I had just graduated college, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I had $78 in my bank account. I filled out application after application and was still without any leads on a job in my career field. I moved home in Florida and I settled for a part-time gig at a golf course in order to make some money while looking for a longer term job. That’s what I had always been advised to do. Go to college, get a job, make money.
Over the next five months I worked, hard. During that time, I began planning a road trip throughout the Pacific Northwest. Before I knew it, I was hopping on a plane with two friends, headed for the PNW for the first time. After enjoying two of the best weeks you could possibly imagine, I jokingly suggested moving to Bend, OR. We laughed and tossed the idea aside. We returned from our trip and went back to our daily routines: work, eat, sleep, repeat.
A few days into my regimen, I quit my job. I was sick of waiting around for my life to truly begin. I had to make it happen. I decided I was moving to Oregon for the summer.
Fast forward two weeks – June 5, 2016.
With nowhere to live and no jobs to support ourselves in Oregon, my best friend and I set off our adventure out west. About three hours into our first leg of the trip, our plans changed. We decided we would only stay in Oregon for one month and spend the rest of the summer exploring the United States. In honor of the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, national parks became our priority.
It was risky enough to quit our jobs and turn our traveling dreams into reality but even riskier to do so with no plan and no timeline. We ate poorly, slept uncomfortably and showered far too infrequently. We were met with extreme physical demands in a short amount of time in order to get the most out of each national park visit. Our mental stamina was fading and we were just two weeks in. Despite the challenges we faced, whether it was car troubles in Texas, roughing it in the backcountry of Bryce Canyon or navigating the endless highway roads in California, it a surreal start to the trip.
Arriving in Oregon allowed us to decompress from the high paced trek out west. Three days was enough decompression for us and we were back to adventuring. We spent four straight weeks exploring as much of Oregon as we could before hitting the road once more. On with our trip we went.
Having limited cell service and no wifi certainly comes with the territory of a cross country road trip but being detached from society was an aspect of our journey I did not anticipate. I believe it played a massive role in allowing us to live in the moment. It opened our eyes to the world around us rather than the two-dimensional screens in our hands. The negativity in our lives was left behind and profound happiness prevailed. I connected with nature in a way I never had before.
This type of organic existence in the world is what allowed us to have such amazing experiences. Dirt roads meant the destination was not as frequently traveled. Deserted trails meant the wildlife had not been disturbed. Vault toilets meant we were off the grid.
Over the two month cross country road trip, we tested our limits physically, mentally and spiritually while exploring 24 national parks and countless national forests. But it was more than that. It was a lifestyle of exploration and adventure that I fell in love with and a summer I’ll never forget.