Perhaps another time…

I travel like I’m on cocaine. Not that I have any personal and real experience with drug use, mind you…..but travel is, in itself, like a drug to me. I wake early, run around trying to see and experience everything, and I crash fast and hard at the conclusion of each trip. My use of the word “trip” is accidental here, but fitting. Travel, for many, provides an escape. Travel, for me, is also a fix….and I’m always looking for the next.

Perhaps this is why I don’t seem to make the best travel partner. For my first visit to Ireland in 2010, I traveled with a person I was romantically involved with at the time. We traversed the whole island and then some in ten days. Less than two weeks from the time we returned, the person ended the relationship. I suspect he may have done it sooner, except that I also celebrated my birthday about a week after we arrived home and it just wouldn’t have been a good time to tell me he didn’t love me.

On another occasion, I wore my kids out with a trip to Manhattan and a drive up the east coast to Maine. I believe we were at the end of the trip and on our way back to St. Louis, driving through Ohio, when one of my kids exclaimed, “Mom, you just don’t stop. We want to go home.”

So, knowing my history, let’s just say that my expectations are pretty low when it comes to traveling with a partner these days…..and I have to work to keep them that way. This is no easy feat, considering I’ve also been traveling alone for the past two years and doing what I want at my own crazy pace. Places my late husband never wanted to take the time to explore have been the focus and the freedom has been no less than wonderful and fulfilling. Two years of roaming around on my own and I’ve never once heard anyone say that we didn’t have time for something I really wanted to do or see…..have never once heard anyone say that we would do it “another time”…….as if another time was guaranteed.

It’s not, you know. It’s not guaranteed and one can argue that it may not even exist at all. The only time is NOW and this is how I travel. In fact, before really learning how to be present in the moment, traveling always has had a way of putting me here…in the now….and I’m not a fan of squandering any part of it.

With all of this said, therefore, I wonder how my new travel buddy and I will do driving the west coast from San Francisco to northern Washington. Having flown in to Sacramento last night, my friend, April, has no idea what to expect, although I’ve tried to prepare her for an adventure… matter what happens. Gloria, the camper, might not make it. With just five days to get up the coast and then to Seattle, it’s likely we won’t get to see and do everything we want. The days will be full….and will pass fast. Stays at campgrounds will be short, with time to sleep and probably not much else.

Nevertheless, the first day of our trip together is far better than expected. We agree to drive an hour out of the way just to drive across the Golden Gate bridge. With some luck, fog will be minimal, visibility will be good, and we’ll be able to park on the other side of the bridge for photos. We are in business. Aside from a unintentional detour through downtown, all is a success with the bridge and soon we are on our way up the coast.

This is the main goal or purpose of the trip for me… drive the coast. That’s it…..nothing else. Whatever we do or encounter along the way is just part of the experience. If the camper makes it…..well, that’s a dream I can see and believe in….but it’s not everything. I love my little camper no matter what and I’ve decided that’s where I’m at with that. It’s enough as it is. It’s enough to take the risk….to take a chance….to go whatever distance and journey it takes me on.

Continuing our first day, April and I drive through Muir Woods, stop at the Muir Beach overlook, drive the southern route of Point Reyes National Seashore, and eat in Point Reyes Station before ending the day at Stillwater Cove Campground. Our campground leaves much to be desired, but we both experience such ecstatic joy at our first sight of the coast that day and have so much fun laughing during every single part of the drive between jumps in and out of the car for photos, that it doesn’t matter. We stop to pee more times than I can count….having to use the camper porta-potty more than a few times. April drinks about twenty gallons of water and is (at least) 1,000 percent sure of her navigation skills at every turn. We joke about these details and enjoy a “Shine” hard Kombucha during our late lunch.

The next two days are just as fun with more coffee, more laughter, and more stops with spectacular views as we drive to a KOA campground in the Crescent City redwoods and then onto another campground just south of Astoria, Oregon. April hugs trees, I wash clothes, and we both agree that Meyers Creek Beach in Oregon is our favorite stop along the shore. We drive the Avenue of Giants, spy sea lions on rocks from above, visit the Prehistoric Gardens, and enjoy a bite to eat in Port Orford, where we befriend a guy and his dog, Lyla. April refers to the guy as “our boyfriend” the rest of the trip, although we both deduce that his favorite past time is drinking, regularly, at the little seaside restaurant near Battle Rock Wayside Park.

Overall, each day seems to be more fun than the last. April and I, as it turns out, are very compatible travelers. Perhaps it comes with our similar life views and experiences. This could be, in part, because we have both experienced loss and tragedy in our lives. A few years ago, April lost her daughter in a car accident. It was during the time we were both employed driving school buses and our daughters were also working together at a restaurant up the road. So yeah, the parallels are interesting. While I have never lost a child and this is something most of us can’t even begin to imagine, my own life has not been without loss and tragedy…..and I’ve also faced the possibility (more than a few times) of losing my son, who suffers from severe Crohn’s Disease. Again, “another day” isn’t guaranteed.

But April and I also share things in common that go beyond places of employment and tragedy. Not long after she experienced a parent’s worst nightmare, April left the bus-driving gig to teach journalism at the local high school and I left the job to work as a reporter for the local newspaper. We are both writers….and perhaps this is why we both also seem to understand the value of really living one’s life….of accepting, allowing, and taking hold of opportunities and experiences as they come…..of seeing and doing what we can NOW.

And that’s exactly how we travel together. We see and do everything we can fit into our five day trek north. We stop at the Goonies house and Oregon Film Museum in Astoria, get a photo with bigfoot, and build a fire on the beach at La Push our last night as travel buddies (the most freeing experience of the trip for me.) By this time, we’ve come up with several business ideas from wooden sex toys (don’t ask) to a “travel buddy” app where people can find and rate travel partners. These are not new ideas, we find out….but we believe we can still do a better phone app than is already out there…..and we both rate each other a solid “5” on the buddy scale of one to five. Needless to say….our last day traveling together is bittersweet, with a hike in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park and a drive through the park and along the northern coast of Washington. We are both exhausted by the time it’s all over…..our energy beginning to wane by mid-afternoon. We welcome the sleep to come once we part ways, but it’s sad too….saying goodbye at the airport.

And now I’m thinking, with April gone and me being a lone wanderer again, that even if it’s not guaranteed…..even if it’s not promised….perhaps there will be another time we travel together.

And perhaps the idea of “another time” isn’t so bad, after all…

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