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.
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.
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?