Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Road Trip! 14 States in 14 Days

"Road trip!" Those words shouted out always meant one thing - extended fun in the car. Growing up I have road tripped from Minnesota to Colorado, Florida, Washington D.C., Canada, and everywhere in between - always enjoying the adventure of being on the road and watching the world go by. I've road tripped with family, friends, roommates, and people I didn't even know. But the result was always the same - developing an appreciation for "going somewhere" and experiencing all of the excitement and surprise of getting there. Plus, unlike flying, a road trip allows you to explore new territory and wander off the beaten path... my favorite part, indeed.

This summer I decided to initiate the month of June with a road trip, but this one would be alone. Since I'd visited 45 of the 50 U.S. states throughout my travels, I considered a trip which would allow me to cross off 3 of the last 5 states I'd had yet to visit - Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The two others - Oregon and Alaska - would need to wait a little bit longer.

I decided to head directly East by slicing the (cheese) state of Wisconsin in half, driving directly to Sault Sainte Marie through the upper peninsula of Michigan and crossing directly into Canada. Then proceed via Canada to Montreal, on to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine; then descend down the East coast hitting Boston, Rhode Island, and Connecticut before heading back towards Minnesota via New York and the northeastern states. Somewhat of a "circle" around the Northeast.

My transportation would be via the Green Hornet (the name my Dad gave to my Ford Taurus, a reliable and trustworthy car), and for accommodations I looked at the friends with whom I could stop and see along the way. Then I did a preliminary search of some bed and breakfast options, some small motels and hotels, and also took my buddy and fellow world traveler Matt Gerber's advice and signed up at couchsurfing.org to stay with new friends along the way - it's based on trust and goodwill (like staying at a B&B but without the cost). A great way to meet people and share the gift of hospitality. I love it!

The trip was amazing. Over 4,300 miles; 14 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces; and all in 14 days. It was fun to hit the road and exciting to connect with friends old and new. By sheer happenstance I was able to see friends and visit places along this trip which represented every major phase of my life... an unexpected, yet welcomed, surprise. Allow me to elaborate:
  • Bemidji, Minnesota: Hometown, Mom, Dad, Lake Bemidji
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: College town (U of M); Lukas (post-Hawaii transition); Josh (Minneapolis, pre/post-India); Shawn (Target, post-India)
  • Sault St. Marie, Ontario: Bed & Breakfast (Mountain View, Jane)
  • Montreal, Quebec: Olympic Park, new friends Robert and Alan (couchsurfing.org), Yann and Andre (social networking)
  • Hartland, Vermont: Lorraine and Gary (Hawaiian ohana, Queen's Y2K Project)
  • Portland, Maine: Fresh Maine lobster (first time eating real lobster with my hands!)
  • Boston, Massachusetts: Mike and Mike (Hawaiian ohana)
  • Providence, Rhode Island: Tom (couchsurfing.org)
  • Clifton Park, New York: Kirk (Target, eLearning conferences, pre-India)
  • Fairhaven, Michigan: Karen (Rotary Foreign Exchange - Finland, high school)
  • Chicago, Illinois: Rob (college - U of M, Hawaii, post-Hawaii)
  • Ringle, Wisconsin: Diane (grad school - BSU, Bemidji, post-Hawaii)
  • Rice Lake, Wisconsin: Birthplace (before moving to Bemidji at 3 weeks old)
  • Bemidji, Minnesota: Where it all starts and ends and begins again...
This trip felt like an episode of "This Is Your Life" - truly a time to reconnect, reflect, and review. And another opportunity to appreciate the country in which I live, the freedom I have to travel, and the friends and family in my life.
As a diehard educator, I took time to reflect upon "what I learned" during my two weeks on the road, so here are a few of my key takeaways:
  • Good brakes and tires are necessary (and new ones even better). Just like your body, keep your car in good shape.
  • Watch the signs... especially the "One Way" streets (grrrr.... lol)
  • Take time to listen, be open to others' ideas, and suspend judgment.
  • "Please" and "Thank you" go a long way in any language.
  • Extended time alone can be a great time to process thoughts and ideas; it can also be very quiet when you really want someone to talk to.
  • The state with the best roads: New York (tollways pay for roads on purpose!)
  • Never pass up an experience to try something new.
  • If something scares you, investigate why... you may be surprised at what it can teach you about yourself and others.
  • Slow traffic move right (please...)
  • Allow yourself to go "off the beaten path" once in a while and be flexible - it may take you to new destinations both physically and mentally.
  • Enjoy your world and the people in it. It's your choice!
For more pictures from my road trip, visit my Facebook page.

This summer, be sure to take the time and reconnect with the people and places in your life which keep you moving forward - we all need those "fuel stops" along our journey.

Get out and experience the world!  

The Ambassador