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Five Lessons from the Trial Run

I have Type A personality. If you were to look it up, you would see my picture. I am a planner, scheduler and an organizational freak. When things don’t go as I have planned, I get off schedule; if things are not where they belong, I get off kilter and feel lost.

I just finished a five-week “trial run” of my five-year cross-country trek, and I have to say, I am a changed person.

I spent a couple of weeks planning my route, places I would stop, things I would see and people I would meet up with. Then, I started to lay out everything I would “need.”

  • Clothing: Shorts, T-shirts, dresses (for interviews), a bathing suit (just in case I come across a cold creek), and flip-flops. That’s it!
  • Maps and travel books: I will admit, these added the most weight. I have several maps and travel books that pertained to the areas I was going. For some reason, I thought I couldn’t do this trial run without them.
  • Toiletries: Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, make-up, hair dryer, brushes, towels, toilet paper, wet-ones, a razor, deo…all the “fluff” that girls need.
  • Camera equipment, computer, food, blah, blah, blah. You get my point.

This wasn’t just a weekend jaunt to the beach. This was a nonstop road trip for five weeks, and I was REALLY hoping I wouldn’t have to buy anything along the way. (I’m laughing out loud right now!)

The trial run starts, and I have the biggest smile on my face—I seem to be happiest when I am on the road. I reach my “starting point,” and the journey begins. Mind you, I started this when the Midwest was experiencing record-breaking temperatures and the Midwest is where I began.

First lesson: When getting everything “set up” for the night, change out of your “good” clothes and into your “I don’t mind getting these nasty and sweaty” clothes. WHEW! The first night it was 106 degrees at 8 pm when I was setting up. And I thought Alabama was hot!

Second lesson: Do NOT tell someone you will be somewhere on a certain date. It’s not gonna happen. Now, if I had not stopped to see the “World’s biggest bottle of ketchup” or the Popeye Museum, I would have made it, but how could I miss those two things? My “schedule” was shot and I was dealing with it rather well.

Third lesson: Keep plenty of cash on hand. This is something I don’t like to do because I am an FTS (Female traveling solo). I learned quickly that an ample amount of cash is a necessity.

I usually fill up the tank when I am half full, just in case there isn’t a gas station for a while. I stopped at two different stations and neither would accept debit or credit cards. I didn’t want to give up my cash because there is always a station just around the corner. While meandering through West Virginia (honestly, I was lost and the GPS said I no longer existed), I watched my tank go down to the “you are traveling on fumes now” level. I finally pulled into a station and was willing to part with my cash (SILLY, you can get more!), when I saw they took debit cards. This little coal-mining town was not even on the map, but I was grateful they took plastic. The filling station had the most expensive gas prices I had seen thus far, and of course I needed the most gas. Lesson learned.

Fourth lesson: A bar of soap for one person will last 35 days. My journey was 36 days.

Fifth lesson: Don’t bother drying your hair or putting on make-up when it is this hot! There is no point. Your make-up will be dripping off your chin and your hair will look like you stuck your finger in a light socket by the end of the day. The last three weeks of this adventure I didn’t bother with either.

I spent countless hours planning this leg of my journey and the plans were shot to hell the second day. By letting go of my plans and schedule, I discovered places that I had not heard of before and met some of the most amazing people. As far as “not buying stuff,” yeah, that didn’t happen either. I spent more money on stuff than I did on gas.

I have a better understanding of what I “need” to have with me and what is nothing more than dead weight. During these past five weeks I drove just over 5,400 miles and 11 of those days were spent visiting family, no driving. As I plan, schedule and organize for the “real” journey, I have a better appreciation of what it takes to be a “full-timer.”

Come along with me and I’m sure you will agree, the best little places you can find are on the map following the red line.©

Tell us what lessons you’ve learned while on the road here!