My Favorite Regrets ~ The Final Post of the Trip

By the time you read this, I’ll (hopefully) be mere hours away from my parents’ front door. And that also means the end of this year-long cross-country RV roadtrip. [insert dramatic music]

So that brings us to ranking my experiences, sharing any regrets, and answering for the curious.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Hours of driving brings hours of changing landscape. Sure, the desert can last a long (LONG) time, but its transition to-and-from mountains or plains is wondrous. Instead meeting animals in cartoons or in captivity, I encountered them in real life. Sometimes they’re larger than expected, other times tinier–regardless, they’re real and regal. Being creative daily, making the decisions to plan an excursion near-daily, and living in a world made entirely of my design (except for things that weren’t)–these are the fondest and proudest aspects of the trip.

If you want tangible places and spaces, then take a gander at these pics and click to read the original post.

Friends Visited

Visiting 22 (one not pictured) friends or relatives. What a treat to see so many people I love, meet their spouses/partners and children. Only regret: forgetting to take pics with most of them. (Plus encountering Atlanta folks when they were on the road–this happened twice for a total of six friends!)

Crayola Factory

The Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania. It had been far too long since I’d colored, and I suspect the same is true for you.

art

The art was sometimes confusing, always thought-provoking; sometimes whimsical, always interesting.

Coney Island

Coney Island has been on my NYC list for years but rain and repairs foiled visits repeatedly. Finally I made it! And it was worth the wait.

big bend national park

Big Bend National Park lured me for its remote location. It’s a perfect example of what I was able to do by taking this trip.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Heading north from Atlanta took me through familiar territory: the Carolinas. When I crested the first hill in Virginia and saw a view like this, THAT’s when the trip felt like it really began.

Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park opened my eyes to the scope and logistics of war. I’ll never truly know, but now I know the vastness of what I don’t know.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is talked about soooo much, how could it possibly live up to the hype? It exceeded it.

haleakela

Haleakela National Park in Hawaii is above the clouds. That says it all.

Carlsbad Caverns

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Beauty above ground is expected. Beauty underground is incredible. I’ve been to caverns before–all impressive, yet none compare to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Kansas

I really never expected to fall in love with Kansas. Ignorant me had no idea that it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Learning that Georgia O’Keeffe painted more than flowers was already a surprise. Discovering that she painted landscapes with the same softness that I experience by being among them, made me feel connected to her.

Roswell NM

Roswell New Mexico works very hard not to take itself seriously. Banks, streetlights, and stores all carry the torch of alien sightings. The kitsch is out of this world.

Arthur Bryants BBQ

I’ve had BBQ in Memphis, Mississippi, multiple places in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia. Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City wins. Heat. Sweet heat. Smoke. The meat doesn’t hide behind the sauce and the sauce is an experience all its own.

Andy Warhol

Though still not a huge fan of Andy Warhol‘s work, I became a fan of the man. He wasn’t limited to–or by–Studio 54. He went to church weekly and called his family every Sunday. After his parents passed, he spent holidays working at soup kitchens. And he had credit at restaurants around town, sending homeless people to eat on his tab.

Sea Turtle

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Really, ALL of Hawaii was a favorite, but snorkeling and seeing the color and life was amazing. I can’t wait to go again!

Any Regrets?

I don’t live my life that way. Sure, things could have been done differently–they could been done a million different ways. This trip was exactly what I made it. That’s all that matters. And I loved it…even the yucky parts.

  • Did I find anywhere else I could live? No.
  • Would I do it again? Absolutely!
  • Will I do it again? I have no idea…

Do I Still Have the Travel Bug?

Without a doubt.

A wish list is already rich with places to re-visit and others to explore for the first time. And yes, they’re all in America. The rest of the world is undoubtedly magnificent–but as we’ve seen, so is the United States. With festivals and nature, culture and cultures, I’m content–actually, delighted–to discover “here” instead of “there.”

Was I Ever Scared?

Oh, the discussions we had before I left! My family wanted me to have a gun, a stun gun, a bodyguard… I promised up and down that I was trading Atlanta dangers for others, and was just as safe (or unsafe) on the road as I was at home. Thankfully a car accident (or five…whoopsie!) were the only incidents.

