Before I embarked on what would ultimately amass a 9-month quest across the continent, I invested in some business cards with a personal quote on the back. Those 22 words soon encompassed something so much more than a mere road trip:
I tend to wander. It doesn’t make me lost; it just helps me find things I didn’t know I was looking for.
Now beyond the confines of Mile #26,301, that quote isn’t just a little quip anymore. It’s real; it’s my real life.
Just the other day, I was walking around my new home of Charlotte. I had no idea where I was going or what I was even looking for. I just needed to escape my house and go somewhere, do something, wander.
You never know who or what you’ll find when you wander. Many times you’ll find ordinary things: a coffee shop with not enough seating, an overflowing trashcan on the sidewalk, a park with three swings and a rusted slide.
But more often than not your wandering will lead you to something extraordinary. Right when you least expect it, you’ll turn a corner and stop in your steps as it grabs you, grips you, doesn’t let go.
The alleyway caught my aimless gaze and beckoned me closer, and I locked onto the graffiti’d wall. Digested the five simple words painted there:
That’s the beauty.
The first line stung like a dagger to the heart. Nothing lasts — not your parents, not your grandparents, not your dog, not your summer camp, and not your cross-continent excursion of a lifetime.
Death and devastating endings. This is life; isn’t it lovely?
I’ve been really sad these last two weeks. I’ve come down from camps and conferences and other mountaintops, but nothing quite like this peak. I’ve never felt more tested and tortured by the passing of an era.
Disheartened though I am, I’m trying to audibly remind myself I’m in a good place. I force myself to wake up and go to bed counting my blessings in lieu of my momentous joyride that has been lost.
I have a place to live.
I live with good guys.
I live within easy driving distance of numerous loved ones.
I have a church. It seems really solid.
I am starting to find work.
I am supported by many across the continent.
I am gradually learning less to force these truths and more to breathe them in and out. This thankfulness is slowly easing the pain of this strange new dance. But there’s still the tip of that dagger reminding me with every tedious job application, every mundane grocery trip, every fall to the same mattress that doesn’t change that nothing lasts.
And yet there screams the other part of that graffiti. The beauty.
At first, I was angry: that’s the beauty? What on earth could be so beautiful about losing something dear that doesn’t last? It’s tragic.
My 26,301-mile road trip had ended in Charlotte, and here I was drifting down city streets searching for just one more adventure, one more escape from the shackles of normalcy. I felt like an addict in detox desperate for another attractive distraction.
And yet as much as I wish I were still on the road, I find myself increasingly drawn to the telling of this tale.
I encountered so many glorious stories in 282 days. The grandest of canyons and the most craterous lakes. I met and reunited with so many phenomenal people. Readers and family and friends with hearts far grander than those canyons, far deeper than those craterous lakes.
Those stories need to be told. A new beauty needs to be born, and this book can only emerge amid my road trip’s stormy aftermath.
There’s a paradoxical pull to it all. The starting and the stopping; the beauty and the beauty-yet-to-be.
I’m sure I’ll remain sad for many weeks and maybe months yet to come. I miss waking up with Mount Rushmore or the UP house or a high school reunion on my horizon.
But in a very hard sense, I suppose I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad my road trip even happened. I’m glad for the new person my road trip made me: a kinder more aware more patient more adaptable more grateful more inspired wanderer.
The impact of those 26,301 miles will be felt for at least that many years.
Nothing lasts. But then, it sorta does.
That’s the beauty.
Tell me about something beautiful in your life that ended. It could be a person, a place, or an experience. How did you walk back down the mountain, and how did you move onward?