I'm a little over 2 weeks and 1000 miles into my road trip! Here's 9 things I've learned off the bat.
- Every problem has a solution. I spent the first couple of days driving down the stormy Oregon coast and occasionally wondering why I thought quitting my job for this would be a good idea. Lots of things went wrong - I got pulled over for not having brake lights on my trailer, my surfboard blew around while I was driving in the high wind, my pop-up camper wouldn't pop back down. In each case, I felt panicked at first and my instinct was to drive home and call off this crazy idea, but then I'd take a deep breath and look for the solution. After I got pulled over, the cop waved me off when I realized that the trailer's electric had come unplugged and all I had to do was plug it back in; when my board was flying around behind me, I pulled over and simply moved it to the inside of my car; and as for the broken pop-up, I recruited a crew of retired guys staying at my RV park to look at it, who found that a pin had come loose. I think there's two ways to deal with a problem -- by getting hysterical and getting to the solution or by staying calm and getting to the solution. The second way is much more pleasant.
- Listen more. The first couple of times I drove with Lyft, I felt like I needed to offer an explanation to each person I met, that I'm not a real Lyft driver and I had just quit my job to do this. It occurred to me that people don't really care what you're up to, or at least they didn't get in my car to hear about what I'm doing. More often than not, they appreciate having someone listening while they download on their day. It's been interesting to have people open up as soon as they get in my car and tell me their life story, sometimes getting as deep as talking about addictions they've dealt with or people they've lost in their lives.
- Spend more time doing things that make you happy. Before I left for my trip, my mom gave me an adult coloring book, something that made my little sister roll her eyes and tell me I was reverting back to being 10. I've brought it to the beach with me a few times and there's something to the idea of getting back to something simple that's totally relaxing [find it here if you like]. I've also been able to enjoy the sunny California weather by swimming in the ocean, riding my bike around town, and hiking through the hills.
- Simplify and go. I'm stealing this one from Nike's company maxims because it's always been my favorite. By paring down to the basics, you start to see what you really want and realize you had a lot that you didn't actually ever need. I consolidated 2 closetfuls of clothes into just the outfits that I actually wear and as a result, getting dressed in the morning is a lot easier. Cutting out all the fluff, both physically and mentally, really gives you the space to know what you want.
- It's okay to be vulnerable. When my dad died 5 years ago, people would tell me I was strong in how I dealt with it. I really didn't feel that way, but I rolled with it, because it was better than falling apart and because I felt like I needed to keep it together for my younger siblings, who were both teenagers at the time. I fell into a pattern of constantly proving how tough I was, like 'eff yeah I can do an Ironman!' This trip has been a good practice in backing off from that mentality.
- Trust your instinct. I honestly think that traveling alone is safer than traveling with others because I'm hyper-aware of the situations I find myself in. I've met people who have stayed in places that were probably fine and I almost joined but ultimately decided to find someplace else because I wasn't 100% sure it was safe. It's the same thing as backpacking in a foreign country - most situations you find yourself in are probably as safe as anywhere else as long as you use common sense about it.
- Work is important but so is family. When I was Lyfting my way through San Francisco, I picked up a guy who was talking loudly into his phone about how stressed he was at work and how he hadn't left until 7:15 the night before even though he had dinner reservations at 7:00 to meet Lucy's parents. I felt for the guy, because I've been in his shoes where work seemed to be the most important thing in life, but I also wanted to tell him that based on the nice things he was saying about Lucy, who knows, it's possible that that dinner could have been more important than whatever he had going on at work in the grand scope of things.
- The people who matter will always be there. The idea of leaving Portland wasn't easy because most of my friends are there, along with my family. But honestly, the people who are important in my life will stay there no matter what, even if we're trading brunch dates for phone dates. Leaving has a way of filtering through the people who really care about you [same idea as #4].
- Country music will sum up all of the above. I noticed that all the country music I've been listening to as I drive is basically saying the same thing as what I've learned on this trip - get down to what's important, love your family, life is short so treat people with kindness, yada yada yada. If you're not a country music fan yet, it always happens that a person who can't stand country music will start to like one song and then it grows on them until they're a full on hillbilly. If you need one to start from, I'm loving Tim McGraw's 'Overrated' right now.