Nearly six weeks into my trip and having covered around 4500 miles and six states, I found myself in need of a slightly slower pace and took some time to take it a little easier in San Francisco and around the Californian Coast. While here, I have had chance to reflect on my trip so far and realised that much of its beauty and pleasure has come from the journey itself, a side of the travelling that is harder to document than the specific places I spend time in. It is the sense of being on the road, of movement, of the incredible scenery you see as you drive, the small road side diners, the incidental encounters and brief conversations, the glimpses into the hearts of the small towns you pass through.
All of the above is so difficult to capture in words and to share with others. As I think about this I remember the young waiter obsessed with the evolution of language and accents, who gave me a state by state example of the differences in accents across the US (thankfully the other customers were in no rush) ; the Vietnam Veteran who told me of the irreversible and devastating impact on him of the horrors he saw at the age of 19, and his unusual transition to a career as a ballet dancer and choreographer ; the hitchhiker on the road for 32 years and running from something he wasn’t quite able to tell me.
And of course there are those I got to know a little better, the people sharing the wonders of their home towns and cities, others living far from home, and those travelling themselves. In among these, those solo travellers, many of whom were on trips that were about so much more than the sights that they were seeing.
People are sometimes surprised or concerned by my choice to travel alone, but I see it as a real privilege, as there is something about travelling alone that allows you to fully absorb everything around you. Having time and space, allows you to give this to other people, and what you get back is unquantifiable.
Then of course there is the country itself, the small towns just outside the tourist areas, struggling to keep afloat and economically barren ; the stunning vistas of a long road ; the richness of the wildlife, the elks grazing in the mist, or the birds of prey soaring in front of your car as you drive.
These are just a few of the things I will always remember and that remind me constantly of how lucky I am.
It is not easy to capture the above in pictures, but for a little flavour, here are just a few snapshots I have taken along the way.