on the road.

“And there are moments, moments of true awe, for that is the only word I can think of that begins to explain the awareness and gratitude I felt of the world around me, as is was just me and the unknown.” – excerpt from my journal

Traveling through cities, plains, mountains, and deserts, I became more aware of the impact that my environment had on my mental state, when there was not any other person affecting my mindset. I had new thoughts, thoughts brought on solely by my own previous thoughts. I still maintained my appreciation and gratitude for the perspectives of others, but for this week it was only mine; how I saw what’s around me and the thoughts that came about from my environment. As I continued on my trip for five days, my perspective shifted greatly. I remember being in Utah felt completely different than being in Colorado and even more different than being in Iowa, not just the physical surroundings changing but also my mind shifting making it seem like weeks had passed when it had been just days. Let me explain.

I had a lot of expectations going into this trip because some of my closest friends have gone on solo trips across the US and had told me many magical stories about their own personal growth in the process. It was also the first segment of a very huge change in my life. I see what they are saying now, but what I wasn’t considering before is that growth is the product of struggle and mental challenge. Growth also doesn’t just come to you, you have to seek it out sometimes and really challenge yourself to see growth even during temporary negative emotions.

When I was on the road, I experienced moments of intense anxiety at times. There were moments, sometimes hours where I worried about putting so many miles on my car and all the trust that I was required to put into something that I had no control of and very little knowledge of how to fix if something did go wrong. Desolation scared me. I would drive for hundreds of miles without a single exit or even a gas station. Through deserts and mountains, sometimes my cell phone service would disappear and the thought of being stranded often crossed my mind and terrified me. Loneliness on the road was not something I experienced much to my surprise, however, sometimes when I would see the first glimpse of a distant mountain range after miles of driving through the plains, I would be hit with a wave of rejuvenation and light. This was something that I craved to share with someone else. When I had the privilege of hiking through the Rocky Mountains and seeing an emerald lake in the clearing, I felt so much joy and gratitude and I wanted to share that with someone else because it was almost too much for one person, I was bursting with awe at my surroundings. As I look back at those moments in reflection, I think that I was beginning to gain an understanding of our psychological and human need for others in our lives. Combining this understanding with the fact that solitude can be a transformational activity that is beneficial in truly understanding one’s sense of self.  This idea was one of my biggest take-aways from the trip, teaching myself how to create and use my own power while also loving the parts of myself that truly loved taking on this human experience with other humans. It is a balance and I think solitude teaches you about how to show up in the presence of others without becoming dependent.

I truly had to work on self-reflection, being kind to myself, and listening to my needs. Gaining an understanding of what was uncomfortable for me and learning how to validate myself instead of depending on someone else for reassurance when things were difficult. Telling myself that it was okay to be scared. Expressing gratitude towards myself for being brave. Understanding that I felt better in the mornings, under the morning sky I was most content, and making adjustments to my schedule so that I maximized my time during the sunrise. Analyzing what had a negative impact on my mindset. Allowing myself to experience longing for people back home. In a world where instant gratification is an easy path to fall into, understanding that identifying negative emotions won’t make them disappear but instead to think about all they are, what led up to them, and feeling them fully. I am still working on all of these things but being alone on the road initiated a new mindset for me that was incredibly valuable for moving across the country where everything was changing.

To end, I will elaborate on all of the amazing moments on my trip because they definitely outnumbered the negative ones. All in all, planning and carrying out a solo road trip of 2,676 miles from start to finish, is incredibly EMPOWERING. It took awhile for me to realize this but I remember the exact moment where it hit me that I had come so far and I did it all myself. I had just entered Utah and the sky was a brilliant shade of light blue without a single cloud, the sun beat down on my skin through open windows and the mountain air poured into my lungs. I had my music up loudly, hair blowing around in every direction, and that’s where I found it: my power. I threw my hands out the window and waved them in the wind, a huge smile on my face because I was doing it. I think about this moment often, when I know I have to do something difficult. I remember that power and my ability to take on challenging tasks and suddenly it’s not so hard, the world isn’t as intimidating as I’ve made it out to be.

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