3 Lessons Learned on a Thirty Day Solo Road Trip to Take with You Into 2016
On October 16th, I bought a one-way ticket to Phoenix. I rented a car for one month and set out for a 30 day solo road trip. When I started the trip, I had the beginning and the end destinations, I just needed to fill in the middle. I didn’t set any set plans or expectations, just an intention. I wanted to be better at the end of the 30 days than I was when I started. This is what I learned along the way:
1. Always talk to strangers.
Do you know how many times per day people want to say something to you and they just don’t? As I was floating around San Diego, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Big Sur and the Pacific Northwest, I played a little game with myself. Remember when you were a kid and you innocently talked to random people and said the most ridiculous things? There was even a show in the 90’s called: “Kids say the Darndest Things.” Kids just do not care. They say the first thing that comes to mind because they don’t have an awareness of shame, social norms or politically correct conversation. They have no agenda beyond being authentic. Kids also just jump onto the playground with a bunch of ‘strangers’ and go play hide and seek until the sun goes down. But for some reason, as we age, we lose this ability to interact freely with other people. We lose the courage to authentically interact with human beings without having an intense fear of what might happen. It’s a damn shame. As we mover further away from this, we also lose our human connection that everyone needs and craves. We don’t tell people what’s on our mind out of fear for what they might think and we end up distancing ourselves even further.
I made a point of interacting (authentically) with at least one stranger per day. In its simplest form, the interaction was a compliment or a short conversation. At it’s height, it actually developed into a friendship. I ended up staying the night with a woman that I had met that day! She showed me around Santa Monica and I accompanied her to her friend’s get-together. There are so many interactions, words and relationships that never happen because we are too damn fearful of being rejected. What is the worst that could happen? At times I intentionally enter into uncomfortable conversations just for the adrenaline rush! It’s better than never saying it and missing out on a great interaction.
How to bring out your inner child tomorrow: Find a complete stranger to compliment tomorrow. Make it a tough one - make sure you feel a little uncomfortable and nervous about it. Honestly, the more awkward you feel, the better. You’ll be amazed at the positive response.
2. Don’t Waste Time With People You Don’t Like.
This seems like a no brainer, but somehow, people always mess this up. We visit people, talk to people and even get into relationships people that we don’t truly like. Yes, this road trip was about seeing breathtaking views and exploring new territory. But as is always true in life, this experience was about the people. I don’t have a home. I have moved to 10 different cities in the past 8 years. For me, home is an inanimate object that doesn’t exist in the physical world. Home is a feeling that I only get when spending time with people that are close to me. I visited lifelong friends, ex-teammates, ex-coworkers and mentors that have literally changed the course of my life in one way or another. Throughout my travels in the past 8 years, I have met some truly inspiring and incredible people. When I am around them is when I feel the most at home. I often say that I don’t know what it feels like to be homesick. I would attribute this in part to the fact that I have experienced undying support from teammates, co-workers, classmates and even complete strangers. I’ve had constant life lines in every city. Don’t let guilt keep you in the presence of people that are not making you better and supporting your ridiculous dreams. Furthermore, stop making excuses as to why you can’t spend time with the people who have made a difference.
How to connect with your tribe tomorrow: Plan a Skype date with your friend/mentor. NOT a phone call, a Skype call. The more authentic the communication, the better. If you can’t be in person, video is the next best thing. Through text or voice call, you can’t feel the emotion in the same way that you do through a video chat. You don’t have to wait until you happen to collide in the same city. You can see them face to face right now. Isn’t technology great!
3. Shed Your Skin.
It is SO freeing to let go of ‘stuff.’ I’ve always been somewhat of a minimalist, but this trip has really solidified my status as a nomadic hippie. Every time I move to a new city, ‘I shed my skin.’ This last move, I sent 4 bins overflowing with clothes and household items to the Goodwill. And that was from a one-bedroom apartment! It begs the question; did I need any of that in the first place? I had 3 suitcases with me on my trip. It’s important to note that I ventured through all types of climates from 85-degree weather in Phoenix to 30-degree weather in Seattle. I attended an array of events ranging from formal business meetings to a beach volleyball tournament. If I can fit my whole life in 3 suitcases, then what the hell am I doing with all this other ‘stuff?’ After my road trip, I have stayed on the road to visit family and attend conferences. Currently, I’ve been on the road for 2 months and I literally cannot remember a single thing that I left at home.
As I mentioned in the last lesson, it’s about the people. We buy a house that we fill with things. We even buy things to store our other things. It’s lunacy! And THEN, we say, “I don’t have money to take that trip to see my friends.” I’m only 28, but I’m convinced that I’ll never own a large home, an expensive car or a shed to store my ‘stuff.’ If I need a shed, it means one of 2 things. Either I have to store my snow blower (which will never happen), or, I have too many things and it’s time to shed my skin.
The summary? Buy experiences, not things.
How to start shedding your skin tomorrow: Find a large bin or trash can. Start going through your drawers, closets and storage rooms. Find all of the items that you have not used in the past year. Which ones do you really need?
Each of these lessons come back to one thing: People. Spend as much time as humanly possible around people that will challenge you, support you and inspire you. In the spirit of appreciating all of the people that made the trip special, showed me kindness, open their hearts and homes or just flat out inspired me…with their help, I definitely accomplished my goal of being better at the end of my trip than when I started. – Ironically, the total came out to exactly 30 people…
(In order of city, not of importance)
Jeremy P, Katie P, Adam B, Andrea M, Michael F, Ellie F, Jen H, Jim C, Kendra H, Stefani W, Roy H, Brittany C, Mark S, Seb G, Brandon M, Brandy G, Paula E, Darcel Y, Chris F, Georgia F, Raquel F, Bella F, Kelly S, Juliet S, Sean G, Craig G, Lori G, Geoff G, Tyler G, Travis S