Road Trip…Unleashed: Hitting the Road After All These Years

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a four-part series.

I didn’t realize how badly I’d been bitten by the wanderlust bug until, on the way to the supermarket one Saturday, my husband brought up our son’s upcoming vacation to China. A range of emotions came over me: waves of excitement, pangs of fear. Mostly, I was jealous.

I reminded my other half of the destinations I’d scratched into my own bucket list in permanent ink: drinking in a sunset in Santa Fe, hiking through Navajo sandstone wonders in Utah, immersing myself in the powerful vortexes of Sedona, Arizona. Out of the blue, he said he’d always wanted to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We looked at each other. Why not do it?Despite a lifetime of clamoring for exotic scenery and mysterious cultures, adventures like these had eluded me for years. The idea of globetrotting was the tonic that always revived my dry spells of creativity. For as long as I could remember, the possibility of travel seduced me with promises of a perspective beyond my rural Pennsylvania back door.

I’d majored in TV and radio at Brooklyn College, but I never pursued a broadcasting career. The notion of breaking into a competitive industry by paying my dues at jobs in small towns made me shudder. I didn’t even get my driver’s license until I was in my 20s. Ironically I’ve lived in rural towns for the last two decades – go figure.

After graduation, I’d read a slew of circa-1980s career guides that touted doing what you love, the money would follow and following your bliss. And it hit me – why not have a career in the travel industry? I started out in short stints with an airline, a Swiss tour operator and a major cruise line. I even applied for a gig working for the Orient Express. But making travel my vocation was rife with paradoxes as well, or so I discovered when I got married and my husband announced he’d rather chew off his foot than step onto an airplane. That’s how I became a recruiter, holding a string of roles that kept my feet cemented firmly into the ground while we raised our family.

Back at the supermarket, when it sunk in that my husband, too, had been bitten by the travel bug, I succumbed to the hedonic power of planning our Grand Canyon escape. A road trip would save me. My life had lately become one continuous loop of the movie Groundhog Day. You could set your watch by my daily routine. I was grateful that at 57 I had a satisfying career and good health; I never took for granted that we owned a nice home in a place where locks on the doors were optional. But my bank account of interesting stories to share with my kids when we Skyped on Sundays was practically empty.

Still, my uber-practical nature had me worried. Could we find healthy meals on the road for two weeks? Would strangers rob our home while we were gone? Could I restrain myself from my addiction to purchasing snow globes at each destination? The mantle was already overcrowded. Mostly, I dreaded the deluge of emails I’d have to sift through when I returned to work.

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  • Anne October 5, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Enjoyed the honesty of this piece. A woman admitting to her fears, putting them aside and going for the dream, and taking the canines along for the journey! Well written! Thanks, Phyllis!

  • Stephen M Pitman October 5, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Hi!. Great article.
    Glad you escaped to the road for a bit and saw more of this great country.
    Keep traveling and writing!
    SMP & TLHP