Traveling After High School: The Power of Friendship

Some of the students from my Senior class went to Cancun for their senior trip when we all graduated from high school.

I got in a truck with a purple camper shell with my best friend at the time, Melissa. We got a friend to help build a raised bed in the back so we could store our things below and sleep in it at night. I told my parents I was going down to Tijuana, which we did to begin our adventure, with two friends in a caravan. After that, they went back home and we picked up another friend in Southern California who Melissa knew well from the Grateful Dead scene. Susan toured with them across the United States so she had friends in North Carolina, Indiana and Oregon.

We set out across the U.S. for North Carolina to celebrate at a type of wedding for friends of Susan’s. The plan was to circle back in about a month when I had a job waiting for me to start as well as winter quarter at a local college.

I had never been out of state but for Nevada and Oregon on family trips as a young girl with my parents. They didn’t approve of my going. After a phone call letting them know I was on my way, they wished me safety and to please stay in touch.

We drove for 3 days straight, taking turns driving while one of us slept in the back. When we got there, we stayed with a couple of guys who took us to the coastline where I jumped in, nearly got swept away by the current, and saw glowing jellyfish. I had never experienced such humidity. The colors in the trees were astounding as it was mid October. We laughed a lot and I made some new friends.

The wedding celebration was beautiful, set up in a vast yard with costumes that reminded me of the Renaissance age complete with flower wreaths and puffy shoulder sleeves. I jumped in to sing a few songs at the mic and the band asked me to stay and join them afterwards!

A few days later we hit the road again, on our way to Indiana. There was a friend there who lived with her dad and she had been going through a hard time. Her dad bought us pizzas and we stayed long enough to visit friends of hers, play on a drum set, and stay up all night. Again, I made new friends and had a blast.

Onward to Oregon we stayed at a woman’s home who taught dance. We hit it off at once and I went to her dance class with her. So fun to move my body and take some time away from the others. 3 is a hard number to travel with. I don’t think Susan was very pleased that I was making friends with all of HER friends. She and Melissa were upset with me on a few occasions for things that seemed silly to me then and still do today. 

On our final stretch we stopped off at some hot springs in Oregon. We soaked and camped in the back of the truck for our final night all together. It was magical. We shared vulnerable stories and the clouds flipped around the moon in synch. We felt a bond that we knew would last a lifetime. I was grateful for this amazing adventure and time to step away from my life to consider what was next. Yes, college but what did that really mean? Who was I and who was I becoming?

These women reflected so much for me to begin to discover that anew. To feel my emotions and hold me in them for the last 30 days together, eating, sleeping and driving. Experiencing everything and acknowledging what we did and did not agree on or like about one another. To observe one another reflected in the perspectives and in relationship to others. Such a rare and unique gift these women had given me.

I arrived back home and slept in my own bed. I woke one day and started my new job then soon after started new classes at my new college. I loved it all and I could feel myself stronger, confident, curious and ready to connect with all the new friendships, classmates and experiences. Which I did.

On that trip Melissa confessed to me that she wanted to live in Santa Cruz and go to college there. I told her I wanted to move up to Oregon eventually and to go to school there. Guess what? She ended up in Oregon and I’ve been living in Santa Cruz for over 20 years now.

I lost touch with Melissa for years. I know she lived in Hawaii at one point and now she lives in Arizona, mother of two beautiful daughters. We’ve talked about getting together and catching up though it hasn’t happened yet. I still feel our bond and a deep affinity for the time we had to grow together. 

May you find women in your lives to connect and grow with. Who inspire your best and to hold you accountable for taking time to play and follow your dreams….

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