I don’t talk about this often to anyone, but driving is my therapy.
Some people meditate. Some vent. Some cry. I turn on my car, and drive to a destination for no reason.
It started when I was 18. I had my first job that paid well enough for me to survive. After my classes in Daytona, I’d drive to various beaches. It didn’t matter what I was wearing. I remember one night walking on the beach in a semi-formal dress after a gala, heels in hand.
In college I’d visit small towns surrounding Gainesville, until my poor Forrest Gump (my first car, now owned by my brother) started failing on me. After that I’d jump on the bus and people watch.
I rarely have a passenger. If I do, it’s an honor.
The soundtracks vary - Monday’s was Paul Simon’s Graceland. A few weeks ago it was just a playlist of four Michelle Branch songs on repeat (so not proud of this fact, by the way). On the worst days, it’s silence.
Sometimes late at night I plan the routes. At other times it’s completely unplanned.
That’s how I ended up on the top of a mountain at 10:30 at night after my first day at Gazette-Mail. There were no streetlights and no homes. Even worse, there was no cell service. I drove around that mountain for about 30 minutes straight on the verge of tears. When I finally got cell service, I called a friend.
“I’m stuck on the side of a mountain right now and Google Maps is confused and why did I move to West Virginia and I hate mountains,” I muttered, then began nearly weeping.
“So your first day went well?” he said.
It was pretty condescending. I deserved it. You know why? Because driving throughout Appalachia isn’t necessarily rational. It’s not cost-effective either.
But there’s something about being behind the wheel in an unfamiliar place, and discovering new landmarks. Without these trips I would have never discovered some of my favorite restaurants or spots to hike. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets I never thought I’d get the chance to see.
I don’t know where I’ll be in a few years. I could stay here, but I could be across the country. To be honest, I could even be in an area where cars are useless.
I’ll always remember the feeling of finding the perfect milkshake in a small town, or getting my boot stuck while hiking through a trail I accidentally ended up dead-ending into.
Tomorrow I think I’m going to take my first trip to Ohio.