An Accidental Tourist

Travelers Around the Globe

Accidental tourists, what motivates people to drive across the country?
In the nineteen sixties, John Steinbeck traveled across America with his poodle Charley, and wrote a travelogue describing their adventure. Steinbeck took to the road in the sunset of his life; his son said that Steinbeck was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and wanted to see the country for one last time.
Many years ago, I had a friend who no longer wanted to live in a haze of marijuana smoke; he felt that he needed to leave his friends and his environment. He needed a change that would allow him to clear his mind and therefore decided to drive across America.  This young man ended up in Alaska and signed up for a tour on a commercial fishing boat. It was difficult and exhausting work but after one season when he came to port, my friend was sober and incredibly fit. He entered professional work force and started a new chapter in his life.
Summer of 2022, I took to the road with my eighty-four-year-old father. My motivation was to experience camper’s life, see Yellowstone National Park, and write a travelogue (I have 75 pages of notes and writer’s block that paralyzes my progress). My father’s motivation was similar to that of Steinbeck to see the country… But I cannot get myself to agree that it would be for the one last time.
There is something utterly American about cross-country travel, especially for the first-generation immigrants. We have something inside of us that stirs and boils, and when it overflows we must go forward and experience the vast open space of our new land. The land which in a matter of a few generations will become the motherland to our descendants. Did we choose wisely as we hand over the new future to those who will come after us? A trip across the country could provide a glimpse.
Recently a former colleague reached out to me, Yan resides in Northern California, but he and his Cocker Spaniel were traveling across the country. They visited Yan’s daughter in Wyoming and son in Brooklyn, New York. I invited Yan and his dog to stop over in my house as they traveled south from New York, via North Carolina on their way to Southern California to visit Yan’s other daughter.
During their visit, we went for a walk around my neighborhood and I was waiting for an unsolicited disclosure to learn what motivated these two traveling companions to drive all the way across the land. There is always a story, this time it was post-COVID matrimonial issue and a potential change of status. Yan was driving with an eye for where he might want to settle after his personal issues get resolved. During COVID, the corporate world learned that people can work remotely and do so with high productivity, consequently many professional jobs offer an amazing freedom of location. Northern California has one of the highest costs of living, it seems incredibly rational to cash out and move to some place that offers a good balance of cost, utility, and entertainment. A drive across the country is certainly the best way to scope what this country has to offer and which state could suit individual needs and desires.
I am not sure what Yan will elect to do when his trip comes to an end and how his personal issues will resolve. But it was nice to host him here, and I think it would be great for more of us to open our houses to a blast from the past friends and colleagues who for some reason take it to the road.
I myself am not finished wandering the seven continents and would welcome an invitation from my old friends to spend a night in their homes, share a meal, and exchange world views; feels like a better way to travel than sitting alone in a Marriott hotel.

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