The First 1,200 Miles

“To begin, begin.” — William Wordsworth ♥

I left Portland last Thursday, which was about as exhausting an endeavor as you might imagine getting rid of all your belongings and packing for a 2-month road trip might turn out to be. Mercifully, my good friend Michelle cooked an awesome dinner for me and let me crash on her couch the night before I left, so I was in pretty good shape when I left for Missoula.

This was my sixth time driving the route between Oregon and South Dakota, so it wasn’t particularly interesting. It took me so long to finish cleaning and turn in the keys to my apartment on Thursday that I didn’t have time to stop in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, as I usually do. As it was, I didn’t arrive in Missoula until after 9 p.m.

My couchsurfing host in Missoula is wonderful. I’d hosted couchsurfers for about a year prior to staying with her last summer, but she was my host for my very first time as a surfer. She has a lovely apartment in a great part of town. We kept in touch, and earlier this year, I stayed with her again when I was driving through with my son (which officially made him a couchsurfer in his own right!). Then she hosted my friend Michelle earlier this summer when Michelle was out in Montana on her own road trip. I was almost a bit hesitant to request staying with her again on this trip, because she has been so darn hospitable, but I needn’t have worried. She was only disappointed that I couldn’t stay longer! She met me at the door with a huge hug and a cold beer, and we stayed up late talking before I was off again early in the morning.

Friday was the long, 12-hour drive through eastern Montana, Wyoming, and finally into South Dakota. My family lives in Rapid City, so I spent the weekend with my parents and my son. My mom helped me unload everything from my car, VERY kindly decided she could make room for my few boxes of keepsakes, and reorganized everything back into my car. We cut my belongings down by about half. I was still really disappointed that I ended up with so many bags, but my mom pointed out that for a 2-month road trip through various climates, I did need most of what I brought. And I can always pare it down again before I leave for South America. It’s definitely better than what I started with.

Moving so many times over the years, I have become a VERY light packer. When I went to Canada for 5 days, I brought one small carry-on bag, and decided after the fact that I had still overpacked, because I didn’t even use everything I brought. I don’t tend to get emotional attachments to my belongings, because I’m very aware of the fact that ‘you can’t take it with you.’ I realize this usually applies to death, but when you’re a veteran traveler, you take this very literally. Sure, I’ve kept a few things – old journals, my son’s drawings, a few momentos from old boyfriends..but they fit into a few banker’s boxes, and as the years go by and my emotional attachments fade, I’ve found I’m able to filter out even more. But if the house burned down and I was left with nothing but the clothes on my back, I’d make do. I think it’s emotionally freeing not to have a bunch of belongings to worry about, and it forces you to realize that your memories really are enough.

I spent the weekend lining up couchsurfing hosts for my next few stops, and I’m VERY excited to meet these interesting new people! Since I’d driven Oregon to South Dakota so many times, and stayed with my family this weekend, I feel like today is the actual beginning of my trip. Onward to the new and the unknown!



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