My Trip Across the Country This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Have you ever driven 3,000 miles in fourdays? Last June, my older brother Balen and I drove from our house inOregon to his new apartment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is 22 andmade the trek to begin working at IBM. I went along for differentreasons. Before I left home, my mother told me this would be alife-changing experience. At the time, I brushed her off saying,“Yeah, right, Mom, I’m 16. How is this trip going to changemy life?” Upon reflection, however, this trip had a greater impacton me than I would have guessed.

My first reason for taking thetrip was to keep Balen company and get to know him better. Ourrelationship is different now than when he was the cool 16-year-old andI was the annoying little sister. Now we relate in a more adult way.Also, I imagined the drive could get pretty boring and I thought itwould be almost unbearable for him to go alone. We filled those longhours listening to countless CDs, talking about how cool it was that theclocks on our cell phones changed as we crossed time zones, and eatingthe food Mom had packed. We also talked. A lot. Our conversations rangedfrom “Why are Mom and Dad so weird?”(me) to “How canyou not know how to read a map?” (him). We also discussed teachersand all the crazy things we have done in school.

We also talkedabout how junior year is the hardest, with the SATs and the ACTs; howgrades matter the most this year; and how to do well in school, at work,and find time for extra-curricular activities and a social life. Balenwas always a superstar, one of those kids every parent wishes for: hemanaged to maintain a 4.0 GPA, play varsity soccer all four years, havea job, be nominated for the Future First Citizen award, and graduate asvaledictorian. I have no idea how he did it, but I am proud of him.Because I was given such a good example to follow (and since Ican’t always live up to it ), I often want to rebel just to showeveryone I am different, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Another reason for the trip was to see the U.S. We drove throughOregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Tennesseeon our way to North Carolina. I had only been to three of these statesbefore, so there were many new places to explore.

The majorityof the landscape was bleak, dull highway dotted with the occasional treeor bush. We stayed in three cities, and the only criteria when choosinga hotel were the price and whether it served a continental breakfast.

Our first night was spent in a Motel 6 outside Salt Lake City,Utah. I thought it was nice, except that the room seemed lost in a layerof cigarette smoke (even though it was designated as non-smoking). Thenext night we stayed at a Holiday Inn in a small town in Nebraska. Itwould have been fine, except we were trapped in a huge rainstorm thatlasted a few days. There was so much rain, it felt as if we had neverleft Oregon. The storm made it difficult to see the road, so we endedthat day’s drive early. On our final night, finding some place tostay was an adventure. We happened to be in Nashville, Tennessee on theevening of a big country music festival and consequently there were norooms in any hotels. We tried six and finally decided on a suite that,even though out of our price range, meant we could settle in forthe night.

My final reason for joining my brother was topractice driving. I’d had my license for two months and figured itwould be a good way to increase my skills. On average, we drove 10 hoursa day, with me driving for five. It wasn’t as hard as I thought itwould be. In fact, I think it was harder sitting in the passenger seat.

I can honestly say that I don’t know how to read a mapproperly. I was reminded of this when we approached North Carolina.There are two different routes to Chapel Hill. We chose the first, andplanned to follow the second to our destination. But because we wereusing two maps, I found it difficult to keep the routes straight, whichresulted in much yelling and split-second decision-making. I now knowthat this drama could have been avoided if I had actually looked at themaps first.

When taking a long car trip, it’s funny howotherwise mundane things get you excited. We would be really happy whenthe state’s speed limit was 75 or 80, and then feel kind of sadwhen it was 65 or 70. We would also be happy when a really good songplayed on the radio, and we would both sing at the top of our lungs,completely out of tune.

Thinking about the trip now, I realize mymom was right - it did change my life. It has shown me that there is somuch more outside our small city, and I want to see it all. A road tripis a great way to get to know yourself, and get to know the person youare traveling with. I recommend it for anyone looking for something todo during vacation. Just make sure you have lots of CDs, patience and anopen mind. It would also help if you can read a map.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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