Leave on a Friday. Get off work. Maybe you have summer hours and can take off in the afternoon. Maybe you’re stressed out from the job hunt and need to get away. Maybe you’re not there yet, but the future frightens you and you’re trying to just…live for today, I guess.
Don’t bring a lot. A small backpack or a purse is all that’s needed. This trip isn’t about stuff. It isn’t about having the comforts of home. It isn’t about maintaining the status quo. Leave your make up on the sink. Bring one solid pair of jean shorts. A hat, maybe. Be minimal about it.
Pack up a car or take a bus or hop a train. You don’t have to go far — pick somewhere an hour away from the bustle of your everyday life or if that’s not enough, pick somewhere thousands of miles away. Or better yet, don’t have a destination in mind. Do it “the journey is the destination”-style. Be real zen about it.
Get snacks. Get chips you’d never eat otherwise. Get beef jerky. Get Mountain Dew. Get an extra large coffee. Eat and drink everything. Let crumbs gather in your seat cushions, between the creases of your clothing, catch in your beard. Joke that you’re “saving it for later” when someone tries to brush them away.
Put down your phone. Turn it off. You are unreachable from now on.
Keep your eyes on the road. Hypnotize yourself with the passing of the yellow lines and the zipping by of the trees. Look out into massive fields or cattle farms or tall, tall metallic buildings. Note road signs for attractions you’ve never heard of — stop at some. Take pictures next to the world’s largest corn cob. Go to Ripley’s and believe it (or not) in person. Drink from the Fountain of Youth even though it tastes like dirty eggs. Buy a goofy key chain from a gas station because it has your name on it — or sigh because they never have your name.
Play music. Entire albums you’d forgotten you even had. Old songs. Embarrassing songs. Cry with Mariah Carey. Laugh with the WTF podcast. Groove with the Grateful Dead. Get nostalgic with Something Corporate. Sing out loud. If you’re alone, you have to. If you’re with people, sing together. Let your voices meld into one strong, unbreakable voice. Laugh nervously between tracks because you guys don’t sing in front of each other — or don’t. Showboat like Bette freakin’ Midler to the Les Mis soundtrack. Who cares?
Drive slowly on the open roads. Wear dark sunglasses. Open a window and stick your hand out into the sunshine. The road ahead looks so shiny and slick from here, but it’s only a trick of the light. The sun starts to set down around the brown and orange mountains and the shadows curl their fingers at you, beckoning.
Rest your head against the side and try and nap, the tires turning becoming a sweet lullaby to your broken ears. Let your shoulders heave downwards. Let your stomach unclench. Let your mouth hang open. Drool a little. You’ve been so tired lately.
Get woken up at a service station in the middle of nowhere. See people unlike anyone you know in real life — people with haircuts or fashion choices you’d forgotten were a thing. Realize it’s they who are judging you — or maybe no one is judging anyone because you recognize each other for the ramblin’ people you are. You’re all headed somewhere, stopped over at this “Hotel California” on the great equalizer of the road.
Play games. Spot license plates. Try to read each other’s minds. Rub your socked feet on the dashboard. Reminisce about high school. Slap the backs of everyone’s hands. Write poems. Tell stories. Tell secrets. If you’re alone, let the silence surround you. Let it empty your head. Your hands on the steering wheel are meditation. They are keeping you tethered. They are keeping you awake.
Spend money only on gas and beer. Order cheap, fast food and get grease and mayonnaise on your hands and mouth. Toss the wrappers in the back.
Take a deep breath and smell the world around you: burnt tires, maybe, or freshly chopped wood or raindrops or gasoline (a scent you’re shy about your attraction to).
Get to where you’re going. Or don’t. That’s not what this is about.