This went very nicely until driving from Texas to Baton Rouge. I got halfway across the country without even a desire to push the speed limit, and the two minutes that I do, I get pulled over. The bitterness was slightly mitigated by the officer’s very charming accent and the humorous fact that I was passing through a small town that translates to “Fat Head, Louisiana.”
I wasn’t the only one speeding, but I was the one in a red convertible with out-of-state plates. I’ve had to repeat incessantly to myself lately, “Just because they were wrong, too, doesn’t mean you weren’t.”
After the ticket, I could remind myself that slowing down takes dedicated moments of reflection and humility. If you speed, you will get a ticket. If you mess up, there will be consequences. Saying that I needed a little bit of humble pie would be an understatement (but more on humble pie later).
Once that was out of the way, I really enjoyed driving through the bayou, over long bridges, surrounded by fern and moss and other lush greenery. I loved watching the change from dry lands to wetlands, and I loved the fact that gas was almost a dollar cheaper in middle-of-nowhere Louisiana than anywhere else I had been ($2.98/gal!).
I was, thus, incredibly grateful that my delightful host was more than willing to let me tag along for the ride. Not just any ride at that, but a ride down a river.
As we floated lazily down in our inner-tubes, I shouted “Fourth of July in America!” at every moment that felt right. It was perfectly lazy, sunny, wet, and surprisingly American. It also made me wish I had grown up spending more time on rivers.
Passing through Biloxi and Mobile was amusing, partly because I didn’t realize how old the towns would feel or that there is a Prince of Peace Embassy in Alabama. I didn’t even realize I had stereotypes of Mobile in my head, but obviously my surprise at its charm implies that I did.
And then I got to Florida. The “Welcome” sign caught me off guard, as did my feeling of relief. Except, the journey definitely wasn’t over, literally or metaphorically. Florida is a long state. The last two legs were the hardest, and the final one into West Palm Beach was by far the most difficult, even though it was only a fraction of the length of the others before it.
As I pulled into my apartment building, I had forgotten which parking spot was mine.
No single entry can express the roller coaster of emotions that predominated this trip. Regardless of the fact that I did not want to be reflective or introspective, it was inevitable, of course.
Before embarking on this adventure, I expected to grow a little bit, to return with more faith in my independent ability. Little did I know exactly how minor that accomplishment would be compared to everything else I’ve learned. I have broken one pair of earphones and a tagine and injured one friendship along the way. But I have also regained a sense of self-confidence, a heap of humility, and a more solidified appreciation for those who love me for who I am rather than who I should be.
I have not only seen more of America over this last month, but I’ve seen deeper into myself and more intimately into the hearts of others. And for that, I am infinitely grateful. Three cheers for road trips.