Raindrops the size of small puddles poured down my face, climbing over my nose and cheeks before splashing over my already drenched luggage.
“What in the hell am I doing?” I thought to myself, as a poncho-clad employe at the Oakland Enterprise Rent-A-Car center explained to me the various reasons that even though I was about to embark on a drive over a mountain pass with a winter storm warning, I wouldn’t be doing it in a 4WD vehicle.
The rain continued to beat down, and I eventually settled for a 2WD Jeep Patriot, threw my soaked gear in the SUV, crossed my fingers, and steered the car off of the lot towards the freeway.
For the next four hours, I clenched the steering wheel in a death grip, beads of sweat blanketing my palms with each drop in the temperature outside. I drove in silence — reminiscing about all of the good times that I’ve had with my trusty Toyota 4Runner back home in Colorado —keeping a watchful eye on the looming mountains in the distance. About an hour outside of Lake Tahoe, the downpour turned to snow and the roads turned into an ice rink for the oversized roller skate I was driving. With the storm came the accidents, and it wasn’t too long before a young girl in the westbound lane collided with the mountainside, littering the contents of her car out across the road. Thirty minutes later, a wobbling tree lost its balance and crashed across the two-lane highway in front of me. For four hours, all I could think about was how much easier life would be if I had just stayed home. Home was comfortable. Home was a place where I felt safe and didn’t have to worry about icy roads, and bad weather and the unknowns and curveballs of traveling.
When I finally arrived at the Basecamp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, an hour behind schedule and shaking like a leaf, I had made up my mind that I would finish out the trip but take a break from the road for awhile once it was over — then I saw it. As if hung just for me, a beautiful watercolor painting by Wendy MacNaughton adorned my hotel room wall, showcasing beautifully worn hiking boots with the caption: All Who Wander Are Not Lost. In that moment, my hands started to relax, and so did my mind, because traveling isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to always go as planned. It’s supposed to challenge you and drag you out of your comfort zone. It’s supposed to generate stories of adventure and perseverance and exploration, and that rustically framed reminder was all I needed in that moment to go on.