The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

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Pivotal Moments in One Road Tripper's Life

Pivotal Moments of a Road Tripping Life

There are pivotal moments in your life. I’m still trying to figure out mine.

I don't know where the impulse came from; maybe it was the culmination of spontaneous midnight road trips I took in college. Maybe it went back further to my mom and dad getting the "caged bird" itch every fall and heading north to the Smoky Mountains for a change of colors and scenery. Whatever it was, the feeling hit hard and then was cemented.

I needed the open road.

At the time, most of the people living in vans (and cars) were those who were doing it out of necessity. In time, this turned true for me, too, with the loss of a job. But it started with being a dirtbag climber and skier who couldn't afford hostels—or heck, even campgrounds—but wanted to see her continent.

Like most things, I researched the heck out of what little info I could find on living in a car. A van was out of the question; it wasn't in the budget to drop money on a new vehicle or even to fork over that much cash for gas each month. I'd be living on savings from my post-college internship, splitting costs with one other person in the front cabin, and stuffing all necessary belongings for days of climbing, bouldering, sleeping and eating in a four-door Mazda 3.

My apartment downtown was subletted. My bank was alerted that I’d be traveling—wherever for whatever period of time. For the first time ever, I was completely four-wall free and had only a rough idea of where the seasons would take me.

That initial “plan” was to last five or six months and traverse 16,000 miles across North America. It ended three years and so-many-miles-that-I-stopped-counting later. The same car, one less passenger, and, still, an unquenched curiosity.

Yet, even with a mind that wondered what I was leaving behind, I returned to a form of normalcy: four walls. There was reluctance and there was gratefulness in that decision.

For the first few months, I’d go out into the cool of the night to sleep in my car. That faded as I grew used to the climate-controlled house and the ease of access with water and facilities. Belongings started accumulating again, now that I had somewhere to put them. Before a year had passed, I’d gone back to being a normal person doing and living in a normal way.

The pivotal point: was it the decision to actually go? Was it when I decided to continue on, solo, at the six-month point when my climbing partner wanted to go home? Was it after my return, in a moment of reflection of what I had just done? Or was it when I realized I was living just like I had before my excursion—as if the whole thing was a movie I’d watched of someone else?

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