From the Road: What I've Learned in the First Three Weeks

I've been planning and dreaming and scheming about this trip for almost a year and now that I'm actually doing it, I'm finding myself overwhelmed in so many ways.

I've met people whose work I've admired for nearly a decade and have come across new work I won't be forgetting any time soon. I've explored parts of this country that have long been on my "to-see" list and have discovered gems I wouldn't have known about without the recommendations of those I've met along the way. The sense of wonder-slash-fulfillment that comes along with all of this is hard to describe.

However, the trip has been full of challenges as well. Road tripping alone to interview people can seem downright romantic when you're in the planning phase, but the reality is decidedly less dreamy around the edges. I've had people tell me they're up for an interview only to bail at the last minute. I've had many people not respond at all (which is to be expected). I've been caught in torrential downpours that essentially blinded everyone on the road causing a freeway full of cars to pull over and stop until the storm passed. I've had to come up with some very, ahem, creative ways to record from the road since I'm nearly 3000 miles away from my normal studio (my closet). I've also had homesickness hit me with a force I didn't quite see coming.

I'm approximately three weeks in and I've been jotting down notes along the way so I can remind myself of what I've learned on my longest, farthest road trip to date. Here are my top ten entries:

  1. Google might tell you that the rural highway is a faster route. That's likely a lie. Also, Google won't tell you that there's only one gas station in the next 200 miles and that you'll find very few places to use the restroom. Plan accordingly. (Related: Yes, there are apps for things like this. It's okay if you don't have them downloaded to your phone, because ADVENTURE.)
  2. Take said rural highway, anyway. It's stunning and you'll miss out if you don't.
  3. Turtles live in the wetlands in eastern Montana. You know this because you watched one that looked undeniably prehistoric try to cross a lonely stretch of highway on your long haul from western Montana to Rapid City, South Dakota. Pay attention to more things like this and look them up later. This country is a large, strange place.
  4. Good wifi is crucial for your job, but not for your sanity. Don't forget to stop working long enough to rest and enjoy the journey.
  5. You'll still have to work long, odd hours to get it all done. It turns out traveling solo means very long stretches of time where you simply have to drive with email responses, ad spots and interview questions floating around in your head, begging to be written down.
  6. This is why some very smart people invented your phone's voice memo feature. Use it.
  7. You can try to take work calls hands-free while in the car. Please note that the exact moment when your call is scheduled is when you'll have zero cell phone service. This is a good analogy for life. Embrace it. They'll call back later.
  8. You'll likely encounter many strange looks and vocal shifts when you eat/sightsee/do anything by yourself. "You're (insert travel or life -related activity here) alone?!" they'll exclaim, wide-eyed. "Yes," you'll respond with a smile. "It's amazing." They'll persist and you'll be compelled to comfort them. "I'm really okay," you'll promise. They'll actually feel bad for you, which will make you slightly infuriated. Just remember they're trying to be kind. 
  9. It's okay not to document every last thing. In fact, it's preferred. Taking in the sights with your eyes, letting the humor/beauty/wonder register in your mind and allowing it all soak in is far better than any picture you could take. This is also an analogy for life. Remember that when you get home.
  10. You're nearly halfway done with your trip. Ask yourself how you feel, what you've learned and keep yourself open to whatever's coming down to road ahead.