Four lessons learned about life while driving across the country
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on August 9, 2016
1. Strangers are easy.
On July 1st, I began a 32-day Odyssey across America.
From the driver’s seat, I set an intention: “I am open to every person and every experience.” It was my mantra for 7,000 miles.
With every stranger, I dumped the chit-chat and opted for honesty. When people asked me why I was driving across the country, I said, “I want to change.”
This was Road Therapy.
When they asked why I was driving alone, I said, “I’ve got a lot of changing to do. You?”
Let the real begin.
No. Relationships don’t have to be long term or permanent to be worthwhile. Accept stranger after stranger, and human connection will be bountiful.
Tell the truth, and they will come.
2. Pull over and be quiet.
Long road trips will jack anyone’s vata, the energy of air and movement. When the GPS announced, “Continue down the road for more than 600 miles,” flighty panic set in at 80 mph.
I miscalculated and thought Sirius Satellite Radio would be a wise investment for those long Texas stretches. The noise raked my nerves, and I poked channel after channel in search of a tolerable song, without success.
Despite the pre-paid subscription, I elected to switch off the cacophony. My gremlins, my baggage, my stuff invaded the vacuum and danced in my head. I gripped the steering wheel until the soundtrack stopped.
Only then did I pull over, wrap myself in a blanket, close my eyes and breathe.
3. Life is episodic.
When asked, “How was your trip?” I’ve been unable to string together anecdotes to offer a coherent narrative.
There are only flashes of free-floating experiences from the landscape zooming past my windows and the brief glimpses into the cars of fellow road trippers.
Even when I punctuated the map with a red stop dot, it was a manifestation of the Remote Control Effect. I surfed the channels, and instead of pausing and absorbing the lives and details of a single story, I jumped and skipped, creating my own non-linear chaos of disjointed locations and disparate characters.
Endless hours in the car, I saw more of me than I did anything else, mini-metaphors and odd-ball snapshots.
4. There is no such place as somewhere else.
Road stories have always been my favorites. Protagonists who step to the journey in such tales as Titanic, The Odyssey, Lolita, Murder on the Orient Express, On the Road, Easy Rider, Star Trek, Thelma and Louise are not only transformed but transformative.
But that’s the stuff of fiction.
I didn’t change. I was just illuminated.