March 1, 2019
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” -David Mitchell
Here I am. Two months into my year-long adventure. It feels like it has been six months. I am equally exhausted and energized by the journey – my mission now reinvigorated after making up some of the ground I lost during the government shutdown. The weather has remained mostly poor. Cold. Cloudy. Windy. Rainy. I am ready for Spring. Ready for warmer weather and longer days. Nonetheless, I carry on. In the last few days, I have completed all of the parks in Oklahoma and Texas. I have begun to circle back through the southern states to revisit parks that were closed during the shutdown. Only now does this seem feasible – wagering with myself that I will have enough time to backtrack and still see all 418 parks before the year’s end.
The question that I have been asked the most is “are you travelling by yourself?” Usually asked with a twinge of disbelief – a clear indication that the person asking the question would never, or has never considered doing such a thing. Yes, I am travelling alone. I’m good company. To be fair, I was nervous about it before starting my trip. I was used to traveling with others – significant others. Not alone. This was going to be a test; but two months in, I have already passed. Sure, there are moments of loneliness. There are times when I would love to have someone to share the experience with. But mostly, I have discovered, travelling alone is such a pleasure that I may have a hard time ever travelling with others again.
Two months alone on the road will teach you many things about yourself. My residual self-image is becoming more residual each day. I am far less concerned with projecting an identity than I am in discovering the identity within. Life becomes pared down to essentials. Unnecessary items, both physical and mental, fall by the wayside. There is air to breathe, food to eat, sleep when needed, road to drive, and the mission ever-present and guiding all decisions. It is a life, clean and pure and uncluttered. Unlike the grand Oakland and Melrose Plantations of Natchez and Cane River Creole National Historical Parks – all bound to the land physically and metaphorically, whose roots are as deep and wide as the giant oaks that line these estates, mine is now a floating existence. Rootless, and in perpetual motion. I knew the trip would be life-changing. I knew it on a theoretical level; but now I am starting to learn it firsthand. Travel does change you. I have changed; or I prefer to think the trip is life-enhancing. That it reveals a true self, once unencumbered by all that is superfluous or harmful. I have not traveled far enough to meet myself yet, but I know now that that is my destination.
Parks visited since February 21:
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Amistad National Recreation Area (return for park stamp)
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (return)
Padre Island National Seashore (return for park stamp)
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (return)
Big Thicket National Preserve (return for park stamp)
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (return)
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (return for park stamp)
Gulf Islands National Seashore (return)
Natchez National Historical Park
Cane River Creole National Historical Park