I remember turning 15. I remember counting down the days until I was allowed to attend a driver’s education class. And then a couple months after that, earning my driver’s permit. And then, six excruciatingly long months after that, reaching the Holy Grail: my driver’s license. I didn’t even own a car, but there so was so much symbolism, so much freedom, imbued in that little laminated card. It was a rite of passage to adulthood, one that came with the promise of independence, exploration, and excitement.
I don’t know if the thought of getting a driver’s license holds the same wonder to today’s teens as it did to 16-year-old me in 1998. The world is so much smaller now. Friends around town, and even the world, are available immediately, albeit digitally. Information is quicker, more available. Companies are in a race to find ways to give people the experience of exploration from the comfort of their couches. Technology has infinitely expanded our reach, but ultimately diluted the experience that comes along with it. The younger generations have new frontiers to push that I couldn't have imagined when I was their age, but I can’t help but think they’re missing out.
For me, my driver’s license opened up the world. Not just being able to go to my friend Jeff’s house across town, or the pride of driving myself to school and knowing my car was waiting for me in the parking lot, but even more than that. It meant road trips. My friends and I piling into a car, pooling together our loose dollars for gas, eating all the fast food along the way that our ever-hungry teenage stomachs could process, and going to see a brand-new place that we’d only ever heard of. The very idea of it blew my mind.
The road trip was an American tradition. Something our country was built on and built for. It was freedom on four wheels. There is a lot of debate about why the road trip seems to be such a uniquely American institution. Some say it’s because we had the first mass-produced automobile and shortly afterward, one of the first highway systems. Some say it’s because our country is just so vast that there’s more to see than can ever be seen on foot or by air. But I think it’s because the road trip is the most romantic form of escapism we could ever muster. How many movies have you seen that end with the main character grabbing the girl he just won over, hopping in the car, and driving off into the sunset as the credits rolled? That idea, the one about leaving all your problems behind and starting anew, is what’s uniquely American. Even if you ended up in the same driveway you left from, the idea is that somehow, you’ve changed. You’ve grown. You’ve seen places and met people that made you either long to stay or sick for home. And while you may not have outrun your problems after all, this new, post-adventure you is more well-equipped to handle them.
Thanks to the same company that revolutionized the assembly line over 100 years ago, I now write this from the passenger seat of a 2017 Ford Fusion on my very own Great American Road Trip. While those first highway pioneers didn’t have adaptive cruise control or air-conditioned seats, they certainly shared the same sentiments I now write about: the chance to experience this enormous, diverse country of ours in the best way possible. As the 2017 Live Be Yoga Tour nears its end, I’m overwhelmed by the gratitude I have for being able to take on such an adventure. Six months on the road, criss-crossing the United States with the sole purpose of meeting people, seeing new places, and experiencing yoga has been transformative. I can’t wait to see how I’ve changed when I get home. And more that that, I can’t wait to be home. Sometimes, that’s the most important lesson of all.