I expect that most other students have spent most of their week preparing for their trip tomorrow by packing, carefully double checking itineraries, running through lists of essentials, getting briefed on travel arrangements, and possibly enjoying a last homemade meal or a special night out to celebrate the start of the journey of a lifetime.
That’s the responsible thing to do, after all. And I’d love to say I’ve been doing those exact things – that I’m not writing this in a car while driving across the United States and my last five meals haven’t been purchased from fast food joints along the road. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the Air Force has made sure my last week before London is much more interesting than just packing.
My family is in the Air Force and my father recently received orders to move from our current station in North Dakota to the Pentagon. So, as I finished up my finals, my parents and a couple of movers packed up the entire house, loaded it on a truck, shoved some of the more valuable items in the trunks of our two cars and met up with me at the Minneapolis airport. I threw my junk on the teetering pile in the back of the van, jumped into the passenger seat, plugged in my iPod, and embarked on our trip across half the continental United States. Why just wave goodbye to your house when you could personally say goodbye to five whole states?
As a traveler since birth, I’ve learned that Emerson’s quote of “life is a journey, not a destination” is more than just a really sweet yearbook quote. No matter how many times I’ve moved, I always get excited for the road trips. Half of the fun of traveling is the stops along the way and this trip hasn’t been any different. Traveling rewards those who are adventurous and willing to seize opportunities big and small in a myriad of ways. For example: a stop by the Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Wisconsin to tour the factory was a bit out of the way but the free glass, sticker, and keychain are going to be with me a lot longer than a night watching television in our hotel.
I’ve found that as long as I keep an open mind, a willingness to seize opportunities, and a bit of adventure in my heart, there are always new places to explore, once-in-a-lifetime things to experience, and fascinating people to meet. The best experiences, the ones that you write back home about, are the ones that are unplanned and unexpected. Sure, the Wisconsin Dells were pretty but it’s the indescribable sight of the House on the Rock’s four story battle to the death between a giant squid and killer whale and its carousel’s 20 thousand lights and 260 animals that are going to stick in my mind. There’s nothing wrong with checking out the well known attractions but the stuff that you found, the stuff not in the books, the places that only locals know, always feel more special. Everyone likes having a secret, right? So, go out and explore! Find that secret café or vista that only you know! And bring a friend along, because the only thing better than keeping a secret is sharing it.