Wanderlust | Teen Ink


October 2, 2019
By schmophie BRONZE, Austin, Texas
schmophie BRONZE, Austin, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

When I was thirteen, my family packed up the car and disappeared on a road trip for five weeks.  We went west to California, up to Canada, and back south through Montana and Colorado. We stopped to visit family in Idaho, California, and Washington, but other than that we were totally on our own. It was just me, my little sister Livia, and my parents in our car for five weeks. 

At the time, I was tired of my family and the car and the constant movement. We didn’t stay in most places for more than a night, and some of the destinations were less than amazing. 

Looking back on it, it was the best five weeks of my life. I got to see the beaches, deserts, mountains, and caves. I saw fifty-foot saguaro cacti and hundred-foot redwoods. I hiked gorgeous trails almost every day. I would do the trip again in a heartbeat if I could. 

Occasionally, we struck up conversations with other travelers or hikers. When we told them about our small odyssey, they would always turn to me and tell me I would remember the trip for the rest of my life. At the beginning of the trip, I would nod my head and agree, but as the weeks forged on, the saying got old. Even worse, they would bet I wished I was at home, and I would agree, but with a sense of dread. I wanted to sleep in a bed longer than one night, but I never wanted the adventure to end. That the people saw the trip as purely a means to make memories or for the destination bugged me to no end. 

For me, the trip was about new experiences. It awakened an unquenchable sense of wanderlust in me. I wanted to see new places and learn new things. I was filled with fascination the more I experienced. 

We visited places I had never heard of.  Some spots were odd, such as the yurt on a farm in a valley in the Cascades National Park host to “the world’s first unisex recycling urinal.” Also on the grounds were chickens, pigs, and a man known as Peace Man, who traveled miles into the nearest town for a bagel and to preach about peace. 

We stayed in bad places, too. In Crater Lake, Oregon, a beautiful national park, we stayed in a gross motel plagued by loud eighteen-wheelers, a crazed bug zapper, and rock hard beds with little more than a sheet as covers in a freezing cold room. I spent the night nauseous in the bathroom.

And at times, I was terrified. We stayed in a tiny house in the thick woods, where I was certain a serial killer would murder us all. Once, we drove up a stormy mountain road with no guardrails. The roads were slippery and we were the only car among dozens of huge trucks. Even if we survived a crash, we would have no hope for help. We sometimes scrambled to find places to stay between us and our destination. 

It was awesome. My home was our minivan for a month, and it filled me with a whole new perspective. I was tired, hungry and annoyed with my family, and in constant awe. I felt alone and adrift in a world I couldn’t control, but I couldn’t get past how beautiful it all was.  I wanted to see more and more of it. I wanted to learn all it had to offer. I wanted to travel and explore and meet new people and see things I had never seen before. On the trip, I picked up strange-looking jellyfish. I dyed my hair and got weird looks. I listened to the same song on repeat for weeks. I met family I’d never even heard of before. I played in tidepools and swam in the ocean. I looked over massive cliffs and let my voice echo over mountaintops. I let myself be free in places I would never see again. I left a part of myself everywhere we visited and took only memories with me. I let my wonder and excitement carry me through being thirteen and stuck in a car with my parents and sister. 

Traveling places gives me freedom. I let myself roam and explore. I stare out at the stars and watch the Perseids. I attempt to quench this vast well of wanderlust that sits inside me. I fill it with memories of the oceans and deserts and the forests and the stars, and the more I fill it with the more it grows. Wanderlust is the thirst for knowledge and freedom, and it is a beautiful curse.

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