That Time I Decided To Go on a Two Week Adventure at The Very Last MinuteJune 13, 2014
A million thoughts raced through my mind. It was 5am and I was scrambling to finish packing my one suitcase and one backpack, going over a mental checklist that I had only managed to throw together in the few hours after coming home the night before. I couldn't believe I was doing this.
Spontaneity isn't exactly my strong suit. I'm a planner. I like list making and color coding. I like researching. I like having everything painfully planned out, especially when it came to matters like going on a two week adventure up north with my cousin who was being relocated by the army and had an extensive leave.
It was Friday. I woke up in my college town in a friend's apartment, loaded up my car with all of my things from the previous two weeks, drove to campus, and took my intersession final. It took my three hours and ten pages front and back of essay writing before I was done. I left with my professor's words, "enjoy the rest of your summer" still fresh in my mind as I headed back to my hometown three hours south. I fully intended on enjoying the rest of my summer. Before me I saw endless days of sleeping until noon and days too humid to think of doing anything except staying indoors. I saw going to get ice cream with friends from home, afternoons poolside, and weekends dubiously spent with friends who had summer jobs/internships musing about how much we missed being at college. I arrived home roughly around dinner time, completely starving, only to be met by an empty, messy house.
I called my father and he told me they were at my aunt's eating and visiting with my cousin who was home as he was in transition from moving from Hawaii to upstate New York - two extremely opposite ends of the U.S.. I was happy to have made it home just in time to see him before he left on Saturday. I made the short drive over to my Aunt's and was welcomed by all of my family and a huge plate of BBQ. My cousin isn't too much older than I am, both in our twenties. It was the first time in all our lives that we had been on the same relative maturity field and were able to converse about things like "adults."
He told me about the new place in New York where he was being stationed and the three days it would take to drive there. He outlined all of the stops and all of the small adventures he had planned once arriving in New York. Then, what felt like out of nowhere, he extended the offer me to join him ever so casually by saying, "You should come, pack up your bags. We're leaving first thing in the morning at 6am." At first, I brushed it off, thinking it was obviously a joke. Doing something like that would be too crazy, too unexpected, too unplanned for. People just couldn't pack up and take off like that for two or three weeks could they?
I mulled it over in my mind. As the night wore on, he kept saying I should come and the idea began to take on a tangible shape in my mind and everyone else's too. My aunt was all for it and my parents, though hesitant, began to give it some thought. At one point, and I can't remember exactly which one, I agreed that I'd go. It seemed to surprise everyone. Most of all, I was surprised at myself. I didn't do things like this and even sitting there as he asked me in more or less words, "are you sure?" and as I nodded, I didn't know if I was entirely sure. I went outside and quietly my mother pulled me aside and asked, "What the hell are you even doing?" I didn't know. I didn't have a single good answer, so I simply said, "taking an opportunity."
I sat there and envisioned the summer of laziness and familiarity I had just been reckoning with only a mere two hours ago in the car. I had been going, going, going for so long...final exams and then I had taken on a two week intense summer class. I craved rest, but I equally craved adventure. The summer I had envisioned seemed so easy to me and that alone almost caused me to back out. It wasn't complex or new or unfamiliar. It was planned out, a summer I had lived too many times over; all of the grooves familiar and mundane.
I got home and began packing, my father briefly coaching my through what to take. I decided on one suitcase and one backpack - perfect for when I would fly back home, whenever that would be. It seemed all the details would be sorted out later, pushed into an uncertain perpetual tomorrow that I hated to acknowledge. I struggled to pack light, but really my packing was more of a process of eliminating. I had already been packed from the past two weeks taking my summer class. It was just a matter of re-evaluating and adjusting. I re-packed, still unsure as to whether I would go or not even as I zipped up my belongings. I showered and got into the clothes I would wear the next day and set my alarms ridiculously early. I laid in bed feeling a pit in my stomach. I was nervous for whatever reason and sad. I had just gotten home - gotten so close to where I had been envisioning being for the past month. I was crazy to be going away so soon. I felt guilty. I also felt like I did as a little kid whenever I was taken to sleepovers where I would eventually ask to go home after crying quietly because I missed home. It was panicky, guttural feeling somewhere deep inside me that ignited my human instinct to bail out of the given situation.
However, I woke up before my alarms and quickly ate something. I double checked my bags and my father came home from work. As we stood in the kitchen he broke the silence by asking, "Do you fully know what you've gotten yourself into by going to do this?" I couldn't respond with a straight answer, because I didn't fully understand what this experience would manifest into. There were too many outcomes, of none I was sure. I could envision myself sticking it out one week and then silently begging to come home. In another vision I could see myself desiring to stay the entire month, reluctant to return. In that kitchen, just moments before my cousin would pull up, if you would've asked me which outcome I thought more likely it would've probably been the former.
Six came and like clockwork his Jeep pulled up to our house. It was amazing to me that he remembered how to get there since it had been so long since he'd been home I hadn't seen or spent more than a few days at a time with my cousin since he was 18 and had enlisted. I was probably about 11 or 12 when he went off for basic training. Ever since then I had kept up with him mostly through my aunt's reports and brief phone conversations on holidays that were mostly too awkward to stomach. He'd come home occasionally a week or holiday at a time. At the very minimum I looked at this trip as an opportunity to spend time with him. If anything, that very fact added value to the entire thing. I added my suitcase to his many in the back of the Jeep, gave hugs to my parents/Jack, and squished myself into a very crowded backseat.
As I sat there, home growing ever farther and the sun not fully risen, I could not believe that I had gone through with it. I had willed myself into the car and here we were. Every travel quote / adventure quote about "dropping everything" and "seizing the day" that I had ever pinned was coming to mind and they all felt wrong and totally contrived. In reality felt vulnerable and uncertain. Yet, at the end of the day I resolved to be hopeful. I let go of all of my prior feelings and told myself to focus on experiencing everything fully good or bad for the next two weeks and that's exactly what I did.
Sorry if that I was bit longer than expected, but I thought I should explain fully my two week absence and how I'm still reeling from everything myself in detail...because it really is quite crazy how very quickly things unfolded. I was home from college for about twelve hours before I left again for this adventure, maybe the fastest home visit turnover time ever.
If you follow me on instagram you may have caught on to the fact that I was on a little bit of an adventure (#ashleegoesonanadventure). I hope to be sharing all the highlights from my trip in the next week and some other awesome posts. So no worries on the blogging front, I'm here to stay. However, occasionally sometimes you need to drop everything in order to take an amazing, unexpected opportunity before you (and ironically most of the places those opportunities will take you don't include viable wifi).
Tell me what you've been up to! P.S. hope you're enjoying your Friday!