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Los Angeles: Road Trips Are Good For The Mind

Traveling is one of my favorite things in the world. Though the lead up gives me anxiety (you should see the stress dreams I have about traveling), there is nothing like the feeling of getting away from home, even if it’s just for a little bit. It’s soothing, knowing that there is a whole wide world out there, going on while you are living your life in your own space. Just like astronomers and astronauts look up at the sky and realize how insignificant we are, traveling helps me realize that the world goes on with or without me, and it’s up to me how I interact with that world.

It gives you perspective, you know?

The most traveling I’ve done during the pandemic have been day trips to Phoenix with my boyfriend for work. Phoenix is a couple hundred miles from LA, about a six hour drive, and he has to go every few weeks. In the before times, he would be gone about three days and it would suck knowing he’s so far away for that long. Now that hotels are out of the question, as is flying, the trip has been cut down to just a day - better for me, but harder on him.

As my own work has hit more valleys than peaks during the pandemic, I’ve been able to tag along with him. After all, Phoenix is the closest place to Whataburger, or Culver’s, or even potentially Blue Bell Ice Cream (I haven’t checked yet, to be fair, but I’m 90% sure it’s sold there).

Phoenix is the place where I can get closest to Texas, about halfway to Texas, to stymy my own homesickness — if only for a little while.

Especially now that traveling to Texas is either a 24+ hour drive (it’s 25 hours from here to Lubbock, where my dad lives, or 28ish to Houston where my mom is) or no travel at all until I get over my increased anxiety about flying. It is not that I think flying itself is too risky, it is that I have too many people I need to be cautious of not infecting — even if I may become an asymptomatic carrier — to take that risk. I’m not even really worried about getting the virus myself, I’m worried about infecting the people that I care about, and always have been.

These trips to Phoenix, though, have been largely easy to contain. Now that it’s down to one day, the three of us - my boyfriend, his brother, and I - leave early in the morning, whoever isn’t driving tries to sleep (and I always bring my pillow and eye mask because I’m a picky sleeper), and we keep our stops to a minimum. Wear gloves at the gas station, masks whenever we’re interacting with anyone or outside of the car, don’t touch anything we don’t need to touch. Even for me, as I am only there to be another body to help divide up the driving, it’s not that difficult for me to just keep my hands to myself.

Until we get to Whataburger, but that’s a different story.

While most of the focus is on the work the boys have to do, I get to sit in the backseat for the most part and watch the scenery go by. We took so many road trips when I was a kid — throughout Texas, to and from California, from Vegas to Lake Powell and back again — that they’re the most soothing to me. I know how to handle a road trip, how to pick music that will keep your spirits up against the endless asphalt and terrain. How to pack snacks and comfort items like my pillow and blanket, because you will be stuck there for hours.

Traveling itself is in my bones. My parents and grandparents were all travelers, both my parents being born out of the country and my grandmother choosing to live abroad for as long as possible before coming back to Orange County. Even after my parents divorced, my mom moved to New York and we were able to fly as unaccompanied minors - three girls all under 15 flying on their own. Traveling feels as natural to me as the change of the seasons.

These day trips to Phoenix are an oasis, water in a desert of uncertainty and anxiety. Getting out of town, out of my head, into a new space. Phoenix itself my not be the nicest city in the world, and there’s plenty more we could explore if we were able, had more time, but sometimes you just need to drive in the middle of nowhere for a couple hours to recalibrate. Or sit in the backseat and watch the desert go by.

Road trips are something I can control, or at least partially control. They are the only type of travel I don’t get anxious about, honestly, because I know them. I can prepare myself with my comfy things and snacks and drinks, I can let the driver pick the music, and I can sleep when I want. I can know that my boyfriend is in the front seat, trying to sleep too. I can reach out and grab a finger or some shirt fabric and know that he is close.

That kind of mental break is the best thing of all, even if only for twelve hours.

To be honest, we should probably all take some more road trips. Now is the perfect time, explore these vast stretches of land that we have. I have a whole list of places that I want to go to, and so many are within driving distance. So many of us have so much more time, if we're lucky, and it's largely much safer than flying at this point. Open windows, windy highways, new places to get take out from.

Who's up for a road trip?

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