Travel is the best evidence that your life is moving. Or let’s take it one step further, and say travel is the best evidence that your life is definitely moving forward. To somewhere.
Regardless of days we feel adrift, or back someplace we didn’t want to be, travel is the polar opposite of feeling stuck. You can’t. Whoever you are, you are in-motion, happening right now, unknowing. It is addicting, that wanderlust that passed down from my pioneer generations, to my family of air pilots and road warriors, then to me. A genetic susceptibility to motel soap.
Whoever you are, you are in-motion, happening right now, unknowing.
Having grown up in a family more functional on a road trip than a neighborhood, I planned my first road trip at 18. Yellowstone. My first solo road trip at 21. SLC. After marrying, I lived on the road for several years in my mid-twenties, slipping in and out of seven different ‘small town Americas.’ I lived in highway hotels and motels, a country club condo, a trailer in the Mojave Desert, an executive apartment, and a college-town cottage. All temporary, new and full of mutual potential. Some depressing and crude experiences, some beautiful, wild and sweet. All for better or worse. ‘Wherever you go, there you are’ became an epiphany, and a reminder that I was shedding skins and grinding out some rough edges on my mind. This was good for me.
Since I saw and read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” a few months ago, I’ve been annoyed at how I spent the ample idle time over those years and places. I know where Cheryl Strayed started on the PCT because I lived there in the Tehachapi Mountains for two years, and in those two years I went on exactly one real hike by myself; a trail to the underwhelming overlook of Arvin, CA. All my years on the road brought me to exciting people and places, but almost exclusively by air and automobile.
“You have to be careful,” my granny said when I was 13, after I’d been sexually threatened by a man while walking home from school. “Someone could just grab you by the hair.” I’d recently cut my long hair off to the last inch, but it still applied to my belt loops and dangling backpack straps, she said. This great-grandmother of mine always kept the doors locked. She kept mace in her car door and by the front door, and she kept her jewelry cases stocked with tiny ornamental knives—glittering metal against abalone, mother of pearl, and antler handles. All sharpened and functional. Her advice to a girl just entering womanhood: always watch out for yourself, don’t take any wooden nickels.
I follow this advice. Obviously, that incident at 13 was only the first of many challenges to my autonomy as a woman in the world. It didn’t stop me from exploring the places around me, but the easiest way to avoid danger is to avoid vulnerability and misplaced trust. I want to set myself footloose in the mountains, alone, but it gives me a compelling sense of anxiety. I am prepared against the worst, but this fear has taken something from me, too. I can see that I haven’t prepared for the best.
I want to set myself footloose in the mountains, alone, but it gives me a compelling sense of anxiety.
Jen Heuett, thanks for the advice to travel with trust. I needed someone to ask that I push my boundaries, that I stretch more muscles and try the adventures I’ve ignored.
Trust can take more than it gives. It’s a gamble. Acknowledging that I accept certain risks and unknowns, my pledge is to trust my judgement, to act on my instincts, to pack my mace and the knife my mother gave me, and set myself footloose in the mountains on October 3, 2015.
About the author:
A native Idahoan and Vandal alumni, Britt Lamotte is lucky to live and work just outside the beautiful Sawtooth National Forest. You should know that yesterday she finished reading Don Quixote (!). For her next trip, plan on California.