The Great American Roadtrip

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I often think of Betty, our 1976 Volkswagen bus, who was more like a family member than a hunk o’junk hippie van. The simple fact that she had a name gave her an identity and a personality.
We bought her, even rescued her, when she was on the verge of collapse, wasting away in a backyard in Schenectady, New York. Her beauty and charm had been long forgotten until our good graces in the form of blood, sweat, and tears polished her up and made her shiny and new again. When we were done with her, Betty once again radiated her canary yellow beauty, a permanent VW smile across her face. She was ready for the open road in late June of 2005- our first epic trip that would take us from Atlanta to Nova Scotia – and she never looked back.
I came across this picture today and was reminded of the adventures Jeff and I have had out on the open road. Not having our own set of wheels while living in Barcelona has given new meaning to the idea of driving, and those rare moments when we do find ourselves behind the wheel are that much sweeter. We’ve rented our fare share of fine economy size automobiles over the last four years when the itch for freedom from city life has gotten the best of us. Still, only once have we come close to the idea of the Great American Roadtrip while living abroad. The summer of 2010 was dedicated to our love of adventure, spontaneity, and the open road. Our only planning consisted of a highlighted map of Europe, our Lonely Planet guide, and an atlas of campgrounds covering all parts of Europe. Who knew where we might end up? We certainly didn’t, and that’s what we loved about it.

The Beginning and the End

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Looking out over the Bay of Biscayne, waiting in excited anticipation for hurricane Isaac to make his fateful mark in Southeast Florida, I find myself coming to the inevitable realization that summer vacation will come to a screeching halt in a week’s time.

Mother Nature has sent an ominously clear message that it’s time to put the brakes on this whirlwind summer…message received! She knows I should wind down, get some rest, and recharge my batteries for the long school year ahead. After all, Mother knows best. But, Father Time says I still have one more week to make the most of what has been one unforgettable ride. Tic toc…

This summer has been an incredible journey if ever there was one. Eighteen flights and three continents in just two months was nothing short of, well, crazy. Winding the clock back to June, when summer was a wide open door with infinite possibilities, the end wasn’t given even the slightest nod. I had two whole months…forever, really…to relax, explore, sleep in, to do everything or absolutely nothing. So, there I sat in my living room with a glass of wine after the last day of school, travel docs and itineraries and important contact information fanned out on the table in front of me. Suddenly what had been an idealized vacation months down the road was now laid out before me, passport and visas and suitcases and all. And I was going to do all of this alone? It’s a good thing I had that glass of wine.
Alone being the operative word here, I felt downright paralyzed with fear at times at the thought of traveling thousands of miles to the far reaches of the globe without Jeff. You see, I’m not exactly the most sensible passenger. Who would be there to reassure me that the plane wasn’t going down after every bump and thump on board? I felt sorry for my unfortunate future seat companions. But when put to the test, it turns out I have memorized Jeff’s explanation of the science behind aviation and aerodynamics and that no plane has ever gone down due to turbulence. I played this recording over and over in my mind because as it turns out, most of my flights were some of the most turbulent I have ever flown.
Surviving all eighteen flights alone (and I say surviving purposefully), has rewarded me with a liberating sense of empowerment. I was able to go home for the first time in years during the summer months and spend quality time with loved ones. Exploring the bewildering rustic beauty of only a small part of Southeast Asia was just the tip of the iceberg. Once back in Barcelona, Anne, Alex, and I repeatedly asked the question, “Why does Asia have to be so far away!?” Despite the distance, I know there will be more far-flung odysseys in the not so far future.
My greatest take-away from this summer’s odyssey cannot be defined by one single event or place, but rather a culmination of what the past two months have come to stand for. Love, passion, curiosity, excitement, and a little bit of fear; these are the emotions that drove me to make a plan and stand for it even if I wanted to back out…even if the last thing I wanted was to board another flight. Two months is all the time in the world to make something happen, but the clock is ticking ever closer to September 3 which means I’ve got a little bit of time left to make the most of Summer 2012.
Tic toc…tic toc…