By Ryan Freeman
As I sit in my first hotel room of my trip, on the third night, I actually realize how big of an undertaking this project actually is and how little I know about what I want to accomplish. Or even what the “project” itself actually is. A trip, of course, but what else? Should I go to every state? Can I make it a blog? A photo diary? An album in creation? A podcast? Can I make YouTube videos? Is this monetizable?
Or could it just be a trip?
Of course, I realized all these things a long time ago, and had a plan for all of them at a given time, but never really got to what I wanted by time my first “leave date” came around. I delayed that because my parents wanted me to watch the house when they were gone. My second date came around, I delayed it because I wanted to hang out with my friends longer. My third date came around and I delayed it because I was concerned with my car after hitting a raccoon (and rightly so, as I had a bumper piece that fell off shortly after). But after these few delays, it became very apparent that I was starting to delay out of fear. This whole time I had been picturing the person doing this as an abstract, better version of me, but it became extremely clear that life doesn’t work like that. So I just had to leave.
The only cemented goal I had before leaving was getting to California. It’s an easy goal -- just drive 3,500 miles and back -- and makes for a good “escape the east coast” romanticism. The problem is it’s too specific and too easy. I could do it fast and have a miserable experience. A soul-sucking two weeks of 500 mile a day driving on the most efficient roads would reach the goal. But why would I do that?
Narrowing down places to visit is hard. Being given unlimited freedom of choice is almost paralyzing. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I can do everything or nothing. It’s all on me to make things happen. I’ve driven through 11 states and DC and stopped in only 4 of them -- mostly for knowing that I’ll be coming back through them on the way home. But when I get to states like Maryland, where I don’t know if I’ll come back through, or states like Virginia, where I doubt I will, the fear of missing out is huge. I don’t know if I have time to see all the things that I know about and I don’t know what I don’t know about in the first place.
All of those concerns aside, it’s been a pretty good start. My first night of sleep was rough, but the second night went very well, despite construction lights all around. I had a lot of fun -- despite being scared as hell -- driving the Bronx Express and the NJ Turnpike. I took a drive to West Orange and up the Eagle Rock Reservation to see the NYC skyline. I drove around Hoboken with the music off for a solid half hour, just listening to the city. I even worked up enough courage to undertake crossing the George Washington Bridge and driving along the Hudson once night fell.
While the “goal” of the trip isn’t entirely clear, I think just by committing to it and leaving I would consider it a success already. I’m extremely excited to be out of New England (and New York) for the first time in years. I’m really excited to see the environment outside of the dense trees and rocky coasts of Maine and largely New England in general.