On a New Mexico highway, the speed limit is 80. So, everyone goes 90 and most of the time cops didn’t stop you unless you were going 100. Maybe something I wouldn’t try in the Southwest now.
It was on those highways, in the Volkswagen Golf I’d nicknamed Gigi (may she rest in peace), that I went on road trips by myself for the first time in my life.
Before then, I’d traveled to a place alone, stayed in a hotel room alone, and gone sightseeing alone, but a trip entirely without the companionship of someone I knew had never happened.
I’ve never had much trouble doing things alone, I value my space. Often I enjoy doing things on my own more than with other people. Brunch is my great exception where more friends is better and pitchers and pitchers of mimosas are best.
I love going to a movie by myself or shopping by myself, seeing an art exhibit by myself, and yes, even eating alone. For some women those solo experiences are too much to take, for me solo travel was the experience that I wasn’t sure I could do.
My sister has much more experience with this. She’s the intrepid one when it comes to that. Daytrips were fine. There was a small town that had some great secondhand furniture, one of my loves, and I had no trouble blasting my music, opening up the sunroof, and taking off to see what I could find.
But, overnight was different. I had some rational road trips fears: is my car in good enough shape to go? And some irrational ones: was there, perhaps, a long history of serial killers in New Mexico?
A woman on her own does have to be concerned about safety. But, there’s safety and then there are safe choices.
One means not walking down a dark alley and really what good has ever come from dark alleys? Even if we’re only talking about rotting trash and stale urine.
The other means not taking the vacation you want to because no one else will come or not buying the house you want because you’re not married or not moving to the city you’ve always thought would be perfect for you.
I already knew I was capable of sidestepping safe choices, that’s what got me to move to the Southwest after a decade in New York. And, going on a road trip by myself was taking the same kind of risk: a smaller one, but one that still required me to redraw the lines of what kind of woman I was.
I drove 90 all the way to the northern New Mexico town of Madrid, getting a little lost along the way (this was in the waning days of having a phone that was just a bit shy of smart). I drank beers in the most popular town bar (one of two). I listened to the open mic performers and got into a couple of interesting conversations.
I slept in a casita, a small stand alone building that a couple in that town rented out for travelers, the price of which included a frittata the next morning served on the casita’s small patio. I explored the small art shops in town and had a lunch at a great Mexican restaurant.
Then, I spent a long and terrible night in a rickety wood cabin in a trailer park. I had been trying to ramp up the adventure with that choice, but that may have been a moment to embrace safe choices and go back to stay in the adorable casita.
The details are mostly unimportant though.
It’s a bit of that destination versus journey argument, but I think we often say that because we’re thinking about The Wizard of Oz. That movie was 3/4 journey and ending up at the destination of Oz ended up being pretty disappointing aside from the beauty treatments they all got.
We should keep our eyes open on the journey for the joy it can bring us, but more the journey matters because that is when we stretch and see what we can do. The destination is when we sit back, proud of doing what we didn’t know was possible.
Just like the speed limits on the highway, we set speed limits for ourselves. We can only live this kind of life in this kind of way. Sometimes though we should press down on the gas just a little more and see where that might take us.
And then, when we’re back home–safe–we can go find our girlfriends and tell them all about the journey and the destination over lots of mimosas at a very long brunch.