What I Learned | Cross-country Road Trip

Although I saw a lot of beauty and natural wonder, my month-long road trip was very stressful. With a lot of time to reflect, I realized how much I take for granted every single day.

I knew that showering would be a challenge, but I didn’t anticipate how uncomfortable I would feel. Well, the problem wasn’t showering, but the lack thereof. Being able to shower at home (or anywhere) when I’m all sweaty and gross is a privilege that I’ve never recognized. How lucky am I to have a working shower with running water and all of the soaps my heart desires?

Along with cleaning my body came the difficulties of finding a place to wash my hands. Though we did have a tank of water and Dr. Bronner’s soap in the trunk, it wasn’t convenient to do it when we needed to. Bathrooms without soap, camping and getting my hands dirty, and there are some levels of dirtiness in which hand sanitizer offers no hope. Clean hands are a privilege.

Though Greg and I drove anywhere between 2 and 10 hours a day, it always took longer to get somewhere than we expected. Once bathroom breaks and eating is taken into consideration, it seems like you’re spending the whole day on the road when you expected to arrive before 3pm. I haven’t figured out the solution to this yet, but I would love to be able to make better time estimations when it comes to traveling.

Something huge that was a recurring theme of the trip was the gap between expectations and reality. We had this romanticized idea of a big road trip, especially considering we had done an easy cross-country trip the year before. This was longer, more intense, and we tried to fit a lot more into a small time block.

One challenge was trying to keep it as inexpensive as possible. We were very successful at saving money, but we definitely could have eaten better and perhaps planned some more treats that would have boosted morale.

Expectations are rarely met in actual events, but there were some experiences that stood out for being far worse than expected.

Being an avid national parks adventurer, I’m always stalking photographers and bloggers who share their images and stories. This is how I discovered camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park. It looked so pretty and idyllic, but it sucked. Sand everywhere, no sleep, steep dunes?

Another big one was climbing Mount Whitney. My expectations were a bit lower for this one, but it was still a strange experience. I had read up for months about conditions and the various scenarios we might expect to play out. We arrived at the time between the mountain being covered in snow and it being snow-less. This proved to be very difficult because we had to be prepared for both situations. Even with hikers’ first-hand, in-person reviews of conditions, we decided it wasn’t safe for us to continue onto the 99 switchbacks. This was my first big hike that we had to make this kind of judgement call for.

Road trips sound so adventurous and cool when in the planning stages. Sleeping in the car and bathing in rivers? Sure! But when it comes down to actually doing it, it’s no fun to be cramped in a Corolla overnight with no bath-able water in sight.

Certainly adding a few more Airbnbs in there with a few more restaurant stops would have made everyday road trip life better and more fun. Everything is a learning experience.

Never take for granted the amenities that you have. That running water, the soap next to your bathroom sink, your clean laundry – be grateful.

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