In 2014 we took a roadtrip across the country. Three weeks later we returned home different people. Today, we’re preparing for another adventure that was born out of that roadtrip. I’m going to write about all of it. I already started to. I’ll write more on what happened on the trip and what we did after…but first, this all has to be said.
“Gone are the days of being alone. Like actually alone. We always have our iPhones and iPads and 3g network connections. We are rarely ever far from the newsfeeds and ‘what I’m doing that’s cooler than you’ instagram shots of our hundreds sometimes thousands of dearest…friends. Virtual friends. We’re rarely ever, really, really alone. But that lonely feeling is hard to escape. We often feel alienated, left out, not-invited, less than someone else and sometimes just generally bad about our relationships.
There’s also this new trend of filling up our lives with so much that we barely have time, like ever, to just sit and think. Or to just talk. It’s probably not that new of a trend. Maybe, actually, the revolt against that is the new trend. Who knows, I’m always behind but do you remember those days when you could sit across from your friends at dinner (or imagine, even at a table without dinner…just…talking) without an assortment of phones on the table or even worse illuminating the faces of the people you’re trying to talk to? If you’re even old enough to remember this; think back to a time when you couldn’t even communicate with anyone other than the people you were with. And when you wanted to know if Jen could come out and play, well, you walked to Jen’s house and asked her mom. And then you waited outside until she finished her chores. (That’s a true story)
We share and post about what we’re doing, while we’re doing it instead of giving whatever it is that we’re doing the full attention that it likely deserves. It’s likely the case that the ‘it’ that should be getting your full attention is in face a loving and breathing human being. Why is that justification, that statement that we’re trying to make to everyone so important. I hate that I am so guilty of it. We hate it about other people, too. We all do. And we all still do it.
I think that the sharing is great. It’s changed our lives. Hopefully for all of us as it has mine, for the better. I think the instantaneous relaying our experiences is depreciating them. It’s diminishing for us the experience we are actually having in order to make it valuable to someone else. Is that like giving a gift? I don’t think so. A sacrifice? Maybe. But I think it’s a detriment to authentic living. I think our hearts are, for the most part, in the right place. When I post the photo of my peach ice tea, sunglasses and a good book on a sunny afternoon I’m not showing off. I’m not undermining my experience just to make it seem cool. I’m hoping that my decision to take my day a little slower than normal, to step outside and breathe fresh air and enjoy a quiet moment will be the catalyst one of my hundreds of virtual friends needed to do the same thing and have a better day because of it. A better life because of it.
At the start of 2013 I had a change of heart. I think I’d been on the brink of it for a while and didn’t really know what it was. For the three years before that I was struggling to find my place as a self-employed photographer. A process that led me down some embarrassing and short paths. Somewhere between then and I now I figured it out. My life is good. It’s really good. I’m good at my job. I love my job. And I pretty much do whatever I want.
I want other people to feel that way about theirs lives, but I’m not going on a sales pitch for everyone to quit their day jobs to become an entrepreneur or photograph couples in love. I’m not forming it into a 12-step process and saying if I can do it, you can do it too. I’m just doing it. I figured out that I wanted less ‘stuff’ in my life and more experiences, less superficial relationships and more time to myself. All of that realizing has led me here. Where I sit today, in my bathing suit, across from my husband who’s drawing on a wacom tablet at the patio table. I’m typing on my ipad and bluetooth keyboard and listening to Fleetwood Mac. We haven’t said a word to each other in over an hour and we’re ok with that. We’re about to pack those and a few other things up and take a road trip. Road. Trip. It’s kind of a stupid title, though.
A legendary + mystical American Roadtrip.
