This I Believe

Liz - Portland, Oregon
Entered on September 29, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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The Mantra of Driving

I believe in the road. Perhaps in another life I was a truck driver. Or maybe a small bird that migrated thousands of miles every year in search of some place tropical. But in this life however, while I try to live a life that is both eco-friendly and sustainable, I am also a driver. And I know that I have characteristics and opinions that never would have been realized had I not spent so many hours in the car.

As a small child I was a singer, confident and loud, belting my vacation bible school tunes and the latest radio top 40. But as I got older and more self-conscious, my voice got quieter and quieter until I nearly forgot what I sounded like. All that changed when I got my drivers license at the sweet age of 16. I was still reluctant to sing around others, but suddenly alone in the safety of the family clunker, I could sing as loud as I wanted. Again. And I remembered what it felt like.

Later, when I graduated from college and had had enough of my New England safety net, I decided to chase my dream of the west. To the chagrin of my family, this required driving, alone, the thousands of miles between Hartland, Vermont and Gooding Idaho where a job waited for me. I packed a blue station wagon named “Dixie” almost to the point of not seeing out the back window and waved to my family between tears.

The first few hours were familiar and required little thought, but the adventure began as I crossed the border into Canada and found a highway that I had never seen. The drive to Idaho took the better part of a week and with each new state, I found more and more joy in the time and the space. To some, so many hours driving alone spells disaster or at the very least, unbearable loneliness. But I experienced neither. I felt energized by the traffic in Chicago, relaxed along the prairies of South Dakota, awestruck by the mountains of Montana, and oh so American along the dusty roads of Wyoming.

When I’ve reach the point of driving so long that even the radio is grating on the senses or when I haven’t seen another car for hours, it’s almost like reaching another level of consciousness. In those moments of silent driving I’m left with nothing more than myself, the landscape, and my reaction to it. Maybe that’s why there are so many songs about the freedom of the open road.

Driving is dangerous. It depletes natural resources. And if you’re going anywhere worthwhile, it probably requires time. Yet still, there is something purifying about it and for that reason alone, I’ll keep on driving.