As a 29-year old I am both on the tail end of my 20's and on the tail end of living a life of little actual responsibility. I am not married, a parent, or paying a mortgage on a house. I wake up, go to work, spend time with my friends and enjoy life. This is not to say that being married or a parent, or having a mortgages prevents you from enjoying life. It does make things incredibly different when you are responsible or obligated to another person.
I can, for the most part, make decisions that are incredibly selfish. I am aware that this trip is, at least partially, a somewhat selfish endeavor. I want to visit all 59 National Parks. I want to do it before I am old and crusty. I also want others to join me and share in the joy of National Parks. If anything I am trying to do something that I am passionate about and inspire others to join me and live out their own passions.
When I tell people about the trip one of the responses that I get is 'wow, you must have been saving up for years' or 'I wish I could do something like that, maybe when I get the time/money'.
When I graduated college I taught elementary school in South Dakota. If you weren't aware South Dakota consistently ranks last in terms of teacher pay. Yes, that means 50th out of 50. It gets beat out by educational power houses like Mississippi, every year. I did that for two years and then I have worked at the University of Virginia for the past 6 years. I have always been 'comfortable'. I've had enough for food, and the ability to travel to visit friends and family. I also have friends who make 4-6 times what I do. Same education, different path. I mention this, because I want people to understand that doing something you love is not about the money. I haven't been saving for years, I just know that this trip is something that I have to do.
When I am 45-years old I don't want to have regrets. I don't want to wonder what that National Parks trip would have been like, because I traded in the opportunity for a stable job, nice apartment and good health benefits, oh and access to amazing gym facilities. When I am 45, I want to tell my kids about that time in my late 20's and early 30's when I invested in my dreams.
Please don't misunderstand. I am not saying that everyone needs to go on a wild road trip to 'experience' life. For you it could be something different. It could be opening the book shop that you have always dreamed of, it could be leaving the city and the traffic that you hate to live somewhere that your kids can have a yard and a place to play.
I am 50% exhilarated, excited, amped up and floored about this trip. I can't wait to hit the road. The visual of wearing a wolf shirt, rolling down the windows and driving to Cuyahoga Valley plays on repeat in my head. Every. Day. It's what I go to sleep thinking about and it's what I wake up to.
The other 50% of myself, though, is absolutely terrified. I am quitting a good job where I am surrounded by good people and I am given a lot of freedom to be creative. I live in a wonderful city with wonderful friends and the most absurdly nice apartment I will ever inhabit. All of that and I'm quitting. My girlfriend and I broke up over it and any logical person would assess this situation and look at me like I am crazy. I am not one that is generally prone to panic attacks and anxiety issues, yet every day I have at least 10 minutes where I ask myself: ''What are you doing with your life?! Why are you throwing it all away? Am I being an idiot?' I shudder at the thought and get queasy as I realize everything that I am giving up.
#59in59 is not about being comfortable though. It's about living that dream. It's about doing something that scares you. Living out your dreams is not rainbows, butterflies, unicorns and cotton candy. You are constantly met with self-doubt, you consistently questions yourself and your decisions. Then someone asks you what you are doing this summer, and you tell them. You light up, and launch into a 186 mile per hour description of the trip, the places that you are going to see and how excited you are. It's that moment when you are reminded that being 50% exhilarated and 50% terrified is deeply fulfilling and 100% the right way to live.
You know the dream that you've always wanted to live. Do it, and meet me in one of the National Parks so that we can talk about it. See you out there!