We’re in the middle of week five of our trip around this country. For the last five weeks, we’ve shared about TOMS with people like you (maybe even, you specifically) in communities around the country. One for One has been heard and shared countless times over. Our vagabond van has carried us to you thus far. Handpainted on it’s side is a creed of sorts: “The Great American Road Trip Goes Further.”
Presently, I write to you from a hotel in the sleepy town of Winooski, Vermont. To get here, we traveled the length of the Adirondack Mountains, through two lane, fog covered highways, and then rode a ferry across Lake Champlain, where a famed monster is rumored to live in it’s depths.
I say this, because I’ve been thinking a lot about nature’s barriers: mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes. America is filled with these. Roads are built around them, occasionally through them, and sometimes over them. Regardless, it takes time to travel by road; the kind of time that people don’t have in 21st century America. Years ago, before air travel, the road was the primary blood vein to the rest of our country. Authors like Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck made entire careers out of their times spent traveling the American roadways. They allowed the road to shape them and their stories. A three hour flight from LAX to Texas didn’t change them. However, many months hurtling across asphalt did.
I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip; how I interact with people, how I lead, where I succeed, and where I fail. The road has had something to do with all of that. The road is about process. It is the purest form of travel, because, I believe, it most closely mirrors life. Time quantified by experience makes us malleable; able to be shaped. On this road, we are changed, if we allow it to happen.
Here are 4 reasons why the great American road trip goes further:
1.The road is a place of frontiers: The word frontier is oft used to described those far off undiscovered, undeveloped places. In our cities, these places are foreign. Trees have been traded for concrete and office buildings. On the road, we have the opportunity to see the last holdovers of the American frontier: the deserts in the Southwest, the forests of upstate New York, and the winding rivers racing along our side. My favorite frontier thus far: the Adirondack mountains.
2. The road is a place of reflection: Staring out the bug-stained windshield has a way of molding our thoughts and refining who we are. This reflection appears in the purple of distant mountains at sunset and the glint of the muddy waters of the Mississippi, or countless other visible wonders. Long days of driving mean long days of reflection and personal refinement. My tools for this: a journal, for digesting what I see and think, and a paperback copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Of course, choose any book you like.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
-Walden, Henry David Thoreau
3. The road is a place of experience: Days and nights spent in unfamiliar settings allow us to meet people we’d never meet otherwise. It’s the waitress at the diner, the college kids at that big university, and the farmer who gives away leftover crops to those in need. After living in Los Angeles for going on five years, it’s refreshing to see those parts of the country that are foreign to me. Looking out the window, and seeing the farms where my food is grown is more satisfying than walking down the street to the grocery store.
4. The road is a place to share: Above all else, the great American road trip goes further, because while we are being transformed by experience, our thoughts, and the settings, we have the opportunity to share the journey with others. Five weeks ago, I was thrown into a van in Los Angeles with two people I had never met. I’m spending the duration of the trip with them, sharing the One for One story with everyone we encounter. In Michigan, an elderly man, unprovoked, shared his life story with me. I extended an ear and he extended wisdom.
I implore you, to travel by the American blood veins. See the patchwork of the American blanket. See the faces of the American landscape. We’re only a third of the way through, but I trust that I will continue to refine who I am as the process wears on.
Thanks for wandering around with me,