Let’s get this train rolling again. What do you say?
I was thinking earlier today about my life lately. It seems pretty simple and a little boring from my perspective. I do live it every day, after all. But a conversation over Thanksgiving reminded me how crazy it’s been in the last few years.
I used to be the kid that followed the rules and stayed within the lines. Don’t get me wrong, I still err on the side of conservative action. But I’ve learned what a great dose of medicine it can be to just live a little. For the past 5 years, I can proudly say I’ve done something very few people are able to accomplish.
As I said, I was that kid growing up. I never strayed. I listened to adults… or even kids, if you were assertive enough. I didn’t make waves. I was the kid who quietly made all As and moved on with my life. I was the goodie two shoes.
And like most things, it all started changing because of a girl.
On December 29, 2006, I begrudgingly left Chapin, SC in the middle of the South Carolina bowl game against Houston (which the Gamechickens would later go on to win… boo) to drive 3 and a half hours to Boone, NC to meet a girl. She was an Outdoor Experimental Education major at Appalachian State University… whatever that was. The first day I was there, we went for lunch at a Thai restaurant… like I ever try new things like food. After lunch, we went hiking to her favorite spot, a waterfall in the middle of a forest of rhododendrons… where I dropped my camera into the river. She had gone to Michigan for a summer to sell books door to door to earn money and ice climbed in her spare time. She owned a kayak and used to smoke pot. That summer, after she graduated, she worked at a summer camp in the North Carolina mountains. Myself, Mr. Straight-and-Narrow, was in over my head, dating an incredibly absent-minded free-spirit.
Little did I know how much was about to change.
Things ended up not working out between the two of us. I got dumped for an English guy she worked with at camp and traveled with him around our country, his country, and several counties in between. She helped me out of my shell but I was keeping her inside of her own. So we parted ways.
Side note – I’m still good friends with her former best friend from college. She was kind enough to lend me a place to stay on my trip when I went through College Station, TX. Thanks again, Kathryn!
My big, bad life change for 2007 didn’t seem so big and bad at the time. And it still doesn’t, compared to what was in store for later. But I graduated from grad school with my MBA from Clemson University and joined the working world. I wholeheartedly admit that I take my education for granted. To me, it was always a forgone conclusion I was going to college. And when I didn’t know what I wanted to do out of undergrad, I had an entire support system set up to encourage going to graduate school. It wasn’t until later, looking at statistics, that I realized how rare it actually is for someone to make it through that much schooling. I floundered around for awhile. I talked myself out of a job in Greenville, SC during an interview. I took a job in Columbia working for a start up… and left 13 business days later. And eventually landed at a pre-employment background investigation company in Chapin, SC.
I was living at home still. But it was baby steps.
The adventures pick up the pace the following year. In the summer of 2008, I cashed in my dad’s offer for a graduation present – an all-expense paid trip to visit him in Anchorage, Alaska. I took a week off of work, made the flight up, and proceeded to have an amazing time. I took a page from Miss 2006 Free Spirit and went hiking up Flattop Mountain with my dad while I was there. We went on a glacier cruise and saw several whales. I went on a chartered fishing tour on a glacier lake for salmon and got to watch a momma bear catch them going up a creek so she could feed her cubs. My dad said it was a “trip of a lifetime” and likes to joke about how I’ve out-tripped my lifetime, given a 2004 trip to Africa and several trips I’ll touch on in a bit.
It was great though. I highly recommend Alaska to anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
In the summer of 2009, I was getting over a bad breakup with a girl. We had season football tickets to split up and figure out what to do with. It turned messy. She was supposed to go to Carowinds with a group of friends and she bailed. It turned awkward. I needed to get away from South Carolina for a little while – my own reset button. So always glad to have visitors (especially since I’m the only one who has visited…), I planned another “trip of a lifetime” to Alaska to visit my dad again. I camped on the beach at Homer, Alaska and ate at an organic restaurant. I had an amazing organic milkshake and it’s the only place I’ve ever had asparagus I’ve eaten willingly. What’s that you say? More adventureness and hippiedom? It’s funny how certain people affect you. I went fishing for halibut. I saw Mt. McKinley (or Denali, as it’s known to the locals). I got to hike through mountains nearby in bear country. And to at least prove I’m not being dramatic, a black bear crossed the road in front of my dad’s truck once we were leaving. But more importantly, I was becoming more and more open to the idea of trying new things, seeing new places, and pushing myself past my previous comfort zone.
