This morning, I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof of our home. For a moment, I was back in the van. “Everything’s going to be so wet,” I thought, and absent-mindedly reached for my cell phone to make sure it hadn’t been rained on through the night. And then I remembered—I was in my cozy rowhome in downtown Frederick, Maryland. The rain was outside, and I was inside. The weather no long defines my day, it is simply a backdrop, an afterthought. How ordinary and deeply strange.
“Do you miss it?” It’s a question we have been asked a lot over the past four months. The answer should be easier by now, but I still catch myself every time. In a sense, we were ready to come home. We knew our travels were a temporary madness, that the experience wasn’t sustainable financially or emotionally. But those last few days of August, the final leg up Skyline Drive, it was hard to process that it was all coming to an end. And as I continue to unpack from the trip—literally and figuratively—I think it will take a long time to sort through the million ways life on the road changed my perspectives and priorities.
So, to answer your question, no, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss wondering where we are going to sleep and the exhausted, late night drives looking for a Walmart parking lot. I don’t miss those hot summer afternoons when the heat pouring over Madge’s engine made it hard to breathe. I don’t miss those cold, rainy days in Texas, when we just wanted to get warm and dry. I don’t miss the uncertainty of not knowing when Madge would break down next or standing by the side of the road as Avery diagnosed the latest damage. I don’t miss banging my head on the roof of the van or discovering that the flour had gone rancid in the trunk. I don’t miss the mosquito bites, the poison ivy, or the ticks.
But then again, yes, I miss it deeply. I miss watching the sun rise over the great western frontier and then sink into the Pacific Ocean. I miss learning about places and people that never made it into the pages of my American history book. I miss evenings in the van, drinking tea and crocheting. I miss cooking on that tiny stove. I miss the crunch of the cold ground, the gentle sound of rain falling on the rooftop canvas, and the warmth of the morning sun. I miss the feeling of entire days, weeks, and months, filled entirely with unforgettable moments. I miss pulling into a library, parking next to another van, and sharing a knowing smile. I miss seeing new places, meeting new people, and never knowing what the next hour will bring. I miss watching the clouds dance across the sky. I miss crickets and coyotes and fields of corn. I miss the dust and the darkness. I miss both the solitude and the camaraderie of the open road.
Those 14 months were everything. Thrilling and terrifying. Exhilarating and exhausting. Illuminating and confusing. We met new acquaintances and were able to spend quality time with old friends. We lived in nature and explored metropolises. We learned about our country and ourselves. And then we came home, to the next adventure.
So, do I miss it? Yes, no, sometimes, and always. But I am also fully excited for this next chapter and all that it will bring. A new town, a house with more space than we’ve ever had, our cat purring in our laps. And Madge, parked outside, always ready to get lost down a back road.
P.S. Although I am not permitted to preview Avery’s photos before they are posted to the blog, I’m sure this batch from June and July—featuring shots from Oregon, through Idaho, the Montana and Canadian Rockies, and British Columbia—will be one of my favorites yet. I can’t say enough about the shocking beauty and remote wilderness of Idaho. It is a truly special place and one I definitely recommend seeing for yourself. In fact, if you’d like a ride, I think it’s just about time for Madge to stretch her legs ;-)
Happy New Year!