concerned with personal space, and much more likely to interact. I often stick out with my large beat-up backpack or looks inviting curious strangers, friendly locals, and opportunists alike to approach. I have to navigate each encounter, read it correctly when language is a barrier, and ultimately I have to put my faith in individuals to help me. I need those people for directions, suggestions, and advice. I rarely find myself alone.
The drive allowed for quiet contemplation, the ability to relax with familiarity of culture, and the comfort of relying on myself. Alas it was time to throw myself back in to worlds unknown, back to the strange but addictive subculture of backpacking with it’s kind strangers, quick friends, unforeseen scenarios and misunderstandings. Never a dull moment.
After 30 hours, 3 flights and 1 hellish taxi ride, I made it to Colombia! Time to make friends and explore.