Monday, June 22, 2015

When the Rubber Hits the Road

I sit here silent, pondering, wine in hand, music coming from my never to far away bluetooth speaker and for the first time in months i am letting all of the emotions process….the good and the bad. i’m mostly contemplating how to chronologically compile the past 6 months of my life for you all, quite possibly the most epic months of my 25 years on this planet. so bear with me if i venture off course, but that is all apart of the journey, not the destination.

I not so recently relocated to America semi against my will. I had a more than horrible relationship that ended and I took shelter and comfort in the home of my family whom I had never appreciated more.  Their support and open door policy was the first of many generous and beautiful human interactions that I would encounter over the next 6 months.  My gorgeous childhood friends opened their lives to me again and our fire still burned as bright as the day they first entered my life. And so the healing process began. For when the rubber hits the road, as my lovely father likes to say, I came home. After years of proving something to no one other than myself, I had gotten so lost down in the rabbit hole that I couldn’t even see the forest for the trees.  

The one painful memory during this process of relocating that really stands out, was receiving what was left of my worldly possessions in Australia. The boxes arrived, dumped in my parent’s driveway, ripped apart and tattered somewhat like my spirit those days. As if having my things burnt and thrown on the street wasn’t enough…. (SIGH)  However, what really, really got me, I mean the only time I sobbed in this whole experience was opening the boxes and breathing in the distinct smell of what I had called home for so long. The aroma filled my nose and the memory part of my brain engaged and lit up with the faces of the dearly beloved people I would not see for a long time to come. I sat on my bedroom floor and I placed each clothing item under my nose. I inhaled like a stalker in some hot girls underwear drawer and I sobbed till my eyes were swollen. There is nothing more powerful than smell or music to provoke a memory or in my case a very confronting reality. So I sniffed things, read things, and held things. I let myself have those hours of emotion and then…. I washed EVERYTHING. I soaked that shit in my mum’s fancy detergents and fabric softeners and I washed every scent of that memory down the drain. It felt good. Then I sorted it all into a bedroom that my parents helped me establish. Again thank you parents. I made the room my own. Finally, I exerted every ounce of my being into planning my solo trip around the United States of America. I started campfires by myself, I pitched tents alone, I hiked mountains solo, and I slept at complete strangers’ homes. And I lived to tell the tale. Now you are probably expecting me to say, “ I am woman, hear me roar”. So, for the satisfaction of the trained narrative prediction I will say it, “I am woman, hear me roar”! 

Now, I have done a hell of a lot of travel but I have never had an adventure that meant so much to my overall identity and perception of the world. I covered national parks, cities, towns, wildlife, bars, campsites, BUT the thing that made the trip really stand out were the PEOPLE. The oh so beautiful, wonderful, unique, giving, creative, hopeful, generous beyond words PEOPLE. You want to hear about my wild stories?  Sure, there are plenty of those. I’m sure you also want to hear about my romances, there were a few of those too. However, the thing I want to really talk to you about are the people that made me whole again. Here is my story, woven from the uniquities within each lovely couchsurfer of the USA. Enjoy.

My first experience with couchsurfing was a zestful couple whom had just moved to Atlanta for work. The girl opened her home and personal life to me. She confided in me about her sick and dying father, whom I have continued to think about for the remainder of this trip. Her strength and resolution in life was amazing. She also introduced me to a great band from Seattle that accompanied my loud belting of tunes for many a mile on this road trip. She was truly a free spirit and a beautiful one at that, you know when you encounter one.

I caught up with an old lover who I had long thought the world of but, the funny thing is time changes people and perception. The person I once thought of as a saint had now become a huge religious hypocrite. It’s funny because him as a devout Christian hooked up with me whilst having a girlfriend. The hypocrisy is insane. One word. BYE.

I had the best meal of my life in Lafayette, Louisiana and the most eager couch surfing couple welcome me into their home. He was a professional diver and his girlfriend a passionate and driven artist. Their talent felt hidden in the pockets of this southern Cajun town. They were recommended to me by two other couchsurfers whom I met in New Orleans; what a small and wonderful world.

I stayed with a gifted musical family in San Antonio, Texas. They had talent and generosity busting from the walls of their home. They also were my first introduction to the large soul that Texas exudes. Sitting in their kitchen in the wee hours of the morning watching the mother sing, her son and her friend play “Take it Easy” by The Eagles, I thought how lucky am I ? How incredible is this?  I felt so appreciative and SO HAPPY to be surrounded by such beautiful human beings and I felt excited/optimistic for what was to come. I think that was truly the first time I felt excited for my future in America.

I crashed with the zaniest and bighearted couple in Austin, TX. They had the cutest dogs and the quaintest home to date. The life they had built for themselves was something to be proud of. They pulled together their mates for a night on the town and made certain they showed me the best that Austin had to offer. They made a damn convincing argument at that!

I stayed in an epic mansion in Santa Fe, NM where the artist hosted me last minute and I had a private bathroom and swimming pool to myself. Not to mention the most incredible dog to human relationship I have ever witnessed. Accompanying his dog was also his incredible artistic talent. The generosity in this home and the creativity made me feel inspired to begin my own creative outlets again. My host took me on sunrise and sunset hikes all so that I could get great photography.

