Travelling alone is a very unique experience, but a solo road trip that zig-zags across the US is a whole different type of adventure. Solo travel is one of the most personal and important experiences some can have, and the confidence gained from taking care of yourself and catering your trip to you is unmatched. However, traveling alone also means eliminating outside perspectives, or those voices of reason and rest many find to be helpful when driving all day. In an attempt to share the not-so smooth parts of travel, we are back with a travel mishap story from our team. Building community around both our amazing expeditions and our most memorable mishaps is just one way that we can make travel more accessible and make travel communities feel like home. In the spirit of overcoming and connecting with others, this is the story of how team member Matt found himself half asleep in Lincoln National Forest with a pocket knife in hand.
It was nearing the end of Matt’s road trip across America and his next goal was to get from New Orleans to Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico before the end of the night. Tasked with many consecutive days of solo drives, the darkness of the night on the vacant two lane roads didn’t work to settle him. After a full day of driving that ended in hours of darkness, Matt was paradoxically exhausted and fueled by nervous energy. The road felt eerie to him and the temperature drop along the southwestern states didn’t excite him for a night of sleep in his soft top jeep. When Matt made it to Lincoln for the night, it became clear to him that his nerves and the cold weren't going to let him sleep. He toured the campsite in his jeep using his headlights to scope things out before setting up for three hours of partial sleep. He spent the below 20s night clutching a small pocket knife and waiting for sunrise.
The next morning, he quickly toured the forest before eventually embracing the new day of travel. Just eight hours from his cousins in Phoenix, Arizona, Matt was ready for the trip but still shaken up from the previous night. He set out for Phoenix, excited by the warm weather and a bed to sleep in. However, after a few hours of driving, he became deeply unsettled by some of the road signs he saw. Rio Grande 10 Miles. To some, signs for the river wouldn’t be notable, but for Matt, they signified a huge mistake. Growing up on the East Coast, the geography of Southwestern states wasn’t a large area of focus at Matt’s school, and many students were taught that the Rio Grande bordered the US and Mexico only. Long story short, Matt was sure he was headed for the US/Mexico border. Another thing that people don’t tell you before your road trip across America is that there are checkpoints at some state borders. Just as he began to panic, Matt reached what he thought was the US/Mexico border checkpoint. At this point, he was sweating, without a passport, and couldn’t shake the intrusive thought of being sent to a jail. Not sure if he had accidentally crossed the border earlier or if he was simply crossing state lines, Matt’s thoughts started to circle as he prepared an explanation for who he thought was border patrol.
As he approached the checkpoint, he rehearsed his speech once more and took a few shallow breaths in an attempt to calm his nerves. He slowly came to a stop at the checkpoint and rolled down his window, deeply worried about the speech he’d prepared to give. However, after a quick head nod, Matt was waved through with one simple gesture. Ten minutes of preparation, and what felt like a year of worry culminated in a one second interaction. Relieved to have been waived through but confused about his exact location, Matt drove a few miles before pulling over to collect himself. As it turns out, he was still on his way and hadn’t gotten into any of the trouble he’d feared. Matt’s story is defined by the absences of smartphone technology and of shared community information. Traveling alone doesn’t mean traveling without support. We are so passionate about the connectedness of Ravel because we know what travel looks like without the help we need.
Matt remembers his trip, mishaps and all, quite fondly and told his story while laughing reminiscently throughout. However, he’s the first to note that he would have benefited greatly from more guidance. Our stories, both smooth and turbulent, are the heart of our experiences. Above all, our mishaps serve as a reminder of what a travel community can do. Moments like these make us travelers!
A photo from Matt's drive into Lincoln National Forest: