Road Trip USA: A Journey Through Self-Appreciation

Monroe, Utah in October

Something I’ve been considering more recently is the topic of vulnerability. 

Vulnerability and honesty. 

Because truthfully, I often feel lost and confused enough without the pressure of my own expectations and trying to make life look or feel a certain way. And I’ve realized that I’m not always as honest with myself as I’d like to be. But I’m practicing to change that by listening closer to my intuition, which is something I really began to do a little over a year ago. 

So this story today isn’t about the highlights of the best places and times I had on an epic road trip around the country 12,000 miles in two months. Right now, I want to be real and talk about some different feelings and emotions I had around this journey, what I learned, and how I’ve been circling back to those lessons time and again.

Olympic National Park– “Nurse Logs”

I was thinking about the obstacles I faced on this trip and I have to be honest– I got really lucky. Despite the fears of my family, I thankfully did not end up disappearing, broken down on the side of the road, or lost in the wilderness. I managed to scrape by with a cracked windshield and an engine misfire that narrowly passed the end of my frenzied driving by a couple weeks. 

The biggest challenge was the decision to go. 

Rt. 66 somewhere in New Mexico

This debacle came early on, when I was near the end of my year-long fellowship with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps and living in Maryland. I had applied to several jobs but nothing was seriously moving forward and my lease was up. Other friends had inspired the thought of traveling and spending time in different National Parks around the country, planning to camp, hike and see the splendid wonders of the greater environment I was so passionate about protecting. Also, a break from the 9-5 sounded nice. 

I posed the concept of a road trip to my partner, to which the idea seemed to land well. Cut to several weeks of me planning and getting overly attached to the idea, and he came to the reasonable conclusion that it wouldn’t be a good idea to quit or take a break from his corporate job– fair. But, I was devastated. 

I don’t know why, but I really didn’t think I could go alone.

Playing music in MD, a month before leaving

Part of it was safety– I didn’t particularly think it was that safe to drive and travel alone as a young woman, and my Mom certainly seemed to find stories that reinforced that idea.

But it was also the notion that I wanted us to be this perfect relationship– you know that couple on instagram making insane memories and living spontaneously throughout each moment… #couplegoals am I ‘rite?

Let me know when you find that!


So, for a while I seriously considered not going at all. However, I was fortunate enough to have a couple other friends who would come along, and with my partner compromising to use his vacation time for us to travel through Yosemite and Zion national parks, I felt that it was all coming together

Of course, I would still be doing a majority of the trip alone, which did scare me for safety reasons. So, I listened to the one little voice in my head telling me it would feel better if I made a change to my appearance. Yup…I bought a pair of clippers to shave and later donate my hair!

I want to write another post about that whole experience– but for now all you need to know is that it was transformative and freeing in a way I didn’t expect. But it was also scary, I didn’t know if I could do it, and sometimes other people made me doubt my own actions. 

Pacific Coast Highway, Northern CA

Looking back on this trip now, I realize that my tendency when things get uncomfortable has been to avoid my feelings by running away. Even though humans have evolved so much over the years, we still have that flight or fight urge. Perhaps inadvertently, this trip was a way for me to escape incompatibilities in my relationship, fears about the future, and the transition into adulthood. But even as I was frantically packing and taking out the backseats of my car to construct a bed platform, all I could feel was my inner intuition strengthening.

I was being called to do this, and I couldn’t just stop. 

I will also acknowledge the amount of privilege I have to do this trip. Few people in the world have the resources or ability to have a once-in-a lifetime experience like this. And I am so grateful to the support of my family and friends for making this possible. 

And I am also grateful to myself, for believing that I could do it.

Olympic National Park, Washington

I camped in dispersed camping spots, an abandoned office parking lot, on the edges of cliffs and nestled among the protected environmental landmarks. I cooked myself and friends small meals out of the back of my car on a portable cooking stove and traveled with a 12v cooler that kept plant based food cold enough for a few days. I tried to travel as sustainably as possible, minimizing the use of disposable products, but after some time my experience was that nomadic life naturally isn’t naturally conducive to being sustainable… especially as it turns to winter.

Long story short, there were a lot of amazing, unforgettable, beautiful memories made on this trip. Time where I took myself on adventures of an unchained and peacefully healing caliber I didn’t know was possible. 

But there were also a lot of lonely times. Feeling utterly out of place, and unsure about what I was even doing. I could become anxious about the future, and in those times, I chose to lean deeper into my feelings. If something was telling me to leave, I left. If it told me to stay, I’d savor the moment. I carved a new path for myself slowly that built trust within myself to make the right choices, but it often felt scary and like a big leap of faith was needed to trust in the process! 

By the end of the two months, I knew it was time to start heading home. Maybe it was the colder November nights pulling me back to my bed at home, or just the fatigue of driving 4-6 hours on the near daily. 

But do I regret anything? Absolutely not. Through these travels, I gained more confidence, joy, and appreciation for myself and spaces of nature than I ever thought would be possible in such a short time. I saw as the country changed from midwestern farmlands to desert to mountain to forest and ocean.

 I also saw firsthand the amount of land cleared for farming, oil drilling, animal pastures, and monocrop agriculture. I can’t forget the contrast and sickening feeling of leaving a national park just to see the demolition and destruction of old-growth forests right outside the perimeter. 

It inspired many more feelings of wanting to advocate for changes around sustainability and connection to our environment. It has led me further on a dedicated path towards protecting the environment and using media to communicate with people. 

All this to say, you never know what you’ll find unless you go out and try. And I’ve recently been reminded that there’s no such thing as fearless. Only fearWITH. You might always feel afraid when jumping into something new and big, but you can do it with fear. With courage. Just know you are stronger than you think, and everything you want is on the other side of fear.