Road trips are fine and all, but it was beginning to feel very lonely. I wasn’t actually feeling particularly lonely, just very alone. At first it was invigorating, driving without a destination in mind, no one telling me where to go, but I missed authentic conversation. Then again I didn’t mind having all this time to myself. I hadn’t had any time to myself until this adventure began. I was becoming very bored with the food choices though, I can only enjoy Taco Bell so many times. I had been driving for 19 days. I already had been through the mountains covered in reaching trees, valleys with sweeping grasses, prairies with wild animals roaming as they please and now I was by the ocean. When I left I was looking for a fresh start, but now I was looking for anywhere that felt like home. I thought I had found that place a few times, once far away from any other city in the middle of the woods of Montana and once in a small town in North Carolina. Those were both missing something though, and I could almost reach out and feel it, but not quite.
This journey began with the end of my public education. I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life, what 18-year-old is that put together. I began my journey before I ever got in my 2005 Honda Civic. I started with searching through myself, trying to find that inner pieces that made me, me. I purged my belongings, being able to fit them all in a backpack and a duffel bag. I was freed by the losing of my earthly things. I journaled and meditated and took time to really think and dive within myself. I was able to see that all I needed was a place that I could call home. Not one that I was forced to call home because it was the place I lived, but one I truly desired to be in. So on June 23, I gathered myself, my things and simply began driving. That first day I drove an hour then called my parents. My mother was the one to answer.
“Shelby? Where are you? Are you okay?” She answered after the second ring, her voice bleary from sleep.
I explain myself and she simply accepted it. Not that she had been the most involved in my life anyway, but it was surprising she simply let her only daughter drive around the country by herself. That was the last time I had talked to her. The last time I had talked to anyone from my past life actually. I didn’t really like most of my ‘friends’ anyway, they all had a way of making me feel miserable at one time or another. Leaving behind the people and belongings that weighed me down gave me a new sense of how unlike myself I had been my whole life. I felt more positive and stress-free than I ever had in my life, even when I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.
I passed the time while driving by listening to the different radio stations that would become available when passing each town. My favorite were the advice talk shows. Random people call a complete stranger and ask them for advice on their lives, I found it ironic, humorous and semi-helpful. I called into a few of them just for fun and made up some very dramatic stories. It was so strange to me that a stranger could try and help someone they didn’t know with their life’s problems.
As I drove farther and farther from the place that was supposed to be home, I felt more and more at home. When I reached the Oregon coastline, I felt completely at peace and sat on the shoreline for hours. That next morning I went apartment shopping and looked for local businesses that were hiring. The town was small and quiet, a beach town that didn’t acquire many tourists. The main stretch of town had small mom and pop shops lining both sides, there wasn’t a single chain fast food restaurant to be found. Every shop had an awning stretching partially over the sidewalk, each a different color, lighting up the street like Christmas lights. When I walked down the street, I was hit with an array of smells as I passed each shop. Coffee beans, homemade pies and pastries, fresh cut flowers and sea salt all mixed when I took a deep breath in.
I found a quaint little coffee shop with dark wood lining every wall and small house plants scattered about that was willing to hire me. I loved the idea of working at a place where I would have so much human contact after having so little for what seemed like forever. I also found an apartment, the perfect apartment. It had a balcony that opened up to display the swirling ocean and had windows everywhere that created a cheerful, bright atmosphere. The building itself was covered in a pale blue wood, with white trim and contained only four other residents.
I spent the next days learning the difference between a frappuccino and a cappuccino and taking in my new home. I worked in the mornings, strolling the town and finding things for my apartment in the afternoons. I found leafy plants for my windows, light blue sheets for my bed, wall art, kitchen things like a coffee maker and dinnerware and everything that I need to thrive. My whole apartment was light and I kept windows open constantly, letting in a salty breeze.
I really enjoyed working in the coffee shop. I learned who the regulars were and what they ordered very quickly. A tall, dark man in his 30s named Robert that got an iced macchiato and an avocado toast every morning and a stocky, bright woman that went by Sherri that had a hot chocolate every afternoon were my favorite customers. They were very patient with me and when there weren’t many people in the shop, they would tell me about themselves and I would return the courtesy. I also became friends with the people that worked alongside me, although I hadn’t felt like I could trust them fully yet.
Throughout my journey I had felt uncomfortable with not having anyone to count on, but now that I had found this picturesque place, I was content not having anyone too close. I am okay with being alone in this stage of my life, as I grow and become who I will be for the future. I haven’t spoken to either of my parents since the day I left, they didn’t put in the effort to contact me, so neither did I. I had thrown myself into full blown adulthood so quickly, that sometimes I wished I had stayed and gone to college, but that could always be another adventure for another time.