I can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve found myself squirming, filled with anxiety, questioning a decision that took me leaps outside of my comfort zone and plopped me down in the middle of a panic attack. Those moments — the ones when I doubt myself, question my decision-making skills, and obsess over worse-case scenarios — are not my finest.
I’ve had a lot of those squirming moments over the last month, as this dream of living in a travel trailer and roaming the country became a reality. I loved the idea of taking to the open road and being free. Of going wherever my heart desired, whenever I felt the whim, with nothing to tie me down. I fantasized about waking up in new places, of building campfires and listening to crickets at night, of hiking new trails and biking new highways. I wanted to reignite my creativity and passion, to resuscitate the zest for life that had been suffocating for quite some time. It was as if I woke up one morning, looked around, and realized I had become exactly the person I never wanted to be. I was in the rat race, busting my ass everyday to afford a status quo I thought would make me happy. I lived in a beautiful condo on the water, drove a new Camaro, and from the outside, was the spray tanned, Botoxed, acrylic nail wearing, uberfit gym rat that I had conjured up in my mind as some sort of super woman. Yes, I could make it on my own, be a boss, and look good doing it.
But I wasn’t happy. From the outside, I had accomplished what society told me was worthwhile. I had done everything right. I followed the rules. I went to school, got good grades, started a business. I had everything I thought I wanted. But I could’t shake this incessant urge that there was more for me, that I was not, in fact, living up to my potential. I felt inauthentic and superficial. What I was doing each day, the thoughtless, robotic actions I went through to maintain this strange facade were not bringing me joy. And I was struck with a fear that if I did not change things, I would come to the end of my life and realize I had done it all wrong. I did not want to find myself on my deathbed, as Ivan Ilych did, and wonder “What if my whole life has been wrong?” or, in the words of Thoreau, “discover that I had not lived.” A few months ago, I realized I could continue on the path I was currently treading, or I could blaze a new one for myself. I could go out there and find something that would thrill me again. In some ways, I think I was looking for opportunities to question my sanity, to wonder what the hell I was thinking. And so, I did.
Knowing absolutely nothing about RV-ing, I bought a travel trailer. I’d never towed a trailer before I drove the one I purchased off the lot of the RV dealership. I tried to learn as much as possible and prepare for everything I could think of, but I’ve still never dumped my tanks. I hitched up for the first time by myself a few days ago. Backing up anywhere is a total shitshow.
I sat alone in the bedroom at my sister and brother-in-law’s house a week ago, the day I left Florida, and cried because I could no longer ignore the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. I was past the point of turning back, and I knew I would hate myself forever if I did. I was just going to have to go and figure it out. That day was filled with many firsts. My first time trying to maneuver into a small gas station to fill up. My first time driving through a narrow campground. My first time hooking up to power and setting the trailer up for the night. In the following days, I had more firsts. My first time unhitching. My first time hitching back up on my own.
A couple of days ago, I experienced my first time driving about 50 miles on a series of narrow, twisty mountain roads. I experienced my Chevy automatically switching into grade braking on a long steep descent, having no idea what was happening, but realizing there was nothing to do but ride it out and assume all was good (and it was). I realized in that moment, there was nowhere to go but forward. Looking over my shoulder made no sense. There was nowhere for me to turn around even if I had wanted to, and besides, what good would that have done?
I had a similar experience yesterday when I took my road bike out on some back roads in east Tennessee. I ended up lost (which is fine, I had my phone) and on some steep descents that forced me to stand and shift my weight behind my saddle and test the integrity of my disc brakes. I could have turned around and backtracked, but I opted to ride it out. And you know? It was just fine. The only way is forward. I’m realizing I really don’t have any use for a reverse gear in life. It may scare the shit out of me, but the view is always clearer when I’m moving forward.