The first leg of my long travel journey was the trip from Reno to Tuscon to temporarily re-home my sassy cat, Pixel. It felt like the first step of my long year of traveling, and I had high expectations for everything to go well so I could feel like I’m making a fantastic decision by quitting my job to go exploring.
So, of course, it didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted. Even with all the extra time I took to pack and get ready, there were speed bumps – I managed to leave a lot of packing until the last minute, and had to make frequent stops to check on the cat when she decided to dramatically flop around in her crate like a beached marine mammal (she was faking it. Drama queen.).
I put a lot of pressure on myself to have this first step go impossibly smoothly, and I put myself through even more mental stress by telling myself I was supposed to be having fun, dammit. It certainly didn’t make me feel like a cool, confident, seasoned traveler when I didn’t enjoy myself.
But I had an interesting revelation when I looked through the pictures I did manage to take once I calmed down enough to enjoy the drive. It was a day that was supposed to be filled with adventure and wanderlust and seeing new places, but was actually full of stress, worry, and self-doubt. The thing is, you can’t see it in the pictures – you can’t see any of what I was feeling. It looks like a perfect sunlit day, gorgeous clouds, blooming cacti, Joshua tree forests, and quirky roadside scenery.
What does it mean? Did the pictures give me an objective view of my experience, reminding me that all things considered, it wasn’t such a bad day? Or is it about the story I tell – as an optimist, I’ll focus on the positive regardless? And what about other travel blogs I read where everything always seems to go right and everyone’s hair is perfectly tousled and all the pictures are perfectly set against picturesque seascapes? What’s the hidden story behind those impossibly beautiful images?
In any case, I would like to offer the following caveat to accompany these pictures: I was worried almost the entire day – worried the bike would fall off the car, worried the cat would OD on the sedative I gave her, worried the car would break down in the middle of July with us far from friends and help – hell, I even beat myself up for worrying about anything at all, telling myself if I were really cut out for this life, I wouldn’t be so anxious. And still, it was an absolutely perfect drive.