The last month has been a tad crazy. While I was back home I got a very loose job offer, which I have decided to pursue. I've traveled almost the width of America twice on my 16 day road trip to Nashville and back. It was my birthday and far less importantly, Valentine's day. Now, in 2 days I'll be moving off again to Mexico!
Before my road trip, I talked about the idea of staying present, little did I realise how appt this was. To really survive a road trip you have to take it one day at time, keep your plans very flexible and go with what your mind and body are telling you to do.
I left California and headed through Joshua tree to Phoenix. I had planned to stay in Joshua tree, but, day one, I decided I should get to Phoenix and spend 2 days there instead. Thank goodness!! Because this meant I got to see a beautiful sunrise, I wouldn't have been able to see other wise. I made a plan at the hostel with people I met that day and we had an incredible day exploring. The Apache trail, views of huge mountains, an old Western town, hole in a rock and eventually a good burger!
When I left Phoenix I drove through Sedona and Flagstaff, stopping wherever I felt looked good, if I spied a cool river I stopped, or an interesting viewpoint. The freedom to do what I wanted was very liberating. I stayed the night in Albuquerque and a cheap motel before heading to Amarillo the next day. I found a highway that played a song (America the brave) when you drive over the bumps, a ranch with half buried Cadillacs and I listened to “is this the way to Amarillo” way to many times. Which, by the way, I was shocked to find out Americans do not know.
My need for flexibility was proved again in Dallas, after having a couple drinks the night before, I couldn't contemplate the 8 hour drive to Memphis so I decided to stay an extra night, chill, relax watch some TV. Then I continued my pan the next day.
It's great to live in the present and take life day by day but it's just as important to listen to your body. Sometimes you need a day off, as long as a day doesn't turn into a week without leaving bed, I think it's healthy and I try not to beat myself up about it. It's easy to say, your in such an amazing place you need to explore it, or you're wasting a day. But when you're traveling as long as I've been, you need days off sometimes. Especially when your driving a lot every day.
And I'm glad I rested because Memphis and Nashville were the highlight of my trip. The music carries you away, frees you to dance and enjoy, get lost in the soul of it. There's not much that beats really good live music, they don't have to be famous, just love what they do. Blues, jazz, country; these places have it all. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It wasn't just the music either: Graceland, the national civil rights museum. There was more to Tennessee than I ever expected.
After Nashville I drove the 8 hours to New Orleans, the weekend before the major mardi gras parade, which in New Orleans meant it was basically mardi gras. I went on a swamp tour, met an awesome couple from Manchester and yes, partied the night away. But it's a love hate relationship there, it was FUN, again great music, but New Orleans, we need to talk about plastic. The beads, the cups, the straws; I heard on the radio that tonnes of the beads were thrown away every year, not recycled but trashed. I hated that I contributed to that, but while traveling you have to balance your beliefs with experiencing a culture as it was truly meant to be.
After Mardi gras, and being on the road around 12 days, I was not loving the road quite as much. It took about 2 days and an impromptu crash at a motel 6 to rest my weary eyes, before I started feeling better and looking forward to my last stop: San Diego. Incase your American geography is as bad as mine was, there isn't much between Austin and San Diego worth seeing, except a lot of farms and desert. When I finally made it to San Diego I saw an old friend and made a new one, unfortunately I hadn't really spoken to anyone since New Orleans, traveling can be very lonely if you have a few days without meeting people.
I made it back to California after 16 days, 5,000 miles and 10 states. There are ups and downs to any trips and all that matters in the end is all the new experiences I've gained. It confirmed in me that I need to be able to go and explore, staying in one place is just not for me. So I'm going to have to get inventive when I go back to the UK. Weekend trip to the lake district anyone?