One of my favorite things about the United States is a good, old-fashioned road trip. This country is filled with beautiful and diverse geography that can, in my opinion, best be viewed by driving down the highways and turning off onto random side roads that call your name. As a child, my family drove cross-country for weeks at a time to visit family, national parks, and scenic overlooks, sites, monuments, you name it. I had been to 45 states by the time I was 14 years old and am proud to say that I have since been to every one of our 50 states, as well as 3 of our territories and commonwealths. It is an understatement to say that these trips make up my favorite memories of childhood and formed the foundation for my wanderlust and love of adventure and travel. As soon as I had a license, I was off, driving down winding roads just to see where they would take me, with the music playing and my dreams taking form. These little drives became longer and took me to further destinations. Cliffs for rock climbing. Homes of friends across the East Coast. Islands with wild horses. Trail heads to mountain tops and ski slopes. Beaches and rocky coastlines. The shores of Canada. The destination was just an excuse for the experience of traveling. I remember one particular moment while driving, in which I was barely outside of New York City and dawn was just starting to break with its rosy end-of-summer glow. As the cars streamed around me on the busy highways, filled with people heading to hectic days at work in and around the city, I found the most amazing sense of happiness and contentment in realizing that I had my car, a tent, rock climbing gear, a little bit of money, a vague plan that took me north, and one entire week with nothing that needed to be done. In that moment, I truly felt that I had everything in the world that I needed. The start of an unknown adventure and a wide open road in front of me. As the years passed, my road trips took me across the country, through national parks out west, and to new homes in the north and southwest. My car grew from my unreliably reliable, used Pontiac Lemans of high school and college, to my environmentally-conscious Prius, and eventually to my family-oriented SUVs, which I always swore I would never own. Life evolved, but the road has never stopped calling.
Today, as I drove around my 12-mile by 5.6-mile tropical, Pacific island, with my toddler and 4-month-old drifting off to sleep in the car and a Joe Purdy album playing on the radio, I was taken back to that morning on the New Jersey Turnpike, just outside of New York City, at the start of a road trip adventure. A smile crept across my face as I realized that this was my new form of a road trip, at least for the time being. I turned up the volume, rolled down the window, and, once again, felt that I had everything I needed in the world right in that moment.