Going For Broke
60 days on and time (and money) is running out
This article was originally written and posted onto the blog section of my website on 3/20/2021.
Date; March 20th, 2021
Place; Fort Collins, Colorado
It has been exactly 60 days since I left home to travel America alone in my car. These two months have felt like two years, and every day feeling like a week. I left on January 19th, the day before Inauguration Day to begin a road trip with no set end date. I told myself that I wanted to return home when I either start to get too tired to travel on anymore, or when I start to run out of cash. Needless to say I'm going for broke.
But it has certainly taken me longer than I anticipated to become comfortable with this lifestyle and method of travel and living. Camping across America in the winter is ridiculously difficult. Almost every national forest has seasonal campground closures, not to mention restrictions on COVID-19. From time to time I try to find the cheapest hotel without bedbugs in a moderately sized city. One night in a relatively shitty motel equates to almost two week of camping fees at a National Forest. It's even better if you can find a Bureau of Land Management campground because they don't charge any fees at all.
The culture of COVID in each state is strikingly different as well, with some states like Michigan being very cautious, and other states being absolutely careless like Idaho. But the anxiety of getting COVID on the road is nowhere near the levels of anxiety of finding a campground. I hate sleeping in my car so I always strive to find a campground or a dispersed area to set up for the night. It also doesn't help that I'm a relatively cheap person and will refuse to get a hotel room unless I'm in a situation where I absolutely have too. Luckily the western US has loads of public land so dispersed camping is quite easy, but this also compounds onto my fear of not finding camping once I start to move further east into Nebraska and Iowa.
I've also started driving longer days, doing upwards of 6 hours of driving, with gas, meals and photos all in-between. It also doesn't help that I hit a creative block right before getting to Los Angeles a couple weeks ago. I often feel like I am drifting across highways and towns with few photos or evidence to show my temporary presence. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing either, there is a hell of a lot of land in places like Wyoming and Idaho with not much to see at all. This also relates to how I've been taking photos across the country as well. I find more interest in small towns and places in-between large cities. But to be quite honest, in many of those towns and in-between places, there's not much of anything. There's also been a fair amount of towns that get a lot of hype but there's not much else besides hype (I'm looking at you Marfa, Texas). Of course not every rural town in America is a boring, desolate place. For instance I had a lot of fun shooting casual street photography in the border town of Del Rio, Texas. Del Rio is a dusty town with a lot of industry and very few sites to see, but the old downtown was cool, Amistad Recreation Area gave me an arid environment to explore nature on film, and the people there were extremely nice and welcoming. Every region in America is special and different in its own way, and deserved to be explored and photographed.
For most of the trip so far I have been alone on the road. I saw my mom in Las Vegas for a handful of days, and shortly after that Sophia flew into San Francisco and we road tripped to her brothers house in Portland. These days of seeing family and friends on the road was amazing yet also weird for me internally as well. Just seeing that person briefly and then watching them fly home is a feeling I've had to tango with rarely before. But still, I don't mind being alone on the road. There is something comforting and also somewhat empowering about just getting in your car or getting on a plane and just going for yourself. It doesn't take long to become comfortable with yourself and your own mind. It's also a good way to take time and read, take photos, or write. Yet it is refreshing knowing that there's family, friends and a community back home in Detroit, no matter how far away home may be.
This is also an oddly stressful time as I am still working on grad school applications and waiting to hear back. Many schools in Poland just opened their applications recently so I won't hear back for a while. I did apply to some schools in Canada, but Canadian political science schools have had a massive turnout in applications this season, leading to a slew of waitlisted applicants, myself being one of them. But for the meantime I'll stick with the original plan I've had for a long while, go to school in Poland, maybe Hungary if need be, and continue life in Europe.
But as the title suggest I am running out of money. So the drive back home for me begins, a lot sooner than I thought. Since there's nothing but hundreds of miles of corn fields between Colorado and Michigan, it should be pretty smooth sailing back home. Maybe Nebraska and Iowa will bring something interesting to the playbook. But for the meantime I'm hoping to make it home by early April, weather and bank account permitting.