By Ashlyn Bruni
My entire life I have always said I wanted to take a road trip to somewhere far away. That’s why, when my best friend asked me to come visit her in Los Angeles, I didn’t have to think twice. My roommate agreed to drive with me, and two weeks later we began on a journey that would become so much more than we imagined. Here’s what I learned along the way.
- It’s true: Money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness.
Since we only got a two-week notice on our trip, my roommate and I were both pretty short on cash. But could you really call this a college road trip if we had money? We had enough to eat, but, except for a baseball game and a concert, most of the things I found joy in doing didn’t cost money. We went hiking. We went to Griffith Observatory. We went to the beach. The sights were beautiful; when we first entered New Mexico, we saw no civilization, but we didn’t even question why because the land was flat and dry for miles. Everything suddenly changed, and when we saw beautiful houses sitting along the sides of the most majestic mountains and hills, I even considered moving there in the near future. Some of the sights literally took my breath away, and that’s better than anything I could’ve bought.
- No plan is the best plan.
We didn’t plan stops on the road, and we had no idea what we wanted to do once we got to L.A. Our only plans were the route (which we didn’t take) and a stop at the Grand Canyon (which we didn’t do). In the end, we ended up in the middle of nowhere, had to sleep in my car, and couldn’t go to the Grand Canyon because it was dark. But nothing went terribly wrong, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. We stopped at some of the coolest places along the way, discovered amazing Mexican freeze pops, learned that Arizona has Raising Cane’s, and passed through two border patrols (both times left us equally as confused). Our first day there I decided to get my first tattoo. The mornings when we woke up and decided to hike up a mountain or drive to Malibu were my favorite; I went to sleep every night happy and not knowing what to expect for the rest of the trip, which to me was the best feeling.
- The quickest way isn’t always the best
Ask anyone how to get to LA, and he or she will tell you to simply stay on I-10 for about 25 hours. Of course things are never just that simple for me; due to heavy rainfall, I-10 was closed in Houston. Instead we had to detour through Dallas, and after going through some small towns and scary woods, we ended up on Route 66 (which is also a road I’ve always wanted to take). On the way back we were able to take I-10, but we noticed that we didn’t see nearly as many cool things. In the end, even though it took a little longer to get us where were going, I’m thankful we took the way we did.
- The unknown isn’t so scary after all.
When we started out on this road trip, we were pretty convinced that there was no way we would be able to make it without breaking down or ending up somewhere we weren’t supposed to be. So at about 5 a.m., we ended up in some remote town in west Texas. We had seen nothing but plains, factories, and dirt roads for miles when all of sudden we thousands of blinking red lights appear out of nowhere, and within minutes they were all we saw. The first thing we thought was, “Oh crap, we’re about to cross into Mexico.” Once we realized we were nowhere near the border, we just figured we had managed to stumble across Area 51—which is actually in Nevada—and we were about to be abducted by aliens (we were pretty delirious at this point). Obviously, we were freaking out. After very close examination we realized that there was a very simple explanation for these mysterious lights: hundreds of windmills, everywhere. Alarming at first, but nothing to fear.
- Traveling gives the best sense of accomplishment and motivation.
Nothing was more freeing to me than doing something I have always dreamed of but never actually thought possible. It wasn’t until I was across the U.S. in a place where I plan to move after I graduate in a year that I truly believed I can do anything I set my mind to. I met so many people along the way who admired what we did and didn’t think we were crazy or naïve. I often get a scoff or a giggle when I tell people around here that I want to work in the entertainment industry; they treat me like a 5-year-old who says she wants to be queen of the world. Once I was in a place where the entertainment industry is the basis of the entire city, people finally started to take me seriously. This trip was just the motivation I needed to kick my senior year in the butt, and I truly believe everyone should take a trip like this.