I got my driver's license when I was 14 years old, and since then I've spent a lot of time on the road. Alone, mostly. I calculated that all in all, I've driven approximately 50,000 miles by myself over the years. That's a combination of back-and-forths from my dad's house 6 hours away from my mom's; from college on the east coast and from New York City where I lived after that to see my family in North Dakota; and other random road trips. I've also done a lot of driving with other people in the car, but I think it's unique that a woman of my age (I'm 28) has spent so much time on the highway by herself. I didn't realize until recently that all this solo time on the road has been a formative experience in my life, and it will continue to be.
Time on the road alone for a young person allows for many things.
It allows for the formation and development of ideas and dreams free of other's influence. Time to think.
It allows for figuring out how to stay safe and protect yourself while in and out of hotels and other highway establishments peppered with potentially dodgy characters. Independence.
It allows the opportunity to figure out what the hell to do when, say, your tire explodes on the Ohio turnpike while driving 90 and there aren't any service stations for miles and miles and smart phones haven't been invented yet. Ingenuity.
Most of all, it allows for silence. My people have always understood that spending time in solitude is a critical component of intellectual and character development. You have to just be quiet sometimes and get comfortable with being by yourself.
I'm grateful that my time on the road has taught me how to do this and do it well. It didn't seem so fun at the time but looking back, it was cool. All that time on the road alone has made me who I am.
Yesterday marked the beginning of another road trip, but this one is different. This time I've got a partner. Thosh is with me and we're headed southwest to Arizona. I've been to Arizona dozens of times (mostly in the past year) but this time is different cuz I'm moving. I loaded up my Tacoma with very few belongings (minimizing material posessions comes with another type of freedom) and we're about a quarter of the way through the drive.
Just as I've road tripped a lot alone, I've also moved a lot, alone. It's never been easy but it's always been worth it. When I lived in New York City and New Hampshire, I had no family around for thousands of miles to speak of. That's why when I lived in North Dakota for the past year, it was a break from all the responsibilities of being wholly independent. It was a reminder that it's okay to rely on people sometimes, and I developed a whole new sense of love and appreciation for my family.
But now, I'm happy that I have a companion to share life with. Life on the road, life at home, and life in general. With Thosh I still feel independent as ever because we respect each other's independence. But I also feel like I've got somebody to rely on, and more importantly somebody to share all my happiness with. We don't need each other, we simply want to be around each other. It's a really nice feeling.
Our trip is off to a great start. We began in Bismarck and will finish in Phoenix but we're stoping lots of places along the way to shoot photos and hike around and see sights. We got to spend a good chunk of time in Paha Sapa yesterday (the Black Hills of South Dakota). It's a place I grew up going to do with my dad every summer for ceremony so it was really cool to show Thosh this special part of my life. We also saw parts of it that I have never seen before.
We are currently in Sundance, Wyoming. Here are some photos from the trip. Thosh has been teaching me a whole bunch about photography. It's so fun to learn. He's also taking a ton of incredible photos as he always does.
And here are a set of photos by the one and only Thoshographer:
So, that's the trip so far. The Dakotas and Wyoming are beautiful places with much to see. I've only captured a little bit. I'll continue to post updates as we go through the rest of Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona.
And after this trip, I will also continue other things. I will continue to travel and spend time on the road both with Thosh and alone. I will continue to be back and forth to see my family. I will continue to chase news stories and do good reporting on the ground. I will continue to do wellness work around Native country, wherever that takes me. I will continue to make adventures a priority.
But for now, home base has shifted, and I can't wait to live where the sun is always present.