Lessons from a Year on the Road

We all learn things in a year, true. Take yourself out of “reality,” put yourself in an RV, alone, move every few days, and see what you learn now. A lot.

As my trip nears its end (I arrive on my parents’ doorstep in 19 days), my thoughts are turning reflective–even more so than usual.

What I’ve Learned about Americans

  • Sizzler restaurants still exist.
  • The vast majority of people are terrible drivers.
  • The vast majority of people are helpful when given the opportunity–and many offer help unsolicited.
  • Flags fly at half-mast with precision and respect that make my heart swell. Do they just know to do it? Is there a phone tree to all flag owners? Does being a flag owner inherently make you cognizant?
  • Hobbies are diverse and fascinating. From birding to rock hunting, spinning yarn to knitting it. The stores that specialize in these interests are niche and in every region. If you make jewelry, there are bead stores with indigenous stones. A quilter, you can find fabrics representative of the location. A cook, buy cookbooks that are narrowly focused with recipes centered around one key ingredient.


What I’ve Learned about America

  • The highway system is impressive in its existence. It needs some love, however, in its experience. Sometimes the roads are so bumpy that I needed two bras….
  • There are purple mountains, and they do have majesty.
  • More often than not, a river does run through it. Sometimes it’s just dry at that particular moment.
  • Same neighborhood, different city. Every major city has a trendy area with expensive stationery stores. Every region has a town with artists and a great bakery and the best [insert regional food item] you’ll ever eat. This may sound jaded, and perhaps it is. If you’re a sometimes-traveler, these stores are a delight. If you’re a repeat offender, going to the same spot every summer, they’re a mainstay. Enjoy them, covet them, feed the economy through them.
  • We have a gluttony of wide open spaces. Go find them, look at the sky, and twirl. You’ll feel better; in fact, you’ll feel good. And yes, even men should twirl.
Shenandoah National Park

Purple Mountains Majesty at Shenandoah National Park

What I’ve Learned about Myself

  • I’m patient until I’m not.
  • If I don’t have to master the skill, then just ask for help. It’s the end of the trip and I’m still a terrible backer-upper with the trailer. Instead of struggling through it myself, I now ask a man to do it for me.
  • The picture is not the most important thing–the moment is. I can download pictures from Flickr–by photographers far better than I am. If time is limited because of a tour, or the photo is compromised by my limited skills, don’t waste time adjusting camera settings. Relax and enjoy. Imprint all of my senses and find pictures later to trigger memories.
  • I don’t actually like hiking. I like the gear. I like the idea of it. But I don’t really like doing it. It’s hot. There’s an incline. I need more water than one person could possibly carry.  Sure, I’ve been on some beautiful hikes. But that’s not what I remember. I recall the place and awe…before the hike. The hike just makes me sweaty and hungry and dehydrated, and all of that makes me cranky.

  • If I don’t understand, there’s no need for me to walk away confused and dissatisfied. Instead, could you say it again using different words? I’ve asked this of mechanics (could you translate that into girl?) and museum docents (please give a real life example to explain the science). This is MY experience, I want to get everything out of it that I can. If that means asking someone to change their approach to meet mine, so be it. I’d do it for them. 

Such handsome hiking gear

How Have I Changed Because of the Trip?

Other than no longer shying away from conflict (negotiations, refunds, warranty coverage), I don’t know…yet. I suppose I won’t know until “back” with friends and family, or in a work environment. At that time, we’ll see what I’ve really learned!


What have you learned over the past year?

10 Responses


What I’ve learned in the last year is respect and appreciation and even awe for your spirit, attitude, and accomplishments, especially when your adventure wasn’t smooth. I’ve always known you’re remarkably organized, exceedingly detailed, and an excellent researcher, but I’ve now really seen these attributes in action. You’re a self-starter, highly motivated, passionate, poetic, informed, always learning. You’re a gifted writer, both with emotions and humor. Perhaps these aren’t things I “learned” as much as saw in action, as I’ve always known of your fine qualities. So I guess what I ultimately learned is to take you off my worry list! Oh…wait…mothers NEVER do that.

Mom – oy, so mushy. But thank you. I needed it, too. 😉


I’ve learned (well…both still learning, and probably already knew) it’s possible to reconnect with people even after an extended number of years and that in today’s modern world with many miles between friends sometimes just reading said “old” friends words can teach me things, change my perspective, and make me happy. Enjoy your final days on this journey Pauli!

Michellephant! So sweet! and So true – it’s wonderful to pick up with friends after so much time! It’s been one of my favorite parts of the trip!

We are excited you have had a fantastic, adventurous year! We are even more excited that you will soon be back home safe, sound, in 1 piece and with amazing memories! You have got to write a book!


Harriet and Bo

Harriet, Thanks for the sweet welcome. Turns out I’m superstitious – you don’t know until it rears its head, so please say a prayer or, too, for the rest of the trip!

Just 15 more days and Marsha must be watching the clock already.

And she’s right – mothers NEVER stop worrying – about husbands, children (no matter how old, independent, experienced, etc. they might be) and grandchildren of course.

Enjoy every minute of the rest of this experience.

While your family (I totally get the mother thing) and local friends are happily waiting to welcome you home, your cyber followers will be missing your postings from the road. Will you be shutting down your blog? I’d still be interested in reading about your re-entry. Maybe you can start another blog with your planning for a year long RTW trip. A lot of travel bloggers seem to get “itchy feet” once they’ve been home for awhile. 😉
Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) recently posted..Philadelphia Phriday – The Day Before Our Son’s WeddingMy Profile

Suzanne – I’m so flattered that you’ll miss the blog! Yes, Americana the Beautiful will shut down, but my writing won’t. I’ll be working on some new material so there will be radio silence while I build up the new platform, but once I do, I’ll certainly let subscribers know. As for RTW–not my thing. BUT, I have a long list of U.S. sites still unseen, so travel will continue! 🙂


You will have forever been changed by your experience and learning more about yourself. I have learned a lot over the past year – mostly thanks to your blogs and pictures. I know that when I am ready to travel domestically, there is plenty of strange things to see 🙂

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