Being alone is hard, for me at least. You see, my life is like a revolving door of hobbies, friends, women, and work. It seems I always find ways to avoid being alone, because that’s the hardest thing for me to do as an extrovert. I would find myself scrolling through social media at night instead of reading. I would go on frivolous dates through the city instead of finding a way to blend my passion and career. Even when I was alone I would still have my phone by my side. This was a problem to me and I was becoming aware of it the longer it stretched on. At the same time of realizing this, I was about to switch careers and become an independent personal trainer. I have only been out of college for a year now and still felt like a kid. I was about to make a huge life change and realized I still had a lot of habits I carried over from college. So I decided to make something of my own to solve both these issues. I thought a solo road trip would be a good way to send myself off into adulthood. I would have to face being alone and I would have something truly of my own. I also had a Subaru (my Weekend Warrior, as I call it) that I have been dying to take to some National Parks (that’s like 50% of the reason I got it). So I packed my car and set off.
The goal of this trip was mainly seeing National Parks. Camping seemed like the best and most enjoyable way to do something on my own. Here is where I ended up going:
-Carlsbad Caverns National park
-Santa Fe, NM
-Pagosa Springs Colorado
-Mesa Verde National Park
-Canyon Land National Park
-Arches National Park
-Bryce Canyon National Park
-Great Basin National Park
-Zion National park
-Grand Canyon National Park
-Petrified Forest National Park
The point is I got around this trip. I was surprised as to how much ground I covered and got to see. To be fair, I wished I had gottent to spend some more time at certain parks and there are parks that I could have not seen and been okay with. Pagosa Springs was a beautiful small town in Colorado that I could have spent days exploring. It has the deepest geothermal hot springs in the world at 1200 ft and an adorable main street with local diners and coffee shops… I love those kinds of towns. I also wished I had spent more time at the Grand Canyon. Whenever I go there I never have time to do a full day hike, just enough time to sit by the canyon and take in the view. Carlsbad Caverns was a breathtaking experience, but outside the cave there is quite literally nothing to do. I could drive around Utah and Colorado forever and be completely content, while driving through west Texas drove me crazy. There were plenty of places I wished I had made it to but, with the time I had, I’m at least glad I got where I got.
What I Learned
To say my whole life changed from this one trip would be an exaggeration. This trip had the same effect on me as reading a self help book. Except this was like reading a self help book and living it at the same time. When you read a self help book it tells you things you’re already are aware of, but don’t have that motivation to act on. Going on this trip forced me to act on the lessons taught. Here are some of the things I learned:
You Have To Be Your Own Motivation In Life
This goes back to my early days in life as a skateboarder. Trying to learn a new trick was the scariest thing I had to do. To help with this I would always ask my friends to call me a pussy (clearly I had peaked in maturity), but doing this would reassure me that they were watching and that would give me the added confidence to go for the trick. Later in life this would apply to weight lifting. Working out by myself I would usually give up sooner when I got tired, I wouldn’t push myself to failure. With friends, though, you have someone to compare yourself to and compete with, all friendly-like, of course. If my friends could lift that much then I wanted to lift the same. Of course I have always known that I do these things but I was missing some kind of experience to help it sink in. When I got to Great Basin National Park this changed. They have an 8 mile hike up an exposed mountain side to the peak. I’ve done 8 mile hikes before, this shouldn’t have been any different. They failed to mention that it was basically a 60 degree incline the whole way, and this was their monsoon season, and on an exposed mountainside you’re the only thing there to take all the wind and lightning (and yes, I was the only one taking a hike that day. Everyone else was smart enough to stay back at their campsites). So away I went on this hike, and it was beautiful the whole way. Once you clear the treeline the wind hits you at full speed and the path turns to nothing but shifting gravel, which is not kind on your ankles. I was drained halfway through the hike and didn’t even have an end in sight. That’s when the message hit me. Normally on a hike like this you would have someone to either set the pace or to motivate forwards. This hike kicked my ass and at times I wanted to rest and have lunch early or just turn around before the storm hit me. Then the message from a self help book message set in and I recalled a poem by Charles Bukowski. The poem is titled “Go all the way” and it says exactly that. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This of course is an obvious message that normally I would agree with, work for half a day as hard as I could, and then lose interest the next day. On the hike though I was much more motivated to put it into practice, so I did. The last 3 miles to the top of the mountain was comparable to walking on a treadmill with the incline maxed out. I made it to the top and I was able to relax. It was a good feeling, to not do it for anyone but yourself. I didn’t have anyone to gloat to about how hard of a hike it was, I just enjoyed the view.
