It was about this time last year that I returned to Connecticut from Seattle after a four-month-long trek across the United States in a 27-year-old Volkswagen hatchback. I chronicled this journey with the travel ‘zine Wand’rly, and in my last piece for them, I was straddling the country, exhausted and depressed in Connecticut, my beloved vintage vehicle parked outside my friend’s apartment in Capitol Hill, its newly installed subwoofer slowly sucking the battery.
Wand’rly was changing their editorial direction, and I didn’t get a chance to write a final piece for them. This was a good thing, I think, as one of my takeaways from the trip was to write more carefully about personal experience, if at all. It was only a few weeks ago that I heard author-researcher Brené Brown’s thoughts on writing for the public on Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons and thought, Shit.
“The only stories I share with the public, in my writing or in my speaking, are stories that I have really processed,” Brown said. “Here’s the litmus test for me: I’ve really processed those stories if my healing is not contingent on your opinion of those stories[…]I’ve shared my story before I healed, before I was ready. And when you do that, not only is it not giving and generous for the people hearing it and receiving it, it’s really abusive to yourself.”
On Wand’rly, I wrote about various road-trip-inducing, angst-y things that were unhealed, things I lacked clarity about. Instead of using those many thousand miles to let these things sit and congeal, I tied my pain to the back of my car with a blog, where it continued to beat itself bloody against the pavement. Now my efforts in writing have shifted to fiction, and if this “end of the road” piece seems vague, it is intentionally so.
After weeks of waffling over what to do—stay home, fly back to Seattle and ramble towards California, fly back and move to Seattle—I called Bill, an auto shipment broker, and booked my car an expensive and relaxing trip east on the back of a tractor-trailer. Bill was a sweet guy, but I still haven’t taken him up on visiting him and his parrots in Florida, even though he’s “a really young fifty.” My car was picked up and brought to the shipper’s holding lot exactly one day before it was to be impounded by the city.
Thus the uncinematic, humbling, and hilarious end to my road trip. I did not carve out a shiny, better life for myself in a new, westerly place. I did not drive a transcendent, lopsided circle around America. I did a lot of thinking, a lot of singing, a lot of crying and laughing. I visited with old friends and made new ones. Then I came home, and reconnected with the family and friends I’m very, very lucky to have within driving distance.