Washington, DC—Beginning a road trip without sleeping the night before is not really what you would call advisable. And with the physical fatigue compounded by my anxiety over the scope of the trip and a number of last minute aggravations, hitting the open road was not nearly as cathartic as I might have hoped. It was actually downright awful.
This will be both the longest time I’ve spent on the road and the longest time I’ve gone without seeing Leah, my partner in crime. Both of those realities had started to sink in over the last few days, but getting in the car flipped the switch from “will happen” to “is happening.” Neuroses sprung up left and right. I hadn’t even made it out of Philadelphia before self-doubt—goaded on by exhaustion, anxiety, and frustration—launched a full-scale psychological attack: Ugh, I was supposed to be on the road hours ago. I must be forgetting something. Shit, my passport. But I’m not leaving the country. Still, it can’t hurt to have it, right? Screw it, I’m not going back for it. Did I lock the front door? Did I even close the front door? Oh god, I was in such a hurry I left the front door wide open. No, I probably didn’t do that. But what if I did? Oh, crap. I didn’t back up my MacBook. What if the hard drive dies? What if some of these budget motels I booked are serious rat traps? What if my car gets totaled? What if I disappear and am never heard from again?
The persistence of these thoughts was made all the more unbearable by my ability to lucidly rationalize against them, to recognize that facing the intimidating aspects of this trip will be what ultimately makes it worthwhile. I was saying to myself exactly what you’re thinking: “This is ridiculous. Stop being such a pussy.”
Much of the panic had subsided by the time I was in Delaware, and this first day’s purposely-planned short drive was thankfully manageable on no sleep. I made it to my DC destination around 5:30, surprisingly unaffected by rush hour traffic. I killed some time becoming reacquainted with my camera at the National Zoo before meeting up with my good friends and hosts Anna and Paul. Quality time with them plus some ice cream preceded by tasty home-cooked salmon successfully tipped the day into the positive realm.
With the initial jitters out of the way, I think I’m ready to actually start enjoying this trip. Tomorrow’s drive and destination are considerably less brief and familiar than today’s were, but I’ll have glorious sleep on my side. Speaking of which, it’s time to get on that.