Motor West: A Woman’s Quest for Freedom on the Open Road
I pulled at the padlock to make sure it was secure and turned back to the dog waiting in the packed car. Sometimes, when paralysis seems to be setting in, motion seems to be the only answer. My kids had flown the coop; it was high time for me to do so as well, to remember the woman I had wanted to become before I became a mother.
So, for the third time in my life, I had given away most of my belongings and jammed the rest into a storage unit. I really had no idea when I’d be back to collect my things or where I’d end up. I just knew I had to go. This wouldn’t be the first time I would be living out of a suitcase, nor, given my nature, did I expect it to be the last.
It was mid-day on June 1, 2009 when I smashed my thumb on the green GPS “go” button. My only real plan was to return the dog my daughter had left with me a few years earlier so that I could have some time to myself without responsibilities. She lived in San Diego, a streamlined 41 hours and 44 minute, 2775.08 mile drive. I, however, would be making a few stops along the way, taking a month to make the trip. There was a wedding to attend in Taos; otherwise, my time was my own.
Driving west on Route 50 as I had done so often during the previous ten years, I passed landmarks and allowed the flood of memories to come as they may. This was all part of journeying, I reminded myself; remembering had as much value as imagining. Like any proper Walkabout, this trip would connect me with all that is, with all that went before, as well as all that was yet to be realized.
A month flowed into a year and after traveling solo for twelve months, I became a willing passenger on a Vanagon ‘round-the-country trip with a friend from high school. We had reconnected online due to an upcoming class reunion and were pleased to learn we had each taken to the open road with only a few books and miscellaneous electronics. That we were both independent souls wallowing in the sheer ecstasy of freedom; freedom from the hindrances and weight of modern life, as well as the freedom to follow our hearts’ content.
Like most people, we had lived our entire adult lives by a series of ink blotted day planners. Everything in our daily existence had been scheduled and we had spent most weeks running to stay on time and on track. Now, without timeframes or deadlines, we were free to coast along on whatever course we plotted on any given day simply following each pulsing beat of our heart as if it were a lifeline.
If there are indeed 30,000 neurons surrounding our hearts creating an electrical field ten times stronger than that which is emitted from our brains, then it makes total sense that our hearts would know what’s best for us. We figured we’d give it a try and give our minds that had been for so many years encumbered with insipid doubts and worrisome imaginings a well earned rest. It was certainly a most hedonistic approach to living, but we didn’t want to be led by the nose by self projected “mental phantoms” while incubating. We didn’t know where we were headed in any aspect of our current lives yet the unknown didn’t derail us. The power, and the beauty, to personal growth and life transition seem to be in the becoming.
He had spent the winter house sitting in the South East and had, coincidentally, just finished reading The Celestine Prophecy as I appeared on the periphery of his peaceful, tropical existence. He had been making plans to head to the North West when our paths merged. Throwing any previous plans to the wind, we decided to spend a season traveling together.
Alone, we had mastered how to most effectively kick back, be still and silent, careless and mindless. We had been enjoying the rare opportunity to just BE and had come to accept on faith that it is in itself enough. But, while traveling together, we learned something all together different.
Sauntering across state borders in a camper van lackadaisically, although hardly aimlessly, we lived like Samurai as each day were our last, savoring the moments, the tastes, the ever changing weather to which campers are understandably keenly attuned. One evening about a month into our time together, we built a fire with charred logs left over from previous campers and lots of kindling. In the glow of the flames, we drank bourbon and smoked cigars. Tilting our heads at each other we knew that it was just like Carl Sagan suggested; we were merely “star stuff”, two specs in the Universe that had collided. Sitting side-by-side on a beach mat, smiling like the children we had once been together, we were thrilled by the intrinsic existential synchronicity of our meeting again later in life. We beamed at having found unadulterated past-purging joy in each other’s company and luxuriated in our aliveness.
Joy, (defined by this writer as so much more than happiness), we learned, is a very good thing. And, more importantly, that it is deserved.
Another year later and I am commiserating with a beetle trying to climb out of a porcelain sink in a restroom at a campground where I am brushing my teeth. I, too, have strained under a seemingly impossible upward climb only to slide right back down to where I had begun. Being the hard headed woman that I am, the backslide never stopped me from attempting another forward assault, nor from reaching the top, or what I had thought was the top before I saw that life was just a series of steps, plateaus reaching towards the sky.
As I watch the beetle, I realize that I’m not sliding backwards anymore; I’m not even climbing. I have consciously become a drifter, nonchalantly meandering. I willingly traded my stilettos for Keens, my suits for shorts and t-shirts, meetings for hikes, and my extreme monster commute for hours swinging in a hammock. Abandoning, (or at least temporarily postponing), my upwardly mobile career track, I had leapt gracefully off the escalator of modern life. Now, with one foot in front of the other, I am learning to comfortably follow my boundless, joyful heart where ever it may lead.
And lead it does when given the reins, and has—from sea to shining sea. I’ve been to more places in the last two years than in the 46 years before combined, met extraordinary people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and experienced phenomenal lightness. I’ve been blessed with bliss and have been baptized into a renewed faith that I am a woman of value above and beyond the children and man I love. That my life thus lived has had purpose and that my life not yet lived will, too. That in the unknown there is potential looming.
As I lean over to spit my toothpaste down the drain, I sighed in conscious comprehension that no matter where I traveled next, no matter where I was next to rest my head, I would savor each delicious moment as I did as a child licking watermelon sherbet off a wooden spoon. I am old enough to know that hind sight makes gratitude easy like breathing and sweet like July cherries, and that the best of who I am is in my liquid living.
As I step out into another sunny morning with my load secured on my back and my hair flying in warmed wind, I relish the solitary sound of my footsteps grinding the gravel beneath my shoes and again embrace all the universe sends my way. I will continue to live lustily without the storm of desperation, without the heartburn of doubt and without the rugburn of resistance. I will go on living spontaneously and vivaciously as a woman who is a mother and a lover and so much more with faith in her fortune.