After quitting your 10-year retail career with no real plan for your family’s future and knowing that you have limited funds to survive on, the only sane decision is to stuff your entire family into a 2-door hatchback and drive for 30 days right? Well somehow that’s what Lauren and I came up with. It seemed like the only sensible thing to do after being driven crazy by 60-hour work weeks and the insanity that our life had become. In the past 2 years alone, we lived in 4 different cities in 2 states with all the relocation I had done for work. We were at wits end, and frankly our marriage was suffering right along with us. With all that going on I quit my job and we packed ourselves and our two dogs, Zoe and Punkin, into a VW GTI and proceeded to drive for 35 days and 9,063 miles. The drive took us across 24 different states and countless highways and byways. Needless to say we were on a journey to find ourselves, each other, and hopefully a new direction for our lives.
The plan was supposed to be a simple one and it seemed as if we had fate on our sides. You see, it also happened to be the same month that Lauren turned 30. We even came up with a catchy idea for the trip. Take a 30 day road trip and do 30 things while celebrating my wife’s 30th birthday. We have always enjoyed traveling and have been on many road trips, cruises, flights, and were proud jet-setters. We figured it would be a great way to clear our minds and have some fun along the way. We started off with a few basic rules to make sure we didn’t fall into a grind: 1. No reservations beyond a week out 2. Always take the scenic route (intrastate highways really do kill all the fun) 3. Enjoy the journey and forget the destination.
Day 1 began with our first of many audibles on the trip. We were supposed to leave for the trip on a Tuesday and drive from Miami to Knoxville, TN. I had come home from my last official day of work early though and we had completed all our planning so we decided to cut out first leg of the trip shorter and leave a day early.
We ended up driving from Miami to Jacksonville, FL. We packed our supplies and pets in the car and then began the first of many rituals we developed. We took a picture of the car’s odometer and ourselves each morning so we could chronicle the mileage and hopefully the changes in ourselves along the way.
We started on the road with the iPhone plugged in cranking Jerry was a Race Car Driver, and shot up I95 northbound. Being native Floridians, and constant road-trippers, we’ve driven every mile of highway in the sate. There is no scenic route up the East coast of FL unless you want to crawl along US1 for 300 Miles and slow down to 35 MPH every time there is a beach town, but I may be a bit jaded.
The first day’s focus was really on ourselves. We spent many hours in the car chatting but also deep in our own thoughts. As we drove out of Metro Miami and into “rural” florida the playlist shifted from Primus to Rage Against the Machine, and the cruise control rested at 75. We both became lost in our thoughts. The first big revelation I had was that I couldn’t stop thinking about work. My body and my mind hadn’t processed the fact that I quit yet. I wasn’t on a week long vacation, and while I consciously knew that, my brain didn’t. I was picking up my phone every 10 minutes checking for an email or an urgent issue that needed my attention. That was my first step in accepting that I was probably more of a workaholic than I ever admitted to myself (I used to call it being committed).
As the miles rolled on under us and the sun passed to the west, the conversation picked up again and Lauren and I started to connect. The conversation shifted from the daily chatter of who did what at work and started to become meaningful. We spoke about the dreams we had when we were 20 and why we forgot to follow them. It is amazing how caught up you can get in life and forget to actually live in the moments. We made it a point to stop our road trip often that day and just get out of the car. It didn’t matter that FL was ground we had seen every day, or that the same 30 retail stores seem to pass you every 50 miles. We were on the road and we were going to enjoy it. So we drove, we stopped, and we explored. We finally hit Jacksonville about 7PM. We checked into our hotel unloaded what we needed from the car and just kept talking. We ended up staying up late that first night talking like teenagers on their first big adventure. We quickly hashed out our plans for the next day knowing that the adventure was truly going to begin. We both admitted that we felt like children on Christmas eve then went to bed with visions of Smoky Mountains and elk dancing in our heads.