Yesterday morning, I climbed in the car, tearfully glanced in the rearview mirror at the puppy sitting with her ears forward and watching me go, and headed southwest – to Nashville. 9 hours in the car ahead of me, and the thought of it made the tendons in the back of my neck slacken just a bit.
Roadtrips are soul food to me, as good as great grits and homemade biscuits for my spirit. The ones with friends deepen my connection to those people in ways that only hours of pavement sparkled with talk and silence can. The ones on own though, those are my favorite. They give me something nothing else does – a return to the long view.
1. A respite from social media. Because I work from home, because much of my work involves the internet, because – if truth be told – I have a little bit of an addiction to social media, a road trip gives me a break from all that reading and updating. Sure, I have a smart phone. Sure, it’s tempting to check it every two minutes for the first hour on the road – staying in my lane be damned. But after that first hour, it’s like a cord breaks loose from somewhere at the base of my spin, and I’m untethered.
2. Long stretches of thinking time. Because so much of my day is fragmented between projects and teaching and “needing” to check Twitter every fifteen minutes, I rarely let my mind run long with ideas or dream. Most days, it doesn’t even get uninterrupted time to just fritter and flit from idea to idea. It’s always being filled with more ideas. Now, I love learning, but sometimes, there is something blessed about just letting all that info and experience sink deep into the my very organs.
3. Uninterrupted reading time. I am a huge fan of audio books, so when I have 18 hours of car time ahead of me, I clean out the library. This time I picked up Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, and some Thomas Friedman. But I should have known what I would start with – Margaret Atwood. (Somehow, I had never read The Robber Bride). I’m well into it, and I feel that tingly sensation about the characters that mimics what I feel when I spend a weekend with a good friend – it feels a bit impossible to not live in close proximity to them ever again. I only get that feeling when I get lots of hours in a row to read.
4. Simplicity of purpose. Road trips are simple. I am in a car. I have a route (or if there’s time, I have several options of routes.) I have a destination. I can’t do much beside listen to a book, eat a Caramello (perfect road trip food), drive, and think. I can’t talk on the phone while I try to check my Facebook page and sort manuscript pages at the same time. I can’t walk the puppy and plan a blog post and pick up sticks in the yard at the same time. I can only do this – hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. Driving. It focuses me. It relaxes me. It frees me.
5. New Experiences. I have been to Nashville before. I have even taken a road trip through Nashville before. But I have never done it alone. I have never crossed through the gorgeous mountains of western Virginia, noting that Jefferson’s Poplar Forest isn’t that far away. I have never sped through the mountains of Eastern Tennessee with time and space to ponder the way I remember Gatlinburg, a place my mom took me often when I was a kid. I have never pulled into this particular hotel to meet these particular people before. It’s new, even as I remember Knoxville a little or recall the time I saw the Parthenon here in Nashville. I crave the new some days, even as I love the daily of my life. New doesn’t have to be big and bold; it can just be me, a road, and new eyes.
For me, a woman who can feel buried by the pressure to “build a platform” and “network” all day, who can feel like she loses herself not to mention her words and purpose in the frenzy of connectedness, who can feel like she never thinks a single thought through to the end, a road trip breaks me free to think and dream long. Road trips give me the long view back, the view that tells me all is well and all will be well, even if I don’t “like” that friend’s status.
For that, they are blessing beyond measure.
What do you love about road trips?
Next week, I’m going to be blogging a bit about what it means to be a writer and how that fits, or doesn’t fit, with this idea of “building a writing platform.” It’s a tough question, and I don’t have the answers. But I do think this – there’s no purpose in a platform if we aren’t speaking the truth we have been given to tell.
Hope you’ll join me.