The past week has been the laziest one of this trip. Except for a few excursions — going to a cultural festival, getting my car tuned up, buying a few items at the grocery store, taking a walk or two — I haven’t done anything. There has been almost no new input, and what input there is, such as being in a new place, has been muffled by the frequent rain. If I lived in such a rainy climate, I would probably go about my life as if the skies weren’t weeping on me, but coming from the desert, I am used to spending rainy days inside.
And so, that is what I am doing. Staying inside. Being lazy.
These mostly empty days are giving me an opportunity to process the past three months on the road, but to be honest, I still don’t know what to make of it all. What I had originally planned — spending most nights in a tent and most days hiking — didn’t happen. There were some such days, of course, but weather, spring break (it seemed someone was on spring break from the middle of March to the end of April, so camp grounds were often full before I got there), and going where the wind blew (or do I mean “didn’t blow”?) took me on a different path. Mostly I have been visiting people I know online, sometimes staying with them, sometimes making a stop just for lunch.
The one thought that sticks out in my mind as I try to make sense of it all is how different this trip would have been without the internet. I would have followed my own path, struggling with maps and trying to figure out places I would like to go, but with Google Maps, whenever I couldn’t figure out a fun drive, I set the destination on my phone, and let Google Maps direct my journey. This made the driving much more fun — I could just sit back, hold the car steady, and gaze out the windows at the passing scenery. 9,000 miles is a LOT of scenery!
And I probably wouldn’t have visited many people. Of all the people I have visited, I only knew three people pre-internet days, two of which I reconnected with through the internet or email. (Well, there was that one woman I visited after meeting her at a campground, but I don’t exactly know how to classify that visit.) All the rest are internet connections, and because of them, I have seen extraordinary things, had wonderful conversations, found reasons to visit places I would never have considered.
People often talk about how the internet is destroying communication and relationships, but that is not at all my experience. The internet has allowed me, a rather hermit-y woman, to meet people and make friends that would never have entered my life otherwise. In not a single case was meeting them in person a letdown, but a continuation of the friendship we had established online.
But what does it all mean? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps this trip is exactly what I had in mind, even if the path I took and the logistics of getting to my various destinations did not follow my original vision of the trip — a way to keep me from stagnating.
And I certainly have not been stagnating. Even when seemingly doing nothing — driving for many hours a time or staying put in an empty apartment — the adventure continues.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)