I did find myself scared a handful of times by circumstance, not by people:

  • Driving in the winds of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Yowza.
  • Hiking on Haleakelah in Hawaii (see pic above). I felt like I was on the edge of the of the world…and not in a good way.
  • Big Bend National Park is on the border of Texas and Mexico. Vendors, artisans, and serenaders illegally cross the river and seek income selling trinkets or a song. My first encounter scared me not because of imminent danger, but because of my imagination. All future hikes in the park were in the company of strangers I accosted at the trailhead.
  • Once Fall fell, I was literally the ONLY person staying at one campground (I forget where). I informed my brother, who had me call him three times a day for the duration of that stay.

What Am I Looking Forward To at Home?

  • Keeping kosher–for the sake of ease, while in the camper I abandoned kosher meat and separate dishes for milk and meat. Turns out that I miss keeping kosher; the discipline, the tradition; the honor it adds to routine.
  • Having the option not to shop at WalMart. It’s ubiquitous and cheap. Fine qualities, but not fine quality.
  • Not feeling compelled to shop at uber expensive Whole Foods simply because one appeared on my path–and it’s the antithesis of WalMart.
  • Spending time with my friends and family. Facebook and phone calls are nothing compared to sitting across from someone.
  • Knowing how to get from point A to point B without at GPS and not having to listen to its bossy voice.
  • Recycling. A disappointing majority of campgrounds don’t recycle. I tried going to the municipality, but it was more hassle than it was worth. I apologized to the Earth every time I threw away something that could have been recycled.

Will I Keep Writing?

Some folks have graciously asked if I’ll keep writing–saying that they’ll miss this blog. I’m so flattered. Thank you for joining this journey and being a part of this blog. It means so much to me.

After my reentry to life with a house-not-on-wheels and actually talking to people *every day*, I’ll begin writing for another project. Stay tuned…I’ll be in touch to let you know all about it.

 

To say this was a trip of a lifetime is blatantly obvious. I simply woke up one morning in February 2012 and decided not to wait to retire to live this dream. Four months later I was on the road. I’m so thankful to have followed my gut and chased my goal. Prudence certainly said not to do it: quit your secure job? sell your house to afford this? Pffff! Adventure rebutted with, “if not now, when?” So I went…and discovered for myself America the funny, America the sage, Americana the Beautiful.

***

So…where are you going for your next trip?

35 Responses

05.19.13

I came into this blog late, but I enjoyed reading it. My goal is to visit all 50 states someday, so you inspire me! Thank you for sharing your adventures. What an awesome ride!

Betsy – thanks for joining in the fun! Enjoy visiting all 50 – there’s a club where you can get a certificate once you do. All Fifty Club http://allfiftyclub.com

05.19.13

Beautiful Paula. We’re so happy to have you back in Atlanta for some face to face time, but I’ve also really enjoyed following you on your dream.

Americana the Beautiful for sure!

To answer your question though, my next trip is to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Say that a few times and just try not to think about the Love Boat! That’s the next big trip anyway. I bet there will be some TN and NC happening this summer too!

Welcome home!!

Margo – I used to call it the Libido Deck! (instead of Lido) Have an awesome time!

05.19.13

Damn…you are GOOD! Another wonderful post, full of information, good humor, good writing, perspective and clarity.
Honest feelings. And powerful.

Raye – glad there was something still to learn!

05.19.13

Welcome back, Paula,
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed traveling with you across the country and into the life you found wherever you chose to wander. It’s way better than waiting for retirement when the hills might be too high and the food too high in sodium and fat. Congratulations on having the courage to follow your impulse and create a life-changing experience. Hope to see you soon.

Meemalah – always poetic!

05.19.13

Cannot wait for your arrival.
I’ve been saving chores for you for a whole year.

Dad – are they written in a little black book?

05.19.13

Wow what a trip! So glad that you were able to do this trip. I guess as I was reading your posts for some reason I totally missed what you were doing haha and just thought you traveled a lot. And well you did just not as I thought. Good luck with the readjustment period now.
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Sere – love that you thought I “just traveled a lot.” 🙂 Great insight for future projects to address things “in the middle” too so folks know what’s going on no matter when they subscribe!

