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The Night Before a Road Trip

It can no longer be said to be day zero. It is, by all scientific measures, day one; or at least, it will be, as soon as everyone else is awoken by morning's first light and deem the day to have officially begun. With any luck I might be able to be counted amongst them, but not at this rate. All around me, tethered to the walls are my devices, which will each aid in my journey in their own way, resting, charging. I think I'm supposed to do the same, but there is a kind of energy racing through me that keeps my blood flowing, my eyes open, and my mind going. I'm not asking for this or trying to stay up late to prove a point. I know very well that this will make my life much more difficult tomorrow when I find myself hundreds of miles from the nearest cup of acceptable coffee. The brown liquid that was brewed earlier that morning in the gas station in the town whose main attractions include the burger joint and the gas station that travelers of 70 occasionally choose as their bathroom break, or fueling station, or coffee shop (sometimes all three); that brown liquid will have to do. All because I cannot find some peace and close my eyes tonight.

I find myself thinking on sleeplessness and the causes thereof often. Probably because it is often in the middle of the night that I get the urge to write down some thought, a thought which bangs against the walls of my brain, but that can find no escape, because the bed is warm, and my pen and paper are on the other side of the room. When you force those thoughts in, you soon will turn to ask yourself why it is that these ideas only seem to come in the middle of the night, right before very important days when a night of rest would do you good. And so it is that you get into the different types of sleeplessness. Some day, or rather, some night, on a particularly restless one, I'd like to take some time to pen down all the causes of sleeplessness that I think I have experienced over my life, and discern some truth about the nature of it all. But tonight is not that night. Tonight my thoughts are consumed by one thing only; the journey ahead.

I think there is a particular image that is conjured in the American psyche regarding the "road trip." It seems so much a part of my ancestry to travel, to explore, to seek out the better and the beautiful. I imagine myself behind the wheel of a red or blue convertible, top down going ten miles over the speed limit, whatever the speed limit is. In the background is some 60's anti-war rock song that seems to me like some quintessential part of Americana, despite how polarizing it may be too many generations. The camera pans back in a helicopter shot to reveal that I'm the only car driving on a long and winding road on the gentle slope of a hill covered in pine trees. The whole vista just screams the American north-west-south-east. There is something very Athenian about how much I value this freedom.

But of course, this is not what it will be like. Not even in the slightest. Replace the convertible with my minivan; the CCR with podcasts, audiobooks, and whatever artists I've been listening to the most; the hills of pine with miles and miles of farmland; and the helicopter shot with a POV behind the wheel looking out a windshield splattered with bugs who are much less enthusiastic about our journey. And yet, even with all these changes, with how far I know my mental image is from the truth, there are two parts of it that which are unalienable. The first is the heritage, and the call to roam and ramble that has been passed from generation to generation. The second is the freedom, the true object of desire amidst all that roaming and rambling; the thing one really seeks when they willingly agree to drive across the middle of the country, through miles and miles of farmland, in a minivan instead of a convertible.

I know that not everyone experiences this. I can acknowledge that wanderlust is not a universal trait, and even among those who have it the degrees are different. But I don't think anyone can escape the call of freedom. We all have to find it in our own ways. Be it cultural escapism, commercialism, religion, duty, or travel, everyone seeks the feeling that they have some control, some will, some say in the matter of things. It's the same reason adults color and children pretend to have real people jobs, the same reason that singers sing and haters hate. It is the very same reason that now, at two in the morning, I sit in bed writing a thousand words, that I may be done with these thoughts and go to sleep. We all have to do what has to be done to feel that little bit of freedom. A life without a striving for freedom is hardly a life I want to live.

I begin my road trip across the country today, and with any luck, I will finish typing this sentence, and fall into a deep, restful sleep.