I’ve wanted to take a road trip since I was a kid. Probably saw it in a movie or something. I had visions of long hair blowing in the wind, feet on the dashboard and dust behind the four tires of some beat up wagon. The destination wasn’t the point. The point would be whatever happened along the way. Whatever you could see from those two front seats. In my version of that dream it was a car full of girls and we had something like a Thelma and Louise type experience (which I didn’t realize until just last month when I watched that movie for the first time)
I’d probably forgotten about that ‘dream’ until a few years ago when I caught wind of the ‘hippie’ resurgence that is awesomely spanning the four corners of this earth. Not hipster. Hippie. Like, dirty, live out of your car, take nothing but the clothes on your back and do it all for a good cause, type stuff. I’m not stylish enough to claim hipster status. My mom has always called me her hippie child because we’d duet Major Tom in the car anytime it came on, when I was probably 10. Anyway, back to the point. We started hearing about these life projects from photographers and friends, mission trips and indie film projects. We had ALWAYS said we wanted to make a movie together. Since day one. We met; “Hi, I’m Mallory”, “Hi, I’m Justin”, “Hey, let’s make an indie film one day”, “Ok”. That’s pretty much how it went down. That was going to be our labor of love. Our life project. I wrote a few things a few times but nothing ever came of it. This trip isn’t about that. Well, it is, but it isn’t.
It’s about the romance and adventure of the open and winding road. Not the medians and retaining walls of Interstate highways. The open, old roads that tangle across America. It’s about leaving from our driveway with everything we need, not hoping a plane to some far away land but doing the work ourselves to explore our own backyard. Love or something; plus a gallon of gas every twenty miles or so, that and what little we fit in the back of the Jeep is all we’ll need. We’ll live by thrift, for four weeks anyway. Fresh starbucks and a toasty bagel every morning be damned. The morning commute be damned. Sitting in my office all day while the sun and trees dance without me be damned.
Most of us won’t care if our daily lifestyle doesn’t lead us to anything as grand as the cliffs of Big Sur or the peaks and valleys at Yosemite. We won’t care if we never see the inside of a beat down gas station on the site of a desolate route in Iowa.
But we do. Now. We want to care that there’s a whole world out there that’s simpler and easier to understand than the one we live in everyday. How can we go about our lives with just the daily routines and mornings and nights that begin and end with emails, text messages, blog posts tailor made for readers and not their writers, commutes, over-time, carry-out dinners and no weekend plans with the kids because the week has already been too much, projects that don’t push us, to-do lists that daunt us, how can we be boiled down to JUST that? Is there a way not to be?
We’re going to try to find out.
We’re going to think, talk, imagine, sit quietly, drive slowly. We’re going to stretch out on a blanket under the stars. We’re going to swim in water we’ll never see again. We’re going to drive and drive more. We’re going to talk to strangers. We’re going to watch all the things that pass us outside the window and NOT wonder what it would be like if we stopped. Because we will.
We always play this game with friends; ‘Your top five deserted island movies’. You name the five, and only five, movies you could live with and watch over and over on a deserted island (given you had TV and electricity, magically) I’ve been planning our playlist in my head for, well, years. I’ve collected CDs and burnt ‘mixed tapes’ all my life but the soundtrack to a trip like this has to be just right. It can’t be too adolescent and poppy but it also can’t be too significant in meaning and it definitely can’t be sad. Brendan Leonard in my research book, his book, The New American Roadtrip Mixed Tape, he says that the music is as important as the gas in the tank. And I agree. According to him and Chuck Klosterman’s book ‘Killing ourselves to live” we all agree that we’d rather think about these things instead of whether or not the right wing states…oh wait, I don’t know anything about politics so I don’t think about them anyway. I’d rather think about music over pretty much anything, anytime. I’ve planned the playlist in my head but we haven’t discussed a route.
We have no destination. We don’t have reservations. We don’t even have a tent…yet. When we had the idea, I sent a few messages to friends around the country and to friends here at home. We’d have a few places to crash and some people to check in on our house and our cats. Beyond that we don’t have a plan. For once, I don’t have a plan. I’ve woken up sweating countable times to the thought that we’d regret that and then quickly remember that once I’m in the car with Pink Floyd singing to me and the sun on my face that it won’t matter. It won’t matter when I stop the car on the furthest edge of the west coast and sink my feet into the California sand.
Our goal? Well, because this obviously has a point. Our goal is to live authentic with just the situations and decisions to make at that moment. To slow down and be present in whatever is happening. To make each and every decision out of a quest for adventure. And to journey through this great and vast nation that is so quickly shoved aside for idealistic destinations abroad. To have a breakthrough or two. To change our hearts back to that simpler time when we could stand to be without a cell phone and an internet connection. To photograph everything, or nothing, and how ever we want. To write. Everything that we need to get out. To belt the lyrics of our favorite songs with the top back, holding hands. And then to come home and be different.”