As of May 2nd, all my belongings will be in a 5 x 10 storage unit, and I’ll be on the road. I’ve been daydreaming about bailing for several months. While the standard American road trip involves heading west, I already live in Southern California and ache for fresh scenery, so I’m aiming north. I want to leave my shoebox studio to the termites. I want to tell my neighbor and his sons, “So long, suckers!” I want more time off the grid. I want to take my solo life where it rains, and I have that option because of the unique situation in which I find myself.
I’m a telecommuter who’s worked from home for eight years. I spend my days listening to silence (or my neighbor’s ongoing construction site), wondering if other people exist on the planet outside of facebook. Office politics are not in my vocabulary (thankfully). I don’t have a husband or children anchoring me to a fixed spot (sadly). I’m free, and yet I feel trapped by my circumstances. I am stuck, and I want to be unstuck. I want to take advantage of a lonely situation, flip it on its side to see it from an alternate angle, and turn it into a positive experience. Plus, I need some new shit to write about.
I’ve often joked I desire a milder version of Wild: a sort of Wild Light. I want the enlightening journey without tearing up my feet and running out of water in the middle of the desert. I want the writer’s retreat without the yoga. I want the Eat Pray Love without the Pray, and I don’t anticipate Love, so maybe I should call my next book Eat Eat Eat. (That’s the only section of Gilbert’s memoir I liked anyway.)
And yes, wine will be involved.
First stop: Napa, a wino’s wonderland. I’ve only been there once, and it was in 2002 when I’d started dating my future ex-husband three weeks before. To say, “I’m in a different place now” is like saying, “Donald Trump is a wee bit narcissistic.” Second stop: Ashland to see Twelfth Night. As an English major, I’m required to love Shakespeare; it’s part of a literature lover’s DNA. But I haven’t read any Shakespeare plays since I quit teaching—also in 2002—so I’m rusty when it comes to Early Modern English. And I have a dirty confession: I’ve never read Twelfth Night. I don’t know the story other than a meager reference at the end of Shakespeare in Love.
What kind of English major am I?
Third stop: Portland. I’m a 42-year-old Californian who’s never been to Portland. How is that even possible? I’m not sure what I’ll do once I get there, but I know hiking and whiskey will be involved. Look out, hipster tree huggers. Next stop: my uncle’s house in Maple Valley, Washington. I’m setting up camp there for at least a month. I hope to see as much of Seattle and the surrounding islands as I can. I haven’t been there since my 20s, when my family’s destination was Whitefish, Montana, so this will be a novel experience too.
Final stop: Vancouver for my birthday. Yes, I’ll finally set foot in Canada. I was hoping I’d get to see a Canadian hockey playoff game, but the Canadian teams are in the basement. (Part of me can’t help but be amused.) So, I don’t know what Vancouver holds, but you’re all invited.
Other than dates and locations, the trip is a giant question mark. I’ve never given up an apartment when I didn’t have another permanent home lined up, but I did it this time. I also signed up for Airbnb, and I already have a storage unit full of books. (It pains me to say I think it might be time to get a Kindle.) This will be the first time I hire outsiders to haul my furniture across a doorframe; it only took a slight midlife crisis and an immediate family replete with back problems.
I’m giving up Netflix and my precious DVR—for now—to see more of the outside world. (No Game of Thrones spoilers please.) I want to meet new people in new locales and see old friends I haven’t seen in ages. I want to plow through the unread books on my nightstand and trek through greener pastures. Mostly I just want to do something other than what I normally do. I’m done with the status quo.
I’m nervous and excited. I’m sad to leave my loved ones, especially my sister and nephew, the best neighbors a girl could ask for, but don’t worry, Tessa. I’ll be back.
My uncle says, however, “You may not want to go back once you get here.” I don’t have a return date to California yet, which is way out of my comfort zone. As a nitpicky organizer who doesn’t leave much to chance, I’m trying to stay open to wherever this journey takes me, even if it loops me back around to another tiny apartment in Long Beach after six weeks. At least I’ll have had a voyage that hits the reset button on my current claustrophobia. Who knows what will happen in the meantime? I sure don’t. That’s the point.
See you on the flipside.
Side note: All Pacific Northwest suggestions are welcome. Also, if you live in any of these locations, hit me up!