After road trippin' in the Caravan (it was the Sport model, so it was legit) came to a close, I had been searching for closure. I spent many hours processing the trip through memories, photos and my journals I kept along the way, thinking that I would develop some new paradigm on how I see the world. But I've discovered that closure isn't what I needed. I have come to realize I require transition and inspiration, which I recently stepped into knee-deep.
Eric and I had a phrase that we exclaimed profoundly, a brief and obvious statement that always got a rise out of the other person. I've learned that people actively pursuing something they've worked hard for often have one of these, something to keep themselves grounded and lifted simultaneously. For us, it was "We're on the trip!" This phrase represented the continuing culmination of something over a year in the making, and it always provided a kick during a long, stale drive or a tedious hike through hot, dry country.
I guess for us it was akin to "It's really happening!" and we loved it. There's nothing that provides the palpable taste of accomplishment like truly living in the moment, as the present is all we truly ever experience. When you can enjoy the current moment above everything past and future, you feel pure elation and time ceases to exist.
We also kept things in perspective with the axiom "everything is temporary." Usually this phrase was uttered during a trial or something that could cause some negativity, but we came to learn that its meaning extended to the good things as well. Mental reconciliation became a huge part of our lives. When any chill-inducing, this-is-life moment was happening, I'd try to really soak it up as I knew it would eventually come to a close, and that a low moment lurked somewhere in the darkness beyond.
One of my most memorable moments was towards the end of our return trip, which was a straight shot from the beach in Arcata, California to our point of origin in Morgantown, West Virginia. We were passing by Pittsburgh and we realized that we had to keep the phrase "Were on the trip!" alive. To us, this represented continuing life with the mindset that the adventure never ends, it only takes different forms. While the road trip that we had invested so much into and had pulled off, quite successfully, was coming to a close, a new phoenix would rise from the ropetrip's ashes and carry us off to a new thrill. I wasn't sure what the hell it was going to be as I was close to broke and in need of employment, but I knew I'd reinvent myself one way or another.
I had always joked that being destitute was the source of financial adventure, as you never really know what you're made of until you're forced to produce. It's not as primal or adrenal as true physical survival, but in today's global society, I feel it creates waves just as big. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it was time to hit the drawing board. But I discovered the inspiration was a struggle to sustain. It's hard to produce mental positivity when you're in a lull. Attainable goals are often placed on the backburner, simmering for far too long and steaming away into delusions of grandeur. The endorphin-flooded thoughts that are supposed to push us to strive for a better life slip away into sleep and become pipe dreams.
The silver lining of hitting a low means the only way to go is up. My resting was done, and I wanted to be on the trip again. So I looked into graduate school for a morale boost, discovering a feasible career through studying environmental policy. I also took a shot in the dark and emailed Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation director Gregg Treinish (we had participated in the pika study during the roadtrip through Montana) and asked for advice on building a career based around writing and conservation. I would have been happy with any response from Gregg, but what I was offered was a major step in the right direction. Gregg and ASC invited me to become a contributing writer, actually getting paid for my words and effectively shocking my dead journalism career back to life. He also encouraged me to apply for an incredible travelling job through ASC which I am anxious to hear back about. The same evening, I received my acceptance letter for grad school at West Virginia University.
All of it goes to show that the trip never ends. Things begin and things come to a close. Adventures start and finish, and the most important lesson of all is to enjoy the journey. Because when it's over and you ponder everything that happened, all you're left with is the aching wonder of what's next. It is this downtime, the lull between major chapters of our lives, that produces the peaks we aim to summit. And it is during this time that we must remember - we're all on the trip.