Yesterday, I told y’all about the Eat, Pray, Love trip I’m taking in a few weeks, but I thought there might be some questions. Here are a few that people have already asked (or that I’ve asked myself).
What is your itinerary?
While everything is subject to change, the current plan is DC to Asheville, NC. From there, I’ll head to Knoxville, then Nashville (obviously) for a few days. From Nashville, I’ll drive to Little Rock and then to Dallas/Fort Worth area. The next stop is Amarillo (by morning, of course), then Albuquerque/Santa Fe. From New Mexico, I’ll head up to Colorado, and probably bounce around between Pueblo/Colorado Springs/Denver/Fort Collins.
Then, the real adventure begins as I head off to Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota, although not necessarily in that order. I’m going to rely on locals’ advice for those states, and we’ll see where that gets me.
The route on the way back will be determined by Covid openings and how tired of being on the road I am. So, TBD…
How did you come up with that itinerary?
When I first got the idea for this trip, I mapped out the route between here and Denver (or Menver, as my friend who jokingly kicked off this trip calls it). Then, I made a list of friends I know who were loosely along the route and tried to see as many as possible along the way – a safer and more fun way to travel, in my opinion.
But, why the Dakotas?
I’ve always enjoyed the Fly-Over states, to be honest. But, I also really wanted to go to some places I’d never been. As a federal employee, I basically have to stay within the US if I’m teleworking, so that eliminated anywhere truly exotic. And the Plains States seemed to fit better with the Hallmarkian (I just created that word, I think, but I like it. Like, “Dickensian”, only way less sophisticated) vision I had for this trip.
This seems like a LOT of driving.
It is, and I don’t love driving. However, flying was cost prohibitive because I would have to rent a car for the whole time. Besides just getting from state to state, I doubt I will be in a lot of walkable areas, and I’m not sure how prevalent Uber is in Small Town, USA. So, for the sake of needing to eat, and for the sake of taking a lot more with me, I’m going to drive (more below on what I’m taking with me).
I have, though, divided the driving up into 4-5 hour segments, so it should be manageable. On days that I have to work and drive, I may drive an hour on my lunch break (so I have less distance to cover later), and work the rest of the afternoon at Starbucks. We’ll see. Either way, I see myself plowing through some audio books – recommendations are welcome.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until the summer?
Probably. But, I picked this time frame intentionally for several reasons:
- Summer is fun around here, and I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss much in February or March.
- I like snow, and because my itinerary is so flexible, snow won’t derail my plans. If snow is predicted, I’ll just leave where I am sooner or stay longer. However, I am starting my journey by heading south in late February in the hopes that by the time I hit the snowiest regions, I’ll have missed the worst of it.
- I needed the trip to be soon enough after my disappointing news that I could actually be excited about planning it, even while I was sad. The more removed from my funk, the less helpful the trip would be in getting me out of it.
- Hallmarkian. Magical things happen in small towns in the winter.
Won’t this trip be expensive?
In a word – yes. While teleworking from different locations has become a trend over the past year, a lot of people who do it give UP their apartments and use that money towards Airbnbs. I’m not doing that, so it’ll add up. I’m trying not to do too much math, in all honesty. But, I got those stimulus checks, so here’s to doing my civic duty to stimulate the economy.
What are you going to DO while you’re out there?
Well, I will still be working, so I’m not just going to have 6 weeks of free time. However, I envision a lot of time spent in local coffee shops and restaurants, getting a flavor for the culture of each town. I’m going to see Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. And, I want to do some outdoor things, but in areas where I have friends. I don’t think hiking the Blue Ridge or Rockies by myself seems like a good idea – due both to my inexperience and gender. But, with friends, I’m game. Maybe I’ll become outdoorsy after all this – who knows.
Where will you be staying?
It really depends on the area, I think, and how long I’ll be there. I really like Airbnbs, but they are not always the most cost-effective option, especially for short stays. So, I think I’ll probably do hotels if I’m only somewhere for a night or two, and Airbnbs with a kitchen (and washer and dryer!) if I’ll be somewhere a little longer. I can’t eat out EVERY meal, so I will need some groceries and a place to prepare them.
Of course, if you’re along my route and want to give me a place to stay for a night, I won’t say no! (See the question about expense above.)
Are you actually going to date while you’re gone?
I don’t really know how this will work out. I mean, I’ve joked about it being a Hallmark movie, but in reality, I need to be safe and smart. Using the apps when you’re not a local can send the wrong impression about your intentions, and I don’t know how many strangers I will actually meet at coffee shops. So, who knows. Either way, don’t worry about me – the same principles of safety apply wherever I am: pick a public place, scope out the restaurant first, share your iPhone location with a friend…
But, seriously – how are YOU going to live out of a suitcase for 6 weeks?!
I am a little concerned about this one, TBH, for several reasons. One, I’m a terrible packer in the best of scenarios, as I never know what I’m going to be in the mood to wear or exactly what I’ll be doing/what the occasion will call for. Plus, I seldom repeat outfits, so I don’t have “go-tos”. Two, I’m going to be in a few different climates along the way. Three – it’s winter. Winter clothes take up a lot more space.
But, I have a plan. I’m going to pack my largest suitcase with the stuff I will wear most often. This is the one I will always take in with me, no matter where I’m staying.
My other suitcase will have some “you never know” stuff in it – like a swimsuit (maybe there will be a hot tub somewhere?), a dressier outfit (for the Hallmarkian ending), and hiking gear (I probably will use this several times, but I don’t need it every where I go). That way, I can just get out what I need, when I need it, and minimize how much I’m lugging in and out of hotels.
I also plan to have some basic kitchen supplies/groceries in a separate bag – again, so I can take it in when I need it and leave it in my car when I don’t. Same with my workout equipment. My goal is to have everything I will absolutely NEED, but not look like I’m moving in anytime I arrive somewhere.
So, as you can see, I’ve put a lot of thought into this trip. While the idea itself was spontaneous, I never really do anything actually spontaneous. The lack of a strict routine is stretching enough. But, I am eager to get on the road and to see what adventures await. Now, to download those audio books…