“Use your time and use it well… it doesn’t last forever.” Declaration, High Flight Society
In 2009, Dan and I came to the end of one season of our life and found ourselves setting out on a new, unknown one. We had parted ways with the people we had been doing life with and working with for the past couple of years.
The future was very uncertain. In a way, it was exciting. And in a way, it was scary.
We had finally sold the home we had lived in for the past two and a half years; a place we had come to loathe for various personal reasons. And we had finally found ourselves completely free.
Free of a mortgage payment, yes. Free of expectation from others; free of obligation.
For the first time in our adult lives, we had no place to live and nowhere we had to be for awhile.
So we did what any other self respecting adults would do. We took a road trip.
We sold almost all of the “stuff” that had taken up the 3 bedroom/3 bathroom/full basement house we had resided in, and we put the rest in a 12×12 room that a friend of ours let us borrow and use. We left around the middle of November, and we headed west. Our first stop was to see some friends in Nashville. And from there, we stopped in Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and drove into California. We pulled in to San Clemente in time to witness the sun setting over the ocean and grilled steak with new friends. We spent a few days fighting traffic and smog in L.A. and had an amazing Thanksgiving feast with a high school friend and fellow photographer in San Francisco.
Then, one of our favorite stops came in northern California: in the city of Eureka. We played cards and had dessert with a sweet couple that we met through Couch Surfing. It was just past the holiday at that point, and their kids hadn’t come home that year. The following day, they gave us an amazing tour of the city that they love so much. Local grocery stores, redwood trees, lakes, oceans. A beautiful, beautiful place.
From there, we headed further north into Portland. One of the things I vividly remember is driving on a winding road with redwoods on our right and waves crashing violently against ocean cliffs on our left. Everyone should experience that landscape – it was truly amazing. In Portland, we connected with some sweet friends from Georgia, who made wonderful tour guides and took us to rooftop sushi with a killer view and the next day, a unique book shop and the Ace hotel. I loved that city.
A little further north was Seattle, and it was here that I began growing weary of travel for the first time. I suppose I was curious what would happen once we finished and what was coming next. I hadn’t learned yet that each day is a gift and that I needed to cherish each one as it came.
When we left Seattle, we headed east along the top part of the country. We were in Missoula, Montana the night my niece Carly was born. I received a text with the first photo I ever saw of her around 3am that morning. North Dakota, Minneapolis, Chicago, and then, Indiana. There we got to spend some time with Chad and Monica, our mentors during our college and dating years. We had just left their house headed for Hershey, Pennsylvania when we got the call.
Dan’s grandfather’s name was A.J. Ogden. He was a longtime baptist minister in the New Orleans/rural Mississippi area. Papaw spent many days of his life in a hospital bed. He missed his daughter’s wedding and other major events. He had multiple heart surgeries over the years. So when we got the call that he wasn’t doing well, we weren’t sure at first what to do. It wasn’t the first call like this we had received. But something about this call was different. So, we headed south to Liberty, Mississippi.
We spent the next several days watching Papaw chase angels with his hands and beg to go home. He was so tired and so ready for some rest. I’m incredibly grateful that we were able to be there when he took his last breath. After the funeral and other arrangements took place, it was time to go home to Tennessee for Christmas. After the New Year, we came back to Georgia and settled back into our fast paced lives. The road trip had ended abruptly, and though we didn’t mind, we vowed to each other that we would finish it one day.
In the three years since then, we’ve planned the trip to the north east a couple of different times. Each time, life has intervened; opportunities have arisen; things have come up. We’ve been busy.
At the end of last year, Dan and I decided we would never again put off a trip because we were too busy. We only get one life, after all, and what do we have if we don’t have the freedom to live a life full of adventure?!
This past May, we lost a close friend very unexpectedly. We woke up one day and he was gone. I imagine when he went to bed the night before he had no idea it would be his last day on earth. While we celebrate his life and how happy we are for him to have gone on to a better place, we also remember that our own days here are limited. We weren’t put here to survive, we were put here to live.
And so today, we leave to finish our trip. First stop, Baltimore. We would love for you to follow our journey. I will do my best to update the blog periodically, but the one place I know we’ll be is Instagram. So follow us both there – @thekatiesnyder & @danimalsnyder.
And, whatever it is that you’ve been putting off – please don’t wait. Life a life full of adventure. Be free. Enjoy your life.
A video from 2009: