I wish someone could have seen the image I had of myself leaving LA.
I’d organized my clothes and decided on just a couple of jackets, two pairs of pants, one super cute pair of thermal pajamas, a couple of bandanas (one for me and one for Bette) and a single pair of overalls. I’d made a grocery run and filled the van shelves with healthy, affordable non-perishable goods from Whole Foods 365. I’d sold my car, donated a bunch of stuff to Good Will, organized all of my camera gear, and had learned how to operate everything with ease. I think in my head I looked a little bit like this guy:
But in reality, by the time midnight of the 16th rolled around, my stuff looked like this:
Someone once told me that packing takes as long as you leave for it, and I did not leave enough time for it. Less than twelve hours before I was supposed to hit the road, and I was surrounded by piles. Piles of things I was trying to decide if I should bring. I was taking a road trip “into the unknown.” I was driving to Alaska. A place so wild and vast with a drive so insanely long and people-less, it was hard to predict what I would need to complete the journey. It was also hard to figure out why I would ever decide to do this journey by myself in the first place.
Thankfully, I didn’t have too much time to overthink that one with all the packing I still had to do. Many people are all like, “Wow, you have a van??! You must be such a minimalist!” And in my head I’m all like, lady, I am going on a road trip in an enormous cargo van… by myself. I packed fourteen coats. If I were a minimalist I would be in a tent and a Subaru with one bag of clothes, and not this enormous gas-guzzling van that occasionally haunts me with guilt because she was too expensive.
Why am I doing this again?
I still don’t totally know the answer to that question.
I hope it becomes clear. But I guess it might not. We eventually hit the road by 1pm on August 16th, with a nine hour drive ahead of us. I left a little stressed, gripping the wheel, listening to the new Taylor Swift song Lover on repeat, which wasn’t what I imagined myself doing. I imagined myself leaving LA with a soft gaze, watching the sunrise with the steering wheel held happily in one hand, drinking an espresso and listening to something much cooler like Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson. But life doesn’t always turn out like you plan it. But that’s coming from a person who hasn’t planned much. All I know is that I have over a 7,000 mile drive ahead of me, and what I have been thinking about most these past few days is necessities. On my last day in LA, I was accepting the fact that no, not everything was getting done before I left. So what could get done? What was most important? What could I prioritize? What could I let go of?
As I face these first couple days on the road, I’m asking myself those same questions, not only in terms of tasks and definitely not in terms of things (because I have a lot of things in here), but in terms of thinking. Which thoughts could I try to prioritize over others? Which are the most helpful to me? Which do I not really have time for right now? I might have five grey sweatshirts, twelve pairs of leggings, three different coffee making devices, an enormous stash of red from Highland Park wine, two tarot card decks, a fake stuffed squirrel, two kimonos, a fur coat, twenty-five books and a kindle. I may have slapped the steering wheel with frustration in Sacramento when I realized I forgot my disco ball!
But… could I at least try to be a minimalist with my thinking?
Could I learn to think less?
It's definitely not an easy thing to do, but I’ve been practicing. Every time doubt and anxiety and fear and guilt come knocking on the van door, I turn on my music louder and drown them out. I tell them I know they are there and want to come in, but I don’t have time for them at the moment because Wide Open Spaces is playing again and that song requires my full attention. So I turn those Dixie Chicks up. Loud. So loud that I can’t hear myself sing and it actually feels like I hit the notes. And then I realize that this is one of the best parts about driving alone, because you can pretend you are the fourth Dixie Chick and no one is there crush your dreams. The music feels like a safe place to be a human. So I keep driving, trying to pay more attention to the melody between my ears and less attention to my doubts. And then I feel it, that little bit of excitement for the unknown. That spark of joy moment where I remember why I am doing this.
I am doing this for me. Well, me and Bette, of course. And that has to be a good enough reason, right? There’s a lot of world out there, and I want us to see it while we are here.
So off we go… into the very wide open spaces of the Yukon and Alaska. And I know it won’t be long until doubt, fear, anxiety, and guilt come join me again. But I guess that’s when it will be time to turn the music up louder.
Wish us luck!
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