As my daydream of road-tripping across the United States has become more of a reality, I’ve shared my excitement with the people around me. And while I’ve gotten a lot of support and helpful suggestions, I’ve also received plenty of confusion and concern.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay excited about this without letting my own worries get in the way, and I’m sure some of my family and friends feel the same way. It’s a big thing I’m doing, and it’s scary to be going off on my own and trusting strangers. It’s scary to not have every minute of my life planned out, like I’ve had to do the past few months while I finished college. It’s scary to think about running out of money or having my car break down. It’s really scary to think about how I’m going to support myself when I get back. Or even where “back” is – I know I’m not going to be living in San Francisco, and a big part of this trip is about finding a place I can call home for a while.
But what scares me more is the idea of going immediately from being unhappy in college to being unhappy in a career. I don’t know what I want for myself yet, and college didn’t give me a lot of free time to figure it out. This gap year is a chance to find out where I’m going next, what I want in the long run, and how successful I can be following my own dreams.
It’s the right time in my life to do this, and while I know some of you are nervous about my safety or sanity, I hope the following answers can help calm some of your anxieties so you can be excited with me. It’s going to be amazing, and I don’t want any of you to miss out on things because you let life scare you.
So here they are: the five questions I keep hearing and answering and stressing about. There are more, of course, but these are the big ones:
1. WHO ARE YOU GOING WITH?
This will be a solo trip. Although I love traveling with a companion – and I’ve shared some amazing road trips with my friends – this trip is for me, and planning and adjusting the adventure becomes much simpler when I don’t have to factor in anyone else’s schedule, diet or interests. I get to be a little selfish, stopping where I want to, sleeping when I feel like it, and changing the route when new opportunities come up.
2. WON’T YOU BE LONELY?
Maybe sometimes. But the reality is that most of the time I’ll be staying with friends or family, couch surfing, or working with others on various farms. There are a few National Parks I’m excited about camping in, and I’ll probably be camping alone, but except for driving, most of the time I’ll be around people.
That said, it’ll be hard being away from my friends and family, and I’m going to miss the people I see all the time in the city. But between texting, calling, and updating this blog and social media whenever I have an internet connection, I think it’ll be easy to keep in touch.
3. ISN’T IT DANGEROUS?
I keep hearing various versions of the argument that it’s dangerous for women to travel alone. Shorten that up a bit and you’d be more on point: it’s dangerous to be a woman. But that’s the reality of the world we live in, and I’m not going to wait for things to change to live my life. When it comes to travel, there are obvious risks: theft and violence do happen. If you don’t stay aware of your surroundings or if you take unnecessary risks, you might get in trouble. But by checking my hosts’ references and being as careful as possible, this road trip isn’t any more dangerous than my daily life in San Francisco.
4. HOW CAN YOU AFFORD THIS?
Short answer is I can’t. I’ve saved up a little money, I’ve stocked up on supplies gradually, and I’m hoping to work photo and writing gigs along the way. But I don’t have nearly enough to support myself for a year. Couchsurfing and WWOOFing will help; a lot of my room and boarding expenses will be free or I’ll earn them through farm work. Having a camp stove and being open to eating a ramen- and oatmeal-heavy diet will help, too. But the real help is that my parents, despite supporting me through a very expensive three years in San Francisco, are going to continue helping me out. I’m very lucky to have their financial support in this, especially since neither of them seem entirely confident in my decision to live in a car rather than find a reliable job.
5. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
(Shouldn’t you be finding a job? Don’t you want to settle down? What about getting married?)
I’m 23. I’m smart, capable, curious, and there’s a whole world out there. I don’t want to wake up in 20 years and wish I’d done more while I was young. I don’t want to miss out on anything. I’m not ready to settle down, and I’m too young to need to. Aside from my cat, Koda, whom my parents are being kind enough to care for while I’m away, there’s no reason I need to stay in one place. I want to see what it’s like to live nomadically. I want to meet the people I would never meet in college, or in California, or on the west coast. I want to learn how to be independent. There’s plenty of time for settling down later. I’m not in any hurry to grow up.
Have I missed anything? If there’s a question you have that I haven’t answered, feel free to leave it in the comments.