Growing up on the East Coast of North America, I’ve always found myself at home on the seashore. Upon visiting for the first time in a while, my preference is usually marked by a large intake of briny air; relief and reverence in one: Ah, the ocean.
I’ve seen many a sunrise from the Eastern Shore of the U.S., and each time it’s worthy of the alarm clock waking me, pushing me out the door, pre-caffeinated and barely aware. Cutting through the wind and cold or heat and humidity I can always find beauty and peace on the beach. There is also a very simple truth attached to these moments: Wherever you are, the sun will rise in the East. And later, it will set in the West.
So, what else happens in the West?
Long ago, I had the chance to find out for myself. I hopped on a plane, and five and a half hours later, landed in California. The wonders of flight – I’d found another ocean! I get this, I thought, this is the West!
In the years since I’ve traveled to various western states: Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Texas…the usual suspects. Many of these trips were short visits, a few days or a week, for either work or play, or a little of both. Focused and intentional, yes, but always short-lived. Even longer trips to Arizona and Utah were always truncated by the need to move on to the next location, or simply to go back home.
Recently, I did something a little different. I covered this country in a two-axle vehicle, never leaving the ground. I didn’t even make it all the way across, but often felt as if I’d traveled through time, sometimes to another country, even to another planet. This is a striking phenomenon. When we step off an airplane, we expect to be somewhere else. Someplace different. It’s jarring. Very. But expected.
A road trip is different. As my favorite travel partner, my husband, piloted the van I could put my feet on the dashboard, or camera out the window, or even take a cat-nap. In-between map reading and iPhone wrangling, the external scenery continually morphed in front of me. I experienced a gentle internal transformation, and with it, an even greater appreciation for this country and the vast spaces held between its borders.
As visitors we were presented with many a Louis and Clark monument, and once, overlooking the Missouri River, we stood paralyzed with awe as we tried to comprehend their journey. There were close encounters with sacred sites, accompanied by fierce wind and passing storms. We spent a week with the jutting peaks of the Tetons overtaking our view-shed, and the bold wildlife of Yellowstone National Park had a way of reorganizing our day. As the autumn progressed, long, clear nights revealed the Milky Way, and our awareness of the lunar cycle was re-awakened. We talked a lot about the Anasazi – where they traveled, how they slept, what they might have talked about on such a night. During the day, we walked gingerly through their crumbling masterpieces. We had an un-nerving campsite outside of White Sands National Monument, reminded that rockets are used for other purposes besides propelling scientific instruments into space for the good of humankind. There were sobering moments looking out over the Trinity Site, followed by our own personal scene from Contact as we watched the Very Large Array in a slow motion dance. And always – always – we passed through a small town that seemed straight out of another decade, some aching and left behind while others were thriving and revitalized. We had destinations, yes, but we also had aimlessness. We had freedom.
This is what happens in the West.
Oh, and did I mention we had cameras?
This gallery serves as a sneak peak into a new short travel film that we’ll be releasing very soon. Wanderlust: Going West. Please, enjoy these stills and stay tuned. There are time-lapses, sunrises and even buffalo herds to follow, along with a fascinating overview of our locations.