why i came home from my cross-country road trip a lot more well-rounded and a little less basic

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This all started well before the trip actually began. I was invited to go on a road trip with some of my best friends. They drove from Maryland to California. I flew into L.A. and rode back with them. Luckily my boyfriend had picked up the hobby of hiking and camping during our time apart so I was able to borrow all the gear I needed from him, except the hiking boots.

On a trip to New Jersey to visit, he took me to REI. This store is SO cool but upon initial glance I knew I was completely out of my element. I wore a loose-fitting white top tucked into high wasted patterned shorts, a bunch of pretty bracelets and sandals. I tell you this because every single time I bent over to try on boots my boobs were totally visible to the guys trying to help me find something that fit but also didn’t violate my fashion rules. Yes, I’m one of those. After trying 3 or 4 pairs on and hiking up and down the little “mountain” they have available, I found a pair that would work and spent the most money I’ve ever spent on shoes on a pair of hiking boots. It hurt to swipe my credit card.

My boyfriend decided we should go on a little hike to break my boots in the next morning. What I didn’t realize was that he was taking me to what essentially was a jungle. I don’t deal well with hiking into a green, overgrown forest where I can’t see anything around me after being warned of the danger of bears. I lasted about 15 minutes before he realized I was silently crying and we needed to turn around. I desperately wished I was sitting in a Starbucks with an iced soy latte in my hands because that is my safe place. My boyfriend also makes me feel safe, but just not in a bear infested jungle.

Fast forward several weeks and I somehow managed to pack all my stuff into a tiny designer duffel bag and an over-sized purse. I did give my bigger stuff to my friends to pack in the car but this was still undoubtedly a feat. I usually take 3 bags everywhere I go, not including my purse. I had to get up at 2:45am to shower, finish packing and make it to my mom’s by 4 so we could get to the airport. I find my mom rather saintly for volunteering to take me to the airport at such an ungodly hour in addition to the fact that she had to come inside with me so I didn’t freak out because I’ve never flown alone. Somehow I managed to have a great flight despite two cats and a small child being directly in front and behind me, respectively.

I’m not going to use this post to regale you with my whole adventure, just enough to make my point. So here are the top 5 things from my trip that show some real personal growth (like growing a pair and not being a princess in addition to learning valuable life lessons) and becoming slightly less basic along the way.

1) I felt pretty hot when we went out in Vegas which is not a look I’m used to accomplishing. I was determined to remain classy and put together. I wore a pair of four inch heels without breaking my ankles for hours until I realized that my pain was outweighing my need to be a dignified human and I walked hand in hand with one of my friends to catch a cab. If I told you the part of how I threw a slight tantrum because there was no EDM being played after extensive research on this club and that Calvin Harris was there the day before and after me, you might not believe I became less basic in the slightest…but that was only day 2.

2) I slept in a tent. For the first time. Right outside the Grand Canyon. I was slightly terrified of the forest and any animals that call it their home but I had a blow up sleeping pad that my friends referred to as a raft to ease me into the experience. We cooked pancakes, mac and cheese and quesadillas during our two days there over the fire and I had to repeatedly make a water run to the spicket to fetch water, pay $2 for an 8 minute shower and do dishes in a large cooking pot. Even though at the end of every day I’m positive that we managed to convince a handful of people that we were homeless, that was my first real experience of roughing it and I honestly loved it.

 3) I scaled a real rock wall, barefoot, to get to a waterfall. On the way back I made a bad move with my footing and was stuck. I had a few moments where I was convinced I was about to fall off and crack my skull on the many rocks beneath me as I was rushed quickly down the stream of the fall, but I got it together and made it down. It was exhilarating. I went skydiving last year but that guy jumped out of the plane with me attached to him, I didn’t have the nerve to jump. I am honestly not much of an adrenaline junkie and rarely put myself into any kind of dangerous situation – but that was freaking awesome. Oh and I peed in the woods right before we did that. Such a bad-ass, I know!

4) I drove for 10 straight hours (9 if you count the time change) until 1 am after I declared that I wanted the first driving shift of our all-nighter because I’m useless driving at night. I’m sure this is partly due to the exact opposite of everything I say happening but equally to the excitement of being on a roadtrip with my friends and driving through Kansas during an intense thunderstorm. It really amped me up. My biggest fear is a tornado but I put the American flag hat that I was wearing on backwards and I was ready to go. Didn’t even fall asleep once!

5) Towards the end of the week we decided to drive all through the night to Nashville and simultaneously realized the camp ground we were headed to didn’t have a shower. This meant we would go more than 48 hours without bathing. I instantly burst into tears. While everyone in the car knew I was upset they had no idea I was crying for an hour in the car. But it wasn’t just about showering. A lot of stuff had been building up before this trip and anticipation of finding out about my dietetic internship (which I did not get btw) just needed to come out and the no showering was the last straw. We were driving through the Rocky Mountains and I was so amazed by the beauty of the nature around me and finally convinced myself that the world still turns despite all these problems and worries. I managed to collect myself and be normal and happy again. This was a clarifying moment because I chose to keep being happy when I was grieving my own personal crisis. I didn’t know at the time that I was going to get denied for the internship and while some more tears were shed, that moment in the car where I chose to stop being a baby and put my big girl panties on even though none of my problems were resolved, made me realize it will all work out. And the showering part did work out. We used water jugs filled up with freezing cold campsite water to bathe ourselves in the woods in our bikinis. And no it wasn’t some kind of sexy, soapy, cinematic scene, I promise.

As silly as the majority of this may sound, I seriously overcame a lot of ridiculous fears and inconveniences to daily functioning that I had conjured up over my lifetime. I’m proud of my sense of adventure and for spending 9 days indulging my wanderlust while exploring my country a little more. If you ever have the opportunity to road trip, go – and don’t think twice!