Last March, I packed a suitcase and hopped in my car with thirty dollars in my wallet, a bag of Cheetos, and one of those enormous 24-ounce cans of Mountain Dew. I started driving toward the state line with no real plan other than visiting my brother at college in Rome, Georgia and crashing on my friend Kali’s futon.
As I passed the familiar sign that read, “Welcome, We’re Glad Georgia’s On Your Mind”, the sky was spitting snow flurries. That was definitely going to put a limit on how much time I could spend outside. But I still wanted to go exploring and get out of Jacksonville for a few days.
“So how long will you be here?” my brother’s roommate asked me as he and my brother sat in their dorm room and looked at me.
“I don’t know,” I said. “A couple of days. Or three or four. Just until I decide to go home, I guess.”
I had always wanted to say those words. Every once in a while, I like to leave town for the day and just spend it exploring somewhere else.
Sometimes I’ll go for a long walk in the woods, then find a good spot to sit and journal. Sometimes I’ll spend the day “shopping” in Birmingham, which translates into mostly window shopping. Sometimes I just get in my car, pick a direction, and start driving.
And always I take pictures of things that interest me, whether it’s an old building, a sunset or a street sign. A change of scene is refreshing now and then. But this was the first time I had planned to not really have a plan for three or four days.
The next morning, I parked my car in downtown Rome and started walking around with my camera. I bought a Coca-Cola frappe from the local non-Starbucks coffee shop, watched a painter at work in her art gallery, took pictures of the skate shop, and spent an hour wandering around a three-story-tall outdoor store. I ended up watching lacrosse practice at my brother’s school by the time my friend texted me and wanted to meet up for dinner.
That was just day one of my visit.
It’s enriching to get out of my daily routine and go places I don’t normally go, just to get new ideas and observe the world around me without checking the time because I have to be at work or in class or I have housework waiting on me.
I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to make one this year, it would be to give in to wanderlust a little bit more. I’m on track to graduate with honors this year, and of course I’m only going wandering on days when I’m already scheduled to be off work, so I’m not neglecting my responsibilities.
But I won’t be using my free time in 2014 sitting on my couch with Netflix and a carton of ice cream. There are a whole lot of roads to be traveled out there.