It started with a broken heart, the way all finding yourself journeys begin.
A man I’d been in love with for four years got engaged to someone else, and although I suspected it was coming, the news of its reality hit me very hard.
I took the day off, friends sent cupcakes and flowers, and others called to check on me. It was all very dramatic, but I think that the dramatics are justified the older you get. I read an article once about a Japanese company who gave “heartache leave” for people after a breakup – the number of days increased the older you got. It just gets harder to bounce back from disappointment.
But, bounce back you must, even if, as more than one of my friends has suggested to me, it seems that “the One” for me might not be in DC. I’ve not had any luck here, after all. You may recall that in the entire city of the District of Columbia, there are only 1,000 men who meet my MOST BASIC requirements – and that number is likely to decrease now that there is a Democratic administration.
Teasing me, one of my friends suggested I might need to go somewhere where the ratio of men to women is higher and the population swings more conservative. South Dakota might be the right fit for me, we joked.
But, then I started to think about it. Maybe South Dakota wouldn’t be so bad for a change? Not to find a man necessarily. But, my top bucket list item is to visit all 50 states, and I’ve never been to those Plains States – they’re not really on the way to anything. Plus, I’m teleworking now, anyway, and have no reasons I have to stay in DC.
And so, an idea was born. At first, it was just something fun to distract me from feeling sad; I love a good trip plan. But, the more I thought about it, the more my idea grew, until I decided finally to take about 6 weeks this late winter/early spring and set out across the country.
The only firm itinerary I have is for the first 9 days or so, as I make my way from DC down to Dallas, visiting friends (and Arkansas…might as well get that state out of the way now, too) along the way. From there, I will work my way north, through New Mexico, Colorado, the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. Order and length of stay in each area TBD.
In each stop, I’ll ask recommendations for the next place, looking for that hole-in-the-wall Hallmark town to make all of my lumberjack dreams come true (I’d be lying if I said this trip wasn’t slightly Hallmark/Virgin River induced). But, more pragmatically, locals will know the most unique – and safest – places for me to go much better than my ill-experienced googling.
While this trip is hardly hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a la Wild, not having a to-the-minute, strictly-planned itinerary; spending that much time alone and on the road; and not having a routine will definitely be a challenge for me and push me outside of my comfort zone. As will living out of suitcases for a month and a half…! I expect to have lots of time to think, pray, listen to audio books, and sing angsty Taylor Swift songs.
I also recently realized that my trip coincides neatly with Lent – starting a day after and culminating (probably) at Easter. I don’t always observe Lent, but that timing still seemed meaningful to me.
I don’t really have any expectations for what will come of this trip, beyond it just being an adventure to talk about later. Will I “find myself”? I don’t know really what that means. Will I work through the existential crises of faith, professional success, and our political world that I’m currently facing? Or the personal ones that seem to accompany recent birthdays when you’re not quite where you want to be in life?
Will I meet my Hallmark movie co-lead? Will I make interesting new friends? Will I live-blog what’s happening or post about it on social medias, or will I just savor all the experiences for myself – to tell, or not, at a later date?
I have no idea. All I know is that I’m going.
Eventually, I’m going to have a name for this trip that is uniquely mine. It might have to come after the fact, when I see what the trip really is. For now, I’m calling it my Eat, Pray, Love trip, because most people get that reference.
Tomorrow, I’ll address some frequently asked questions – like, why, for example, I’m doing this in winter. Today, though, let’s just celebrate that life is an adventure to be lived, and that’s what I’m going to do.