The time away did some good too.
After seeing Alaska and some discussions with 2009 girl, I was curious to see some cool things in other states now. We had hiked the highest peak in SC (a 4 mile, round trip trek) and had briefly discussed a road trip over spring break from SC to OH to FL to visit her family and my friends. Even though it never panned out, it got another ball rolling.
Fast forward to 2010. I’ve been at my job for two and a half years. It’s stale. I’ve gone as far as the position will let me with no room for advancement. Still living at home, I’d saved a good bit of my money. And little by little, the idea of traveling kept gnawing at me. At first, I just wanted to do the “Ohio to Florida” thing. I had never been to Ohio or the Midwest and I hadn’t seen my Florida friend in awhile. The closer it got to summer though, the bigger the idea grew. Why stop there? Why not see the entire country? So that’s what I did. I shattered the rules the 3-years-younger version of me was living and quit my job with no plan other than to enjoy the country I live in. It’s what started this blog – to document my trip. And see the country I did. All 48 contiguous states (Hawaii’s the only one left on the list). I saw absolutely amazing things which many of you got to read about (which I thank you for following along). I spent time with some great family along the way. More importantly, almost every time I tell this story to someone new, I hear “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that!” The only difference is that I can say I did. And have absolutely no regrets about it.
Who else can say they were the first to see the sunrise in the US? Or camped out under the stars in Yosemite National Park on their 28th birthday?
Little by little though, I acclimated to being off the road and back with family and living a “normal” life. I took a breather and just hung out for awhile. I got a puppy Harper (named after Harper’s Ferry, WV on my trip… and she’s doing great, by the way). And in October, I got a new sister in law. I did the best man deal in their wedding and had a blast doing it. I got to meet some great new friends & family who I still talk to and hang out with.
Which brings us to my 2011 adventure.
On October 31st, I followed my brother and sister in law to Raleigh to start a new job and a new life. It’s not nearly as glamorous as my 2010 escapade but how many people live where they grew up? How many people are still in the same state they’ve always been? Don’t get me wrong, I love South Carolina. It will always be home. And there’s nothing saying I won’t eventually wind back up there. But it was time for me to do something new, somewhere new. So here I am! This weekend, I’ll have lived in the area for 6 weeks. Unfortunately, I’ll have only stayed here for one of those six weekends. But the puppy (who weighs 69 lbs and isn’t so much puppy-sized anymore) is with me. And we’re making the best of things and enjoying our new
That’s the reason the blog’s been a little empty for awhile. But I’m finally getting settled in a bit to be on a regular schedule. So hopefully, this will be a more frequently filled space.
With that said though, 2012 is right around the corner. And I’m open for ideas on what next year should hold. I still need to run a quick TripAdvisor search on what the highlights to do in Raleigh are. I also need to make it to Hawaii at some point in the near future. I would really like to run a half marathon somewhere… or anywhere. I’d like to camp more. And hike more. And be more active and healthy than I already am. I’ve never been on a cruise. I’d still like to visit San Diego (and their zoo!). Which means I need to check out North Carolina’s zoo too. But mainly, I’d love to hear what you guys think. The whole thing that got this ball rolling was someone else’s personality opening up my shell. So I’m more than welcome to new ideas to push my comfort zone.
Or maybe I could be that person to help you push yours.
After all, it all started with a just girl and some Thai food. So wherever you are Whitney, I thank you more than you’ll even know!