It has been exactly 123 days, 25 states and 14,486km (9000m) since I crossed the southern border for an extraordinary road trip across the United States of America. My travel partners April and Tank, (my Toyota 4runner) have been strong and steady by my side. Our little travel blog is getting some attention and even inspiring a few new friends and readers to see travel differently and hit the road.
All along our journey I have called out to anyone who would like to meet, host or join us. I have reached out to old travel friends I’ve met across continents as I carve across their states and hometowns. I have encouraged friends and family who we dearly miss to come visit us wherever we may be.
I’m so excited that both of these situations have finally come to fruition.
I reached out to my friend Eric while in the Southern USA. Facebook, (a powerful tool keeping my travel circle together) told me he was living in Salt Lake City, Utah; a state that would no doubt take us far into the wilds of colourful deserts, towering formations, unimaginable canyons and wilderness. Eric and I hadn’t seen each other at all since our fateful meeting in Malaysia a few years ago. I had just hopped out of a truck near a village in the Cameron Highlands. I was hitchhiking from the coastal city of Georgetown to see the famed tea plantations and rejoice in the cooler weather. I needed one more ride to reach my destination so as I walked towards the intersection, gathering the courage necessary to stick my thumb out to passing motorists, I made a joking remark to the two white guys on scooters.
“Room for one more?”
Eric’s enthusiastic response absolutely made my day. I hopped on the back of the bike and we set off into the hills. We spent the next few days riding around central Malaysia exploring and creating the kind of friendship that only travel can bond. Of course, these are relationships that often come with expiration clocks; like ‘you are going on to the jungle and I’m catching a flight to Bali’. So you make the most of it and genuinely hope someday you will get to see each other again.
The day finally came when Eric and I were indeed reunited.
The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful: Zion National Park; one of the most recognizable gems of this entire country. Our new path would take us 1,488ft into the sky along a steep switchback trail and over the crest of an enormous monolith to Angel’s Landing. Dizzying drop-offs on either side force you to focus every tiring step on the last half-mile as you climb and pull yourself along bolted chains to a magnificent culmination once said to be accessible only to the angels who would land on it.
I am so grateful that Eric embraced his own adventure for a chance to reconnect. Being the kind of person who would pick up a hitchhiker in a foreign country while riding a motorcycle, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He is a spirited human being and the kind of friend I hope to hold on to for all time.
A short month later, I rushed nervously up the beautiful California coastline to pick up my mom at the San Francisco International Airport. It has been nearly 9 months since I last saw her. Not that this is uncommon, given that we live oceans away from each other, but it is always a blessing being able to connect and share our mutual passion for world travel.
My mom is the most inspirational, independent backpacker I’ve ever met. No doubt some of that drive has been passed on to me. She has been helping me to understand and embrace the joy, complexity and challenges of people and places most of us will never know about first hand. She has also been a firm supporter of my choice to depart from societal expectations and standard life. Where so many others question and caution, she realizes the power and peace of following your own path. Even when I waver in the unknown, she is confident that I will succeed. I feel comforted by the safety of her presence and always find new ways to admire and learn from her.
We ventured together to the famous California winter playground: Lake Tahoe. It is commonplace to find myself constantly soaring to new heights when mom is around. This time we find ourselves at North Tahoe’s Treetop Adventure Park. It’s fair to say that heights are definitely not in my comfort zone, and the effects have certainly increased with age. (Great, now I sound like an old, cowardly lion.) This aerial undertaking would be challenging me both physically and psychologically. A series of increasingly difficult courses linking tree platforms with a variety of unstable and creative bridges and/or ziplines quickly had me refusing to look down. More importantly though, I refused to give into my shaking knees and urges to freeze or quit. I kept my head up and my feet moving knowing that I can’t let my mother and a bunch of little kids running through the courses show me up 😛
(Please note that both my mom and April -aka Ewok-, totally rocked it!)
If Eric and my mom have taught me anything, it’s that there is always a way to keep pushing myself. As if this nomadic journey into the unknown isn’t already big enough, welcoming fellow travelers is an awesome way to always keep things exciting.
I know what you are thinking though: “It’s already been four months since you left, isn’t the US leg of your journey over?” Well, kind-of-not-exactly-at-all…. Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement….
~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~
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As of September 5th, 2014 Current location: San Francisco, California
Days on the road: 123; States Visited: 25; Kilometers covered: 14,486;
Nights that we… – Couchsurfed: 105 – Camped: 2 – Slept in the car: 17; # of Hosts: 37