I have always dreamt of road-tripping across the United States. My friend Saidah and I actually attempted to make the trip about 15 years ago, while I was still a grad student. But Saidah, who is two years older than me, started working straight out of university and was doing well financially, while I, on the other hand, was a broke student. My financial status ended up putting a wrench in our plans, because my budget only permitted basic lodging, like motels, camping and possibly even sleeping in the car. Saidah had a steady income and was already thoroughly living the good life, and she couldn’t reverse gears on the kind of travel accommodations to which she had become accustomed. So, we shelved the idea until now, and we are at this moment heading out on a mini road trip, on a route that takes us from Chicago to Seattle.
The idea resurfaced a few years ago. I have been living in Italy for 13 years now, and while I love every aspect of my life, I do miss certain aspects of American culture. Italians are very warm and sophisticated, and I completely appreciate their approach to life. But there is a lot to be said about the very open, joyful, optimistic and accepting energy that many Americans possess. Many of you are like “wait a minute,” and I concede that these American characteristics have been challenged and tarnished by Trump’s toxic and disastrous administration. Some friends even told me, “this is not the time to come, stay where you are, you are better off staying in Europe.” And I get it.
Here’s the thing though, America remains breathtakingly beautiful, despite the ugliness currently helming its leadership. America remains great despite the closeted bigots who roam its grand states and cities. And, while the men who inked its governing principles did so for less than sincere motives, some humans possess an inherent quality of simply being good people – and enough of them are still dedicated to the American dream (excluding Trump’s whining and painfully selfish base). So even though America as I know it may be somewhat unrecognizable, remnants of the dream still twinkle. Dreams don’t die so easily, especially when they make up the most indispensable threads in the collective tapestry of the nation – especially when there are stories of success and examples of perseverance and tenacity that help people to realize those dreams. And maybe our road trip is an act of defiance. Trump can spit upon my values, but he can’t soil their true essence. Light always cancels out darkness. I see the light in the children of schools which have experienced gun violence; and I see the torch in the hearts of the women who are confronting the abuses of men in power. In this great darkness our light shines brighter than it has in some time.
Another important reason for this journey: Mother Earth has been calling me. She started calling me a few years ago, and definitely before I even set my intentions for this 2018. She knows that I need to reconnect, she senses it in my restlessness. She is a witness to the toll that is taken on me by always being ‘on’. Though we know we should take breaks and even when we make the effort, living in today’s digital world can be all-encompassing. You unplug for a few days only to be sucked back in at a faster pace when you re-emerge. I hear Mother Nature loud and clear, and I urgently want to tap into all of her mystical elements as a way of recharging my body and soul. I can’t wait to sit by rolling rivers and listen to their soothing tales, to stare out into vast canyons and be humbled and grounded by their greatness and the miracle of their creation, and to gaze up at the stars and contemplate our interconnectedness in this infinite universe.
Finally, I’m really looking forward to spending 10 days with one of my closest friends and my goddaughter. Saidah relocated from Atlanta to South Africa a few years ago. You can imagine how hard it is for us to spend quality time together. When we were living in NYC, we explored the city together, hosted “Sex and the City” viewing parties in our apartments, shared tennis lessons and practiced yoga. We had long conversations about love, career and friendship. When I moved to Europe, we had some great adventures there. In fact, I spent one of the most romantic nights of my life with Saidah in St. Moritz 11 years ago. Imagine an impossibly crisp, clear night at 6,000 feet in the Alps. Saidah and I took a horse-driven carriage up to Val Fex for dinner. It snowed a lot that season, and the snow was piled as high as the carriage on the side of the path, and you could see the billion stars in the sky. They felt so close, it was as if you could actually touch them. It was like floating through the Milky Way. Saidah and I were at a total loss for words. We thought about kissing, just for good measure, but unfortunately we just don’t have that kind of chemistry (she is pretty hot though).
People always advise us to take care of our hearts. To engage in a kind of like self-care for the heart. Not only when we are suffering, or when there is a major issue, but regularly. We should all treat our hearts to something special whenever we can. Taking this trip is a small way of saying thank you to my heart, because of the place it holds for friends and family, because of its unbreakable capacity to love. This journey is a way of nurturing its penchant for goodness. It’s a way of adding another fond memory of someone who warms my heart with her affection and love.
I coming to America to spread some much needed love.
Images by Renwe Jules.
Please read Saidah and my follow up piece This Land is Your Land where we share our impressions of the trip.