Well, I’ve been back from my trip for a little over a week now, and my suitcases are still not fully unpacked…so in a way, it’s like I’m still on the road.

Although I’m still processing everything (and might be for a while), I thought I’d share some highlights of my 6.5 weeks and 8,000 miles (!!) on the road.

One of my favorite aspects of the trip, of course, was seeing all of my friends. In total, I visited over 20 friends and family (and their families), in addition to my own immediate family and a group of friends in Nashville whom I did not count individually. Some friends I’d seen as recently as a few months ago. Some it had been as long ago as two decades. But, all of the time spent with them was, to borrow a Christianese phrase that I don’t particularly like, “life-giving”. To pick up with people I hadn’t seen in 20 years and see how we’d grown and changed was incredibly fun. To reconnect with people who’ve known me at different stages of life and knew the “real” me was a boost to my self-esteem and to my spirit. Make new friends but keep the old has never been more relevant, and I’m so grateful for all of the old friends that made time for me.

I’m also grateful for all of my friends’ children and dogs who welcomed me with open arms and paws. I got a bracelet and handwritten calligraphy from two girls who were sad they didn’t get to see me, read super hero stories with another two very smart kiddos, and received a specific “goodnight, Sarah Beth” from the cutest curly-haired two-year-old who is very good with names. A dog with severe anxiety dropped his security toy as he lay his head in my lap, and several more refused to leave my side. The love of children and animals is so pure that their acceptance really did wonders for my soul. Not for my allergies…but definitely for my soul.

As I drove, I became more and more convinced that everyone must see the country by car. It’s the only way to truly take in all the scenery. Our country is absolutely gorgeous. Obviously I’m biased, and obviously I haven’t been to every country in the world, but I would venture to say there are few, if any, that are more beautiful just based on the variety of beauty that we have. I was in awe driving through the desert, but seeing mountains in the distance. I laughed when multiple people told me the East Coast was pretty, but there were too many trees (I’d never thought of too many trees as a problem). I never really knew what mesas were before this trip, but now I know the difference between a mesa and a butte (actually, that’s a lie. I just know that there IS a difference).

The Badlands of both North and South Dakota were breathtaking, and I could just imagine the cowboys and Native Americans of yore arriving at these impassable lands and giving them such an appropriate name. Palo Duro Canyon outside of Amarillo was probably the coolest thing I have ever seen, and the fact that there is a Grand(er) Canyon blew my mind.

I finally understand why people are outdoorsy.

I experienced my first adult blizzard (when you’re a kid, weather has no meaning). It was glorious, beautiful, relaxing – and ridiculous to try to dig out of. This was my car:

And these are my snow boots (lol…):

But, the plow guys did some of the work, and a very nice man with tattoos on his knuckles helped me with the rest. Also, I did have a snow shovel with me because I was exceptionally prepared for this trip.

I lost money – very quickly – on the slot machines in Deadwood, SD. Why people play the slots, I have ZERO idea. There’s no way to be good at it – it’s pure luck.

I ate at restaurants and bars that have been around since before women were allowed to be at restaurants and bars. Literally, one bar had an intentional crack down the tile as a line of demarcation – no single woman was allowed any closer to the bar than that line. I saw bullet holes and bison heads. I learned that we actually do not have buffalo in the US – they are native to Asia and Africa. Ours are bison, but they’re very big no matter what you call them.

I crossed the Oregon Trail and marveled at the bravery and hardiness of those who had gone before me. I traveled along the path of Lewis and Clark, while listening to Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose on audio book. I drank a lot of craft beer (which, incidentally, is only $4 a pint in Montana. FOUR DOLLARS!!!).

And I met a lot of really wonderful people from all different walks of life. I wish there were a way to require every US citizen to take a cross-country road trip. It’s so easy within our own bubbles to forget that this country is so big and full of such diverse people. Although we share a language and general culture, the interests, needs, and values of people living in rural Wyoming are very different from those of people living in metro Washington, DC – but they are equally valid. Sometimes we just need to be reminded – or exposed for the first time.

One of my goals post-trip is to write every day. I’m setting a timer for 15 minutes, because I read somewhere that you should set daily goals that are easily attained – “it’s only 15 minutes” – and just start writing. I probably won’t publish most of what I write. A lot of it will be unedited because I just want to get the creative juices flowing.

This writing idea is in great part thanks to a conversation I had with my friend Naomi in Denver. But, it’s really a composite of many conversations and thoughts along the way. I think that was one of the beautiful things about my trip. I didn’t have any “profound revelations”, per se. But through pieces of conversations, bits of experiences, and thinking time in between belting out country songs on the open road, some ideas began to take shape. I don’t know where all these ideas will lead, but most of all, they gave me hope – which might be the most valuable gift of all.

Thank you, everyone, for your support. And, for those of you who followed my trip on Instagram or Facebook, it was fun sharing it with you. Here’s to all of us taking more adventures!

<3,
SB

P.S. If you’re wondering if my trip did lead to a Hallmark movie encounter…well, stay tuned. 😉