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Getting there is the hardest part

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By Jonathan D. Lopez – Photo Editor

As a child, my view of the world was filled with wonder due to it’s unimaginably large size. The Earth’s 24,901-mile circumference seemed infinite – that is until I realized that people easily put 200,000 miles on a car over the course of a decade.

It’s easy for anyone to drive hundreds of thousands of miles and not see anything that makes them say, “Wow.” Perhaps that is why my friend Marc and I have made it a priority to regularly explore.

While the time we spent at each destination was refreshing, the time spent in-transit has regularly been less than pleasant, but often humorous in hindsight.

We’ve been stuck in a massive traffic jam getting off Manhattan Island during rush hour. It wound up taking over three hours to go two miles, and people were blasting their horns the entire time despite the “No Honking – $300 fine” signs plastered everywhere.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of traveling hasn’t been the driving but rather the sleeping in awkward places.

I can still recall the discomfort after sleeping in the Prius at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. Later, we tried sleeping in the back with inflatable mats, but I can’t say that it was any better as I was woken by the noise of traffic.

Marc remembers best the bitter cold of standing outside the car in Colorado in sub-zero windchill. We were sleeping in the car on the shoulder of the road in the middle of nowhere, and we unfortunately caught the eye of a state trooper. The trooper ran him through the tests for 10 minutes in only a t-shirt and sweatpants.

I still get anxious thinking about the time I was woken at 5 a.m. by the cry of a baby cub near our tent in upstate New York. I was certain that the mother bear would come through, kill, and eat both of us.

In the end, these were all just minor inconveniences. Those who can make it past the discomfort and the humdrum of the time in-between places, though, will be rewarded for their patience.

When we were in Rocky Mountain National Park, we spent an entire day hiking and barely saw any animals. It wasn’t until the following day that we came across a moose. The sheer adrenaline rush of seeing a moose, and being close enough to smell it, was an intense high that also brought Marc chest pain for an entire day.

No traveler knows what they are going to witness, but we add to the uncertainty by never having our destination set in stone. We don’t arrange for hotels in advance in case the weather is bad and we have to change our destination.

As we wrapped up in New Orleans, we flipped a coin to decide where to go next: heads meant Houston, tails would mean Tallahassee. It landed on heads.

While driving through a remote region of Texas, I looked up at the night sky and could see everything. I had never seen so many stars in my entire life. We actually pulled over to admire the night sky. Unfortunately, some guy in a creepy, old truck stopped and started backing up, so we hightailed it out of there.

Still, driving for hours in darkness with next to no one around created this relaxing sense of detachment from the outside world. For some, that’s an incredibly unsettling feeling, but it’s proven healthy for both of our creative spirits.

As a traveler, I’m proud to say that my first few thousand miles on the road have increased my appreciation for the natural resources in the United States. Anyone who decides to travel will be put off by some traffic, discomfort, and the cost, but the pleasure of witnessing something first hand is worth it.