Cross Country Part 2: What I Would Change

The urge to get back on the road has grown even stronger as the sunny days of summer call me to the road yet again. Nostalgia, in its typical way, has been begging me to plan another trip like the one now 8 months past, and it’s been making me reconsider some of the things I would’ve done differently given another chance.

These are the things I would change if I could leave on another trip tomorrow.

  1. Talk to more people and ask more questions. This was one of the main “goals” of my seemingly goalless trip. I was so much more shy before I left than when I came back, and I attribute that to simply having to force myself to talk to others. I would do it sooo much more on my next trip though. You never know who you’re going to meet, and you can’t limit yourself to people falling in your comfort zone. On my next trip, I will talk to everyone I can, unapologetically.
  2. Shop locally and support more locals and small towns. When you live on the move, it can sometimes be difficult to make conscious choices. The ease of getting to a Starbucks or McDonalds or other chain makes it tempting to take the comfortably paved route most travelled. But it’s important to remember that the choice of where we spend our hard earned dollar is the most easily accessed vote of change we have. If we want to see positive change, it takes energy to go against the current and create it. Plus, when you’re on a trip for the sake of travel, it helps to go a little out of your way and off the beaten path. On my next trip, I will support more local shops.
  3. Stick to my plan, not letting anyone else influence it too much, but be even more spontaneous along the way. This thought struck me as odd, considering that it sounds extremely paradoxical. Basically, it means that I would drive MY trip. Especially if you’re going solo, do what you want to do. I can’t count the number of times, on my trip and in everyday life, that I tried to adjust my schedule because of someone else’s opinions on what they think I should do. It’s not worth it, and really doesn’t make a difference to anyone but you in the long run. Side note: Also don’t commit to meeting someone unless you know for sure you can make it. On my next trip, I will take pride in my independence.
  4. Avoid chain restaurants (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Cracker Barrel) like the plague. This goes back to #3, but with this avoidance comes a healthier (and cheaper) trip. It may sound like the best option because chain restaurants are usually a lot cheaper, but you spend so much more than if you brought your own healthy snacks and just planned stops at a local restaurant. Plus, stopping at local restaurants let’s you experience the local “flavor”. And, let’s be real, food is a huge part of any vacation or travel. On my next trip, I will eat healthy and experience the literal local flavor.
  5. Avoid chain stores (ahem, Walmart) unless it’s an emergency. This is more of a personal preference for me, but it goes back to supporting the local economy while still getting to see areas of cities and towns you might not otherwise notice. If you can go to them in your hometown, you might want to go somewhere else when you’re traveling. On my next trip, I will support local as much as possible and experience every place I can.
  6. If something comes up that I might want to do in the next year, DO IT RIGHT THEN AND THERE. I can’t measure the amount of time I spent thinking about all the moments on my trip where I thought or said “I can do this next time I’m out here”. For instance, when I saw all the options for day hikes through the Grand Canyon. I thought I didn’t have time to spend a day hiking through the canyon, but in reality, I could have made time and still made it home in time to start up work again. Really, Jenn? You can’t take one day of your long ass trip to hike the GRAND CANYON? You can always find excuses to do or not do something. Either way, there comes a time when you need to take advantage of the opportunities as they come. 99% of the time, you can’t plan for specific opportunities. You just have to be ready to take them when they arrive, regardless of timing, because even if the opportunity does choose to show its face again, it won’t be the same one that’s here now. On my next trip, I will know there might not be a next trip.
  7. Take more pictures. I took a ton of pictures – of timeless architecture, incredible scenery, beautiful bits of nature, and, of course, musicians. By the time I got home, I had over 1,000 photos stored between my camera and my phone. Guess how many I had of me? 6. SIX PICTURES. And three of those were at the Grand Canyon – just one of so many stops. I should have asked people to take more pictures of me at all these different places – not to prove to anyone that, yes, I was actually there, but to capture a time of absolute pure joy on my face, what I imagine anyone’s would look like at the moment they discovered true freedom. On my next trip, I will take even MORE pictures to remember every moment I can (and back them up).
  8. Go out every night, even if it’s just to walk around town. I get that travel can be exhausting. Not just “I need a power nap” exhausting, but completely mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. But it’s important to get exercise and fresh air and fully experience any place you go. After all, you travel for the experience, not just to change you background. Added bonus: walking for even just a few minutes helps boost your energy level and acclimate your body to new areas. On my next trip, I will experience all the beauty nighttime has to offer.
  9. Do some odd jobs, and busk more, for some much needed moolah. This was HUGE for me. Not only is it great to be able to make some money to get more out of your adventures, but it also counts as life experience. Who knows, you may even meet a few new friends! On my next trip, I will work more and spend less.
  10. Read myself to sleep every night. This was one of the goals I had originally planned on, but it quickly fell through when I realized car camping in a hatchback isn’t the most spacious or comfortable area. I wanted to spend as little time in my car as possible. But, picking something you don’t normally do can help you find a new hobby, give your brain some daily exercise, or even decompress after a long day. Extra brownie points for picking something relevant to travel, or the specific trip you’re on. On my next trip, I will read a little bit every night.
  11. Volunteer, clean up, or donate in every community I stay in. This is just another way to help communities around the country. There are so many places in need of volunteers, and with the magic of the internet, it’s easier than ever to find out where you can be helpful. It feels good to the soul, and you’re helping others in need. On my next trip, I will make a positive difference in every community I visit.
  12. Take better care of myself. Taking care of myself translates to taking better care of others, and getting the most out of travel time. Travel shouldn’t be an excuse to eat healthy and exercise, but a reason to do so. On my next trip, I will be 10x healthier.

It’s always easy to say, “next time I’ll do this” or “I’ll make up for it later”, or make a goal to do more in general, but when it comes down to it, it’s about taking action despite the new and, many times, uncomfortable feelings that come up when you attempt to make any sort of change in your life. Those feelings want to keep you in the safe, the familiar. Positive change only happens through outgrowing comfort levels, and what better way to outgrow comfort levels than to travel?

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