This post is proof that you were “running” towards everything, not away from something which explains why you are happy to be be heading home. Here’s hoping that there’s a “there, there”. Maybe you could do just one more post for us — about the early transition back to your “real” life. In any case, thanks for taking us along on your ride!
Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) recently posted..Philadelphia Phriday — Just Breathe: Welcoming the American Thoracic Society to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection)My Profile

Suzanne – your comment about running toward vs from is striking. Before leaving, I challenged myself to make sure there was no “running from” and knew it to be true. That you, factually a stranger, can see that feels so wonderful. Thank you!!

05.19.13

Your trip has been an inspirational journey for me to read about. You are amazing! Yes, I will miss your blog, but I so enjoyed the last year reading about your adventures that the loss was worth it. And I made it on the picture montage!!! Love you!

Danielle – talk about inspirational journeys, girl! You’re following your heart and gut all over this country, too! 😉

05.19.13

Welcome Home Paula! I dreamed about you last night … and when I woke up I remembered this was your homecoming weekend! This was a great year for me too (and I bet other followers will agree) to be along on your trip with you via your blog. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

Nancy – it’s been a great year for me to connect with you (and others) through your questions and observations!

So proud of you Paula! And so grateful your travels brought you through LA. Have a great transition back to Atlanta life and looking forward to hearing about those new adventures!

Deena – thought of you often as Ace of Base came on the mix during the drive East! 🙂

05.19.13

Wonderful friend,

This has been a fabulous journey. Thank you so much for allowing all of us to join you via your blog. What a treat! The only thing better is that you are back and I can plan visits (and hopefully more trips) with you. You are missed!

I am off to California, Nevada and perhaps Arizona for several days. While I am very much excited about the trip, I will miss your homecoming (boo!).

Regina – the trip and festival lists are long and ready to be explored!! So thrilled for your trip out west!

05.19.13

It might be Americana the beautiful, and you are Paula the intrepid. What a coherent wrap-up of the journey of a lifetime! So glad you took the time to reflect now because your reflections later will be different. You inspired us, and we’re going to Death Valley in July. (Ambient mean temperature 120F.)

I’m sorry we aren’t there for your homecoming, but know that in our minds, we’re throwing confetti out of the windows for you, as you drive toward your parents’ house. We’re looking forward to your next adventure, whatever it is. See you soon!

Jeannine – Good point about later reflections being different… smart as always. So excited that y’all are going to Death Valley! Will you hit the other parks “nearby?” Kings Canyon and Sequoia?

05.19.13

what a wonderful journey you’ve had. looking forward to seeing you soon!
welcome home!!!

Mia – thanks for the sweet wishes! Look forward to seeing you, too–and your squishy baby!

Welcome back to Atlanta, Paula. Following you over the year has been an adventure in itself. How about a trip to Israel next? We’re here and would be thrilled to have you.

Your Comments

Have you thought to contact Oprah Winfrey (OWN TV) to have a special spot on her program about your ” journey ” (meant in so many ways) ?

Your writings/insights/awareness/courage/humor/focus/talent/beautiful heart made your trip beautiful for us, also.

I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE YOU WHEN I GROW UP….welcome home, dear Paula! Now your Mom, Dad, Brother and all their friends can exhale with a smile (not gas).

Love ya, Girl,
Morene

Morene – such a lovely comment, thank you!

05.19.13

Welcome home, Paula! I so enjoyed these posts. I, too, have the soul of a traveler, but with kids that part of my life is different now. reading your stories was a great substitute for a while. I cna;t wait to hear what your next adventure will be!

Jamon – you have the soul of many things… all good.

Congratulations, Paula! I am proud of you and so glad I got to be a small part of your journey. Welcome home.

05.19.13

So wonderful to read all your wonderful posts and to hear about your amazing adventures. What an incredible experience! We enjoyed visiting with you and hearing your stories. Hope your transition home is going well. I look forward to hearing about your next endeavors soon!

05.19.13

Phenomenal blog post. I love that you had an entire blog post dedicated to a common question (or questions) you were bound to get upon your return!

05.19.13

So glad to have learned about this. Wish I’d been “taking” the trip with you by reading your blog in real time.
Glad to be able to take the ride with you post-trip.

Grateful to reconnect. You rock whether you’re rolling or not!

Peace,
C.

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