I gotta hand it to him: my boyfriend hates mornings, and he sleeps in every second he can (well into the afternoon, sometimes), but if he has to get up and out of the house at a certain hour, he does it with military precision.
So it’s not a minute past 6am that we pile into his GMC envoy for a long trip ahead of us. It’s pitch black outside and you can hear the ocean rolling just across the street from our home. I’m going to miss the salty air. But ahead of us, there’s one month, a rambunctious kitten and the open road.
The last time I traveled with my family, it was with two growing boys and married parents that drove up from Raleigh, NC for 13 hours to visit our family in Connecticut. Now it’s at least 15 years later, I’m still driving up from North Carolina along the same path, and I’ve got my own sort of family to boot. And man, the life I’ve lived in between.
Let me say, as a Go Girl who has been traveling on her own for quite some time, it sure is nice to travel with company every once in a while. I didn’t know how I’d feel about it – having to adjust plans for someone else, not being able to pick up and leave when I’m bored, needing to find a kitten sitter along I-95 – but it’s been fun. Everything becomes a game, every challenge an extra adventure.
This brings us to two weeks later. We’re driving through Burlington, Vermont. We’ve made it through stops in DC, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The farther north we went, the colder – and more beautiful – autumn became. After a week in the woods, Burlington is some sort of city-like oasis, and we’re burning for a bar and some hip hop. But I tell my partner in crime that we should sort out a place to crash for the night before we bring on the bar hopping and hip hopping.
It’s nearly 10:30pm and we’re driving around using our GPS/Google Text capabilities and it seems to be the longest search for hotels in our life. What we hadn’t known was that it was University of Vermont Parents’ Weekend, so everything was not only booked solid, but it was also priced like lead in your wallet- even the notoriously inexpensive Days Inn and Econolodge were charging $179 per night.
With that rate, I was ready to sleep in the car.
As a last resort, I find a local hostel and ask if there is any space for the night. I figure it’s worth a shot.
An older man answers the phone. He says that check-in ended 30 minutes ago but if we come over now, he’ll wait for us. “Are you travelers?” he asks me.
It’s an interesting question, “are you travelers.” My first inclination was to tell this man no, we’re not travelers. We’re simply up visiting Marvin’s old college. When I think of traveling, I suppose my imagery is a bit biased. I think of different languages, different currency, different toilet seats. But I paused longer than that. Didn’t we just road-trip up 95 through beaches, cities, bigger cities, colonial port towns and thick, thick woods? Weren’t we living out of suitcases, sleeping on couches, visiting friends for hot meals, listening to the same burn mixes that we’ve listened to over and over again?
Wait a minute. This quite DOES sound like traveling!
“Yes!” I told the man on the other line, perhaps a bit over-enthusiastically. “We are travelers! We’re up from North Carolina, road-tripping along the East Coast and have nowhere to stay!”
We didn’t end up sleeping at the hostel that night, in favor of an Anchorage Inn we found not long after. But I did have a traveling epiphany that stuck with me for the rest of the trip. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re traveling, and then there you are. You may think to yourself, “Oh, I’m just visiting my parents up north, no big deal,” but yet it’s still new on some level. Maybe you’re coming from somewhere different. Maybe the season has changed. Maybe it’s just that they finally finished building that White Castle on Sunrise Highway. Whatever it is, it’s unique. And it’s traveling.
So fill ‘er up with gas and hit the open road. It’ll do you some good every once in a while to let each experience- a visit to the family, a walk along the beach, a trip to the store- be its own “travel adventure.”
I mean, you’re not staying at home, are you?