I woke up in a rest stop, just outside of Redding, CA. The sun was baking the car already at 8am. I brushed my teeth and washed my face in the public restroom. I refilled my water bottle, hopped back in the car and drove west. I took the 101 when I reached the coast. The towns along the coast are ocean themed and somewhere near Weed, CA I started seeing Bigfoot related things. Bigfoot Motel, Bigfoot camping, Bigfoot Cafe. In Weaverville, there were signs around town thanking firefighters for their help. I wanted to drive through the Avenue of Giants on the 101. By choosing this, I added several more hours onto my travel time. It was worth it. When I entered the famous avenue, I couldn't help but gasp. They were as beautiful as I had always imagined.
I've actually already made this journey once before, down the entire west coast. I was two years old. Sometimes, when I'm driving, I think of how, in 1992, a Toyota Previa scuttled down this exact road, with all of us inside. It's fun to imagine myself, as a baby, in my dad's arms, looking at the seal's on the Oregon coast. Or, following my mom's pointed finger as we drove beneath the red beams of the Golden Gate Bridge. When I talk to my dad on the phone while I'm driving, I can tell he is recalling a memory I will never know. In this weird, intertwining moment, together, we are experiencing both the memory and the present, like straddling two worlds. We are simultaneously on that Oregon beach, my pudgy body propped up on his hip, and on the phone, 3,000 miles apart, witnessing and remembering together.
My favorite story they told me about the famous family journey from Alaska to Florida is of the Redwoods. "You can drive through them they are so huge!" I knew from an early age that this was something I wanted to see. There are certain things that I have a strong desire to see and experience. I have this determination with very specific and often minuscule things, like drinking a Long Island Iced Tea, walking down Haight-Ashbury street and driving through a Redwood tree. I have lists in my head of things that must be experienced and when they happen, It becomes a religious experience.
When I stood in front of the apartment where my favorite author Sylvia Plath committed suicide, I bawled like a child. I must have sat in the park nearby for an hour, overwhelmed by the intersection of this raw moment of being a piece in my imagination.
Does that make sense?
Instead of it being this separate entity you see in a book or read about. It's now attached to you in the same way that time you peed your pants in dance class when you were seven is. This magical thing and you are now a part of each other and can never be untangled. I go into a state of perplexed awe, throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain, walking through Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, finding the exact spot where Forrest Gump sat on that bench in Savannah, Georgia. I cherish these moments like children. And there are more, so many more that I have stored in my head and heart. I think I will always maintain these particular "experience desires".
This is why I travel. I tangle my physical body up with the world I have in my head. It perhaps feels something like if one were completely obsessed with chocolate and then BECAME CHOCOLATE. I become the thing that I love by being a part of it. I love the world. I love all of its quirks and strange people and architecture and smells and customs. I love the smell of Southeast Alaska just like I love the hairline fractures, sprouting flowers on the sidewalk in Rome. I love the little boy crying in Spanish and the taxi driver who tried to rip me off in Barcelona. I love the recognizable sound of the market in Seattle. I love the teenage girl in gold, walking down the street in Oakland, arguing with her mom on the phone. I love that I get to witness these moments and be a part of all of them, even the negative ones. I feel so unbelievably lucky to be alive and to be me and I CAN"T BELIEVE I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REDWOOD FOREST WITH THESE BEAUTIFUL BEINGS THAT HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ME. I cry right now thinking about it.
Traveling isn't glamorous. I don't talk about sleeping in rest stops, bum showering in a gas station bathrooms, getting lost and frustrated for it. It's not for everyone. But those inconveniences are nothing but that. They are just what I have to do if I want to live the way I want. Everyone has to be true to their nature and stay as close as humanly possible to what they love. Don't venture out too far in search of things you think will make you happy, like money or a relationship. If you aren't happy with yourself and the way you are living your life, you are wasting it. You don't have to do what I'm doing. You shouldn't. I shouldn't do things your way, either.
I sometimes wonder if other people feel the same way as I do about traveling and experiencing these things. I don't know, but I didn't see anyone else crying and smiling in the Avenue of Giants.
Sometimes, I wish I could find someone who is like me in this way. Sometimes, I wonder if there is anyone out there like me. I get discouraged about meeting that "right" person, because I feel so specialized . Sometimes, I feel like a cherry pit removing tool in a drawer full of spoons.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I get to go to sleep knowing that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life. How many people can say that, every night? Nothing can beat that feeling, and nothing can take it away. It is the deepest, most invigorating emotion. It makes all the pain of uprooting my life and sacrificing a future with someone I loved, worth it. I am happy in a way that makes me feel guilty.
Do I deserve this?
I struggle with enjoying the moment. It's hard to turn my worrying brain off and take a look around. I have a lot of self-doubt, still. But, I am learning how to be healthy in my outside life so that my inside life, the one in my head, doesn't have any negative ammo to hurt me with. That deep feeling of contentment conquers those feelings of self-doubt and worry.
I finally feel like I am winning at a game I didn't even know how to play not too long ago.
I can still smell the bark and their leaves. I can still feel the coolness of their shadows and the warm slivers of sun slicing through the openings. I can feel the heavy presence of them, so confident and bewildering. I am still mesmerized by how dwarfed I felt. It was so quiet. I tip-toed around barefoot.
I am both a 25-year-old woman, standing in a forest, desperately trying to make sense of the world and her place in it,
and that baby
safe in my father's arms, sitting in that Previa van as it tinkers down the winding curve of California.
These things are both existing now, together.