Into the 'Wild': I Lost Someone Special, Then I Decided to Hit the Road for Two Months
Whether you’ve read the book, seen the movie, or simply come across the title when perusing the shelves at the bookstore, most of you are probably familiar with the Cheryl Strayed novel Wild. For those who aren’t, however, allow me a quick summary: after losing her mother at the young age of 22, Cheryl decided to venture off to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail on her own, walking more than a thousand miles from the Mojave Desert in California all the way up to Washington State. Her novel tells the true tale of her healing journey, explaining, in her own words, how she went “from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”
Like Cheryl, I lost my mother at a young age, too, when I was just 23. And like Cheryl, I decided venturing out on my own was exactly the thing I needed to do in order to do some healing of my own. Rather than hike a thousand miles, though, I decided to go “wild” in a different way: by packing up my car and heading out on a road trip across the U.S.
I took two months to travel to 22 states, putting over 8,500 miles on my car. I went to new places with old friends and old places with new friends. Sometimes I drove 14 hours in a day, others maybe one. I listened to hours of podcasts (“Stuff You Should Know” was a favorite of mine), audio books (mostly funny stories, so I wouldn't fall asleep), and A LOT of music.
I ate a whole lot of delicious food: sushi in Seattle that was to die for, street tacos in San Diego that took tacos to another level, biscuits in Nashville that made me consider moving to town — just to name a few. Eating my way across America would be another story all to itself (be on the lookout for that post in the future!).
I spent time with people who knew my story and wouldn’t judge if I laughed and cried in the same sentence, which became a regular occurrence throughout my grief journey. Ultimately, my two-month trip caused the travel bug to bite me hard. It caught on fire and I needed to see more; I couldn’t stop.
Following my cross-country road trip, planning took off for a seven-week backpacking trip through Europe. I would wind up visiting five countries and learning more about myself than I ever thought possible. That’s because travel is healing in so many ways. I told myself I just needed to breathe and take a year off from my other responsibilities to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Months later, I never could have imagined the adventure I’ve experienced.
I’m here to tell you one thing: you don’t have to wait for a life-changing experience to plan the hike, map out the road trip, or book the tickets — just do it! Life's a rollercoaster and it’s never going to stop, so it’s best to just roll with it and get the adventure in along the way. Whether you go with someone or go by yourself, the important thing is that you go. Even if you’re out there on your own, there’s no reason you have to feel all alone. There are so many beautiful people in the world and there’s no reason you shouldn’t get out there and meet as many as you can.