The Great American Road Trip and My Path To Clarity / by Robert Welsted

Some of us reach a point in our life when we think we've nearly reached our breaking point.  Mine began to surface slowly; brought on by years of working in a habitually depressing environment.  I would not, however, continue to allow that environment to reduce me to a fraction of the quality person that I know that I am.  That said, it was decided that a great way to clear my mind and hit reset would be to embark on a month-long trek around the United States, so I headed west on July 31st, 2016.

Now, it's not as if I had just decided one day to get in the truck and start driving without a particular destination; there was quite a bit of planning involved in this venture.  From the route, locations and places to rest my weary bones, some homework was necessary to ensure that things went as smoothly as possible.  Furthermore - in hitting as many of the National Parks as I could within the time frame - even more research was required to determine which subjects would be photographed at particular times of the day.

Oil change and tire rotation...check.  Full tank of gas...check.  Suitcase full of clothes, camera gear, cooler, camping gear, portable grill...check 'em all.  Let's go!

 This would be my trusty chariot for the next month.

This would be my trusty chariot for the next month.

With each new location came new experiences.  There were plenty of people to meet along the way, plenty of jaw-dropping natural views (thank you, National Parks!), and even more time to let go of worry and stress.  I will say, though, that it got awfully lonely at times.  Perhaps I shouldn't complain - as what I sought in the first place was some time alone - so I'll take the good out of it, instead.  Sometimes it was as though I was a ghost in the crowd; able to walk amongst the people and not be noticed.  Other times, folks would see all of the camera gear set up, approach and ask photography related questions, to which I'd reply "I'm learning, too, but I'd be more than happy to help you if I can."  The conversation would often wind up with me explaining a bit of the story as to why I was on this journey, why I was traveling solo, and why I opted to drive the entire route.  All in all, the interactions were both interesting and welcomed.

I understand that everyone's circumstances differ, and that taking a month off of work is probably out of the question.  To that, I would suggest - means permitting - taking a couple of days and just go.  Save the funds, set aside some time and make it happen.  Work - while important - isn't everything.  Spend some time with friends, family, loved ones, or alone as I did.  You'll find when you can begin to clear your mind, you become a better you.  Becoming a better you helps you, in turn, be better to those important in your life.  This is something that we can all benefit from, if even a little bit.

Round trip, my F-150 carried me reliably for 189 hours, 10 minutes and 18 seconds, for a total distance of 10,146.9 miles.  She guzzled 561 gallons of fuel, averaging 18 mpg along the way.  3,043+ photos were taken (the + being the ones that I immediately deleted due to me being unsatisfied with them), and countless memories were created.  It all boiled down to one great American road trip; an experience I'll never forget.

 Taking in the moment at a campsite in Yellowstone National Park.

Taking in the moment at a campsite in Yellowstone National Park.