Don’t Be Afraid To Make The Wrong Choice
Making decisions for me is hard. If I ever have the weekend free with no plans I panic because I can never decide how to fill it. If I choose to read this book, then I’ll miss out on seeing this friend. If I go swimming at this pool, then I’ll miss out on working on my website. I end up stressing myself out because every decision has consequences to me. When I’m home I have people to rely on to make the decision instead. I ask people what I should do so I can justify doing something because someone told me to. It’s actually why I hated asking my roommate questions. He would always give me the same answer, “shit, Bill, I don’t know, it’s your life”. This would force me to make the decision for myself. On this trip I was faced with this every single day. Should I do this hike, should I take a detour here, should I buy this to eat. EVERY single decision started giving me trouble. Then I recalled an Alan Watts quote from a video I have watched too often. The video is titled “Choices” and it (obviously) talks about the choices you have in your life. My favorite quote is from the movie Mr. Nobody “Every choice is the right choice, every path is the right path. Anything could’ve been anything else, and it would have just as much meaning”. Again, this on the surface makes perfect sense. Accept the decisions you make and move on with life. I always knew this but had a hard time following it. Then, on the trip when faced with this alone, I was forced to make my own decisions each day. Again, putting into practice things I have always known. In the back of my head I would have that quote on repeat and the stress would go away. I would make a decision and stick with it and be completely content. It felt freeing.
Your Life is Your Life, Don’t Live Someone Else’s
Growing up with social media has affected a lot of us millennials. Now, with the world at our fingertips, we constantly have people to compare ourselves to. This life lesson is one I go in and out of. I know deep down that I’ll be happier the less involved I am in what others are doing. For a while I was living this lesson out and feeling great. Then I started my Fitness Social Media account, @realistically.fit, and fell back into the cycle. I would justify it by saying I had to know what was going on in the community if I wanted to succeed. In reality is was no different than my personal account. I wanted to know what others were doing so I could compare myself to them. Again this life lesson is one I hear constantly but often fail to put it into practice. On the trip I was without access to internet for most of it. I had stopped caring what others were doing and I felt great again. I could just focus on myself. When I found signal I would post a picture and then get off. That will be my biggest take-away from the trip. I know social media and brand awareness are a necessary evil. So I will continue to post and then get off of it for the rest of the day without becoming obsessive about it like I was before. Moderating my time spent online is as great in practice as it is in theory.
The Grand Message
I went on this trip as a way to jump start my adult life. I wanted to do something on my own to prove to myself that I could be independent and practice what I preached, so to say. I didn’t expect to learn these life lessons along the way, to be just another millennial “finding themselves”. In reality this trip was the best thing I could have done before starting my own business. Each day these lessons will stick with me in the decisions I make. These messages were always obvious but without a good reason, were hard for me to implement with any real consistency. But I learned that when you put yourself in an uncomfortable situation you’re forced to deal with it in whichever way you can. Although I don’t believe you necessarily have to go on a solo 9 day road trip across western America to learn these lessons. Some people hear them once and that’s all it takes! Others learn the hard way from their own personal trial and error. I learned my way and would encourage you to find your way too! Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Force yourself to grow! These lessons are valuable but useless unless you choose to live by them.