Throughout the last 9 months we have been in 37 different states, stayed in 64 different places and have interacted and met dozens of people along the way. When I embarked on this journey 9 months ago I was excited as I anticipated how I would explore places I had never before explored, check things off my bucket list, and live life in a way I had only imagined. I wanted to help people heal. I wanted to see America. What I didn't anticipate was what I was about to learn about America. I was surprised at what unfolded.
We left our home and all the comforts of it, sold, gave or threw away a large portion of our material things and belongings and ended up with a small storage unit packing in all that was left to our name. We purged and let go of "things" and decided we wanted to collect "experiences and memories" instead. We decided that for a year we were going to explore the country and travel all parts of it . We would open our hearts to all possibilities of what this journey would entail for us and our family and all the surprises along the way. It was scary and exciting at the same time. Not everything was planned, some of it was left to chance. So many unknowns, yet so many possibilities! I was about to live one of my biggest dreams yet!
I'll admit I lived in my own little bubble before this adventure and looking at our country at the time, I was discouraged and disheartened to see what our future looked like. The media's portrayal was not favorable. I don't know that it really ever has been. I used to do media spots for a non-profit I worked for and I knew firsthand how they twist a story to tell it their way in order to make it more appealing to the public as opposed to what the facts are. I wanted to know for myself what this great country was all about, what it really stood for and who the people of America really are.
People fascinate me. They always have. When you come in as the outsider not knowing anyone in the places you end up, you learn very quickly to strike up conversations with strangers because otherwise you know no one and it can get lonely. I love my husband and daughter but when you are around each other 24/7 you start to want to explore outside your little family circle, at least that's how I am. Strangers intrigue you. I am a total people watcher. I love talking with people and learning about their lives, their dreams, their stories, even their sorrows and most definitely their triumphs. The human spirit inspires me. I started reaching outside myself and asking questions and just getting to know people.
One thing I learned very quickly in striking up conversations with strangers is that we as human beings naturally seek to find our commonalities rather than our differences. We look to see what brings us together in a conversation as we share who we are. Go strike up a conversation with a stranger for yourself and see how quickly it happens. Someone seeks to find a commonality they can relate to within the other. It's a natural and beautiful thing. We like to find connection with others. For instance, we are from Texas and we love our state, being out of the state and a few states over, you get a little excited to see another Texas plate and in that small moment, you have an instant friend, a commonality, a connection. If we were in a Texas city somewhere at the same time, we never would have probably even given each other a second thought as strangers but when you end up at a gas station in Boston and you see a fellow Texan and you act like you have been friends forever. One little commonality can go a long way.
My husband is a die hard Cowboys fan and boy as soon as he spots one of those star logos on a car, he will go as far as driving up next to them and waving in an overly friendly way and give them a thumbs up though they have no idea why or he will strike up a conversation with a total stranger with a cowboys baseball cap on or a shirt because he loves that there is a commonality and something to bring them together. We also love finding fellow essential oil users, so when we find fellow oil users, we feel totally at home. :)
What I learned is that people still have the desire to live the American dream and are working to live it every day. I learned of people living their own dreams. I met a man who grew up baking with his grandfather in England, helped with a bakery there and now lives in the states and opened a cute little bakery with his wife. He is living the American Dream. He came to America to live that dream. We've met many who came to this country from foreign lands to build their own dream and live a new life.
In Florida, we sat down and conversed with a woman who was a recent widow and she shared with me her own year long adventure of traveling the country with her beloved husband that was no longer with her who had passed two years prior, it was a dream they lived together. She taught me that the experience I had embarked on was creating memories for me to one day hold onto when my loved ones might no longer be there. I met a woman who quit her successful career to open up a quaint little tea shop to create them disconnecting from their phones and reconnecting with each other, bridging gaps between generations. Her vision was that mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters would come together for tea time, relaxation and connection. I experienced this myself and loved every second of it. We all still want connection. We seek it and we seek to live our dreams.
I learned that people who are in their own pain still reach out to help others' in theirs. When my husband ended up in the hospital in Georgia due to blood poisoning just a few months into our trip, I got my first Uber experience. I was with my driver a total of 7 minutes and in that short amount of time, he became a messenger and a voice of hope. In our brief encounter he told me about recently having his own painful stay in the hospital as he was driving me to the hospital to see my husband and then shared with me a beautiful quote from the bible to hold onto letting me know I was being watched over. It was a tender mercy I needed in that very moment. Seven minutes and I felt what a beautiful and powerful human being this humble man was. During this time I had a beautiful woman reach out to me who was going through chemo treatments for breast cancer, offer up a place for us to stay if we needed during this trial, another offer us a warm home cooked meal and yet another offer to take our daughter for a day so that I could tend to my husband at the hospital and our daughter a respite. All three of these woman I had only met in person 2 days prior.
I learned that people still pray and pray a lot. I love this! Prayer is such a huge part of my life, I love that people ask others to pray for them and that it's still a tool we don't let go of. We needed it many times on our trip and I have seen many praying for others. I saw many instances of prayers offered up to heaven on behalf of many people we met and now love. I also learned that we as Americans still have a strong belief in God. Many still do. My heart burst with joy to see so many churches in some of the small towns we drove through. I didn't care what religion they were, what struck me was that there were still places to worship and focus on God.
I learned that people genuinely wanted to help us. We would learn tips, valuable information and people wanted to share with us all things about the areas they live in but also just help us in general. While on the subway in New York, a man overheard our conversation one day when one of one of the routes closed down because of problems and our planned out route was no longer an option. He stopped to tell us exactly what to do to get to our destination without us even asking. We had people offer up their own places to host a class for us to teach because they wanted to help us educate others on healing. They graciously hosted us and helped us share our message. People loved sharing the beauty of their cities with us and also their homes. We had several invites to stay in beautiful homes with home cooked meals and lots of love and friendship. We have made many new friends.
As we camped at the top of the Smokies, while taking an evening walk we happened upon a lovely group of retired couples who frequent that particular campsite every year and gather round the fire to share stories of their lives and catch up on the latest happenings in their lives. They warmly welcomed us into that little circle, offered us dinner and treated us like family. We enjoyed a glorious evening with them as we learned about some of their heartaches and triumphs in life, their many years of marriage and the love they still felt for each other, the companionship and the connection they still held dear. They taught us that in the end, after you have lived a long life, the most precious aspect of it all will be the connections you make with others, not the money, not the awards, but the connections and the memories will be what matters most.
I will continue to share some of theses stories with you in my blog because the lessons I've learned have been priceless.
We have seen many beautiful, amazing sights in America. Some have literally taken my breath away. I can't wait to share the beauty of all we have seen. Those memories have been priceless. America truly is beautiful!
I shared an earlier blog about how I hate watching the news. because all we see is the bad it seems. As I travel I do see a skewed view the media presents. I'm not ignorant or naive to the fact that there is a lot of pain, anger, anguish and real world problems but when it's shoved down your throat daily, you tend to lose hope that there really is any good in the world or the people in it. I'm here to tell you there is. I haven't lost hope, I have gained it. Who knew that checking off our bucket list would include meeting so many amazing people? What I have learned is that here in America, we are all still people, we still have dreams, we still want and seek connection, we still are in awe of God's beautiful creations and we still seek to find the commonalities that bring us together rather than the differences that tear us apart.
Little did I know that I would fall in love with America all over again, not because of it's natural beauty but because of the people!