I stayed in an RV with no electric hookups and no toilet for 3 nights in Taos, NM. Here I helped a local artist and his family with his organic farm. Although, I learned what it meant to burn your own shit! Literally… the views from this place and the solitude that it provided were enough for me to leave a small part of my heart in New Mexico.


I couchsurfed with a Mormon family in Utah where I got all the inside gossip on the religion versus the fundamentalists. I have to say I quite possibly learned the most here. I being an atheist, saw the insides of a new religion that I previously had not understood. The generosity and open mindedness that I experienced allowed glass walls to shatter for me and also for me to help shatter those glass walls for them.

I hiked to the top of Angel’s landing in Zion National Park and I sat there and I thought, “fuck me” I have gone from 0 – 100 in no time. I looked at a surrounding vista that appeared almost prehistoric…. I expected a T-rex to pop out all the while. I had this incredible soul that I had met in Australia sitting by my side. She joined me for 10 days of the journey. She has magnificient photography skills see this photo below.

I had my car broken into in San Francisco and I found almost everything that was stolen from me in a bush repacked neatly! Ridiculously good energy or luck whichever you call it.

I picked up 3 hitchhiking boys and I camped with them overnight on HWY 1 in California. My father’s voice still ringing in my ears about the danger yet, here I sit writing about the experience. They were wonderful- albeit a bit lost and possibly not that original in terms of trying a little hard to recreate a Jack Kerouac lifestyle. Yet, they were good. Yes, they slept in parks, they ate all my food, they smelt like shit, but they were genuine humans and they were in search of an adventure just like me.

I stayed with the most liberal family in Seattle, Washington. They restored my faith in how Americans raise children. They both met in the Peace Corp serving in Africa and their laid back, intelligent demeanors were company suited for the queen.

I ventured into Montana where I identified with the state more than anywhere else I had visited. The wide and open skies, the beautiful scenery, and the lovely people… I was sold!  I stayed with a unique couple in Whitefish where I explored the corners of Glacier National Park. I also met up with a hiking guide for the park who reached out to me because she saw my favourite book was ‘Shantaram’ on couchsurfers. She turned out to be the most sincere individual I encountered on the trip. Wholesome, happy, well- travelled, and intelligent. She had great energy and a lot to teach/give.

As I left Whitefish headed to the small town of Livingston I remember being overcome with ecstasy (the emotion, not the drug ;) ) I passed Flathead Lake and I felt for the first time that I knew who I was and what I wanted. I could visualize my future and a damn happy one at that in my home country of the US of A.  Once I got to Livingston, I stayed with a pilot whom I had so much in common with in terms of intellect and maturity. His views on life and his background married with that of mine and made me realize yet again that there are plenty of people like me in America. He also served as a great companion exploring the nearby national park and the alcohol selection in town.

I explored South Dakota solo diving into the Badlands National Park and seeing the over commercialized Mt. Rushmore in action.  I even had a random gentleman pay for my dinner and leave his number with the waitress. Humans are good. No I never called him.

I saw the drinking and cheese culture of Wisconsin with a giving and friendly Brazilian expat. He cooked me a traditional Portuguese dinner on my first night of arrival. He left his iPad for me to use knowing that mine had been stolen and he made sure I felt comfortable to treat the refrigerator and the kitchen as though it were my own.

I stayed with the most charitable host in Pittsburgh. She took me on a bike tour of the city and she let me use her computer for my interview. She knew nothing about me yet she gave me her computer password and tablet to use. Not to mention we shared a cheese platter so we were pretty much best friends by the time I left.

I joined in on my host’s kickball game in Philly and I sang karaoke with complete strangers. I also smashed my face into the biggest Philly Cheesesteak I could find. Happiness can be found in food.

In Vermont, I saw a friend I met in Spain almost 8 years ago and she opened her home to me for 5 days. We spent time on a local farm where I fed baby sheep and I hiked mountains. I bought the best thing of the whole trip, a big thick wooly sheepskin, and it will be my housewarming gift to myself wherever I move. But to see how well she was doing for herself, so secure, so confident in her life choices, I felt proud to know her.

So I say to you: humans are the most incredible energy you can harness. I gather all of my inspiration, motivation, and hope from other human beings. Taking yourself away from your comfort zone and being met with an individual that makes you feel comfortable is what couch surfing is all about. I’ve heard a lot of negativity about where the platform is headed in terms of growth and losing the original philosophy however, I can honestly say that the people I met, laughed with, hiked with, danced with, and more were some of the most incredible human beings I have met to date.

It is with no hesitation that I profusely thank each and every one of you for the fundamental role that you played in helping me identify with America and in helping me heal. You all in your own way made me feel inspired to create again. You made me feel zany and free spirited and those are both key indicators of my personality that I had lost. You also made me feel an intense passion for the future I was yet to see as I now have friends all over the United States.

So to each and every individual even if you were not mentioned above know that you are so influential in my life and I will NEVER forget you.

All my love, as always,

LeighAnna Webb

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