So, last week I went on an unintentional 48-hour round trip to Atlanta. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out this article on my time spent in the Atlanta International Airport, and this article about why I was stuck there to begin with. I’ll wait.
All caught up? Great.
Recently, I learned that in airline legal jargon, this was considered a “trip in vain.” And, sitting in a hotel room in Atlanta a week ago, it certainly felt in vain. I was physically exhausted from hours in the airport, financially exhausted from all the extra money I was having to spend, and emotionally exhausted from trying to keep it together for the last 24 hours. A hair’s breadth away from a mental breakdown all morning, I got a Lyft back to the airport and picked up my rental car.
I probably wasn’t in any state to be behind the wheel for a five-hour drive, but I’d known this and taken some precautions. Before leaving the hotel, I went through my road trip checklist.
The Unexpected Road Trip Check List:
- Comfy Pants.
- I actually only had a pair of jeans with me, but they were my airplane jeans. They’re soft from years of wear and they’ve got some give in the waist.
- No bra.
- Usually I’ll wear at least a bralette, but the one I’d brought was dirty from being worn for 12+ hours in an airport. Apologies to anyone in Atlanta last week who saw my nips. It was very chilly.
- Limited options here, as I was in a hotel and had no intention of stopping once on the road to buy a soda or coffee. Luckily, I had a reusable water bottle with me. I snagged a bag of black tea from the continental breakfast downstairs and had me a make-shift cold brew. Not tasty but effective.
- A granola bar and an apple from the breakfast bar did just fine.
- I always have an audiobook or podcast downloaded and ready to go for road trips. It makes the miles fly by and helps keep me awake. For this trip, I chose Under the Tuscan Sun, one of my favorite books.
- Last-Minute Bathroom Break
- Even if you don’t think you need to go, go. I didn’t and I spent the entire five hours sipping black tea (a diuretic) and wishing there was somewhere to pull over on those back country roads.
Getting Behind the Wheel
Getting the rental car was blissfully easy. Thank god I’d had the presence of mind to make a reservation the night before.
Getting out of the airport was less so. After circling for about ten minutes and dancing the fine line between hysterical tears and laughter, I made it onto the southbound ramp for I-80. Smooth sailing from there on out. I was expecting the drive to be long and exhausting. I wasn’t expecting to feel suddenly peaceful, happy, and inspired.
Take ‘Em as They Come.
I’ve been through Georgia before, of course. But this was the first time I’d driven through alone, with no one to distract me from the scenery. The countryside astounded me.
Rich, red clay – the flesh of the Deep South – gaped in open wounds where the road cut through the earth, baring it to the clear blue sky. Frances Mayes’ down-home Georgia drawl spilled over me, thick like wild honey, speaking of mountains and roads and trees in the north of Italy, a world away. The sweat and alfalfa perfume of a dairy farm mingled with the sharp sting of Georgia pines in the air. Tiny purple wildflowers littered the grassy median, children of the recent storms. The sun beat down on my skin and I smiled.
I was still tired. More than anything, I wanted to be at home drinking a glass of red wine and watching an episode of Bob’s Burgers. But the Georgia back roads startled me into happiness. I filled my eyes with the colors, my ears with the sounds, my nose with the scents, and my heart with joy of travel.
Because make no mistake about it, this is the truth of being a traveler. If you cannot open your eyes to the beauty already around you, how can you expect to find it out there in the wide, wide world?
Make the most of the moments given to you, take ’em as they come, and maybe take a long, wandering road trip through Southern Georgia if you’re feeling soul-weary. It worked for me.