The Colgate Scene
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When in doubt...road trip
by Allison Gleason '98
and Bethany Tietz '98
The authors a la Thelma and Louise for Halloween
Anyone who graduates from college and tells you they aren't thrilled, confused
and somewhat scared all at the same time is probably either misled or lying.
More than just an academic experience, college is an entire lifestyle that
one becomes accustomed to for (at least) four long years. A short walk across a
podium and an even smaller piece of paper ends that routine for good,
whether you are ready or not. Graduation casts you out into the real world like
a newborn infant -- kicking, screaming and sometimes wondering why you ever
left such a comfortable place behind. Over every graduate's head looms
that nagging question, "What Am I Doing Next?"
Three years ago, we spent our senior spring worrying about just that. As roommates, sports teammates and fellow geology majors, we spent a significant part of our Colgate tenure together. For us, the path had always seemed so straightforward. We'd go to school, try to earn good grades and graduate on time. After college, we'd become professionals, settle down and be on our way in life. Adhering to this philosophy, we both moved to the Washington, D.C. area and secured jobs in our field. After two and a half years in the workforce, we realized coffee breaks, computers and cubicles weren't what we were looking for just yet. We wondered, "Would life as we know it miss us if we took off for a little while?"
No, we decided, it would not. We needed to break away from the routine and explore our options. Since neither of us had our hearts set on a specific career just yet, we figured, "What the heck, we're too young to begin the Rest of Our Lives without a little adventure." We needed to hit the road.
On Labor Day 2000, we did just that. Armed with a road atlas and a box full of food and clothes, we embarked on what was to become a 100-day journey across the country. We used this trip as a way to see the parts of America we've always wanted to see, rekindle old friendships, and do a little soul searching -- to improve our quality of life, if you will. When it was all through, we'd crossed the country twice from coast to coast. From D.C., we sped through the Midwest to Seattle via Montana and Idaho. From there it was almost a straight shot down the Pacific coast to San Diego. Heading back east, we looped through the windswept canyon country of Arizona and Utah and spent Thanksgiving in frigid Colorado. Traveling across Texas from the panhandle to the Arkansas border, we drove east and south through Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana and didn't stop until the end of the road in Key West, Florida. Our itinerary was loose and we often strayed from it, making friends with strangers and visiting towns that weren't even on the map. We read local papers, kept journals and talked to as many people as we could.
On the road, life was good. We had no one to report to, and no real set schedule. We took our time and were able to enjoy each day to the fullest, completely enriched by the experiences of everyday life. We drove nearly 17,000 miles, covering an amazing diversity of terrain and landscapes. Each passing mile seemed to become more beautiful than the last, from the cityscapes of Chicago and San Francisco to the rainforests of Washington State.
Mt. Rainier reflection, Washington
Traveling spoke volumes about the millions of people who were not caught up in
the world we knew so well. Young people were out there doing things we'd never
even considered. Classmates Brian Sutton and Damon Ferrari renovated, owned and
operated an Irish pub in Sun Valley, Idaho. We met a rare gems jeweler in
Salem, Oregon and the professional cowboy named Patrick who wrangled horses
near the redwood forests of Humboldt County, California. Investment bankers and
computer programmers in San Francisco worked round the clock to get their
reports done by Monday morning. In Boulder, Colorado, a recent Ivy League grad
was busy making a name for himself as a producer in the local music scene.
Researchers took us through experiments-in-progress at the Biosphere2 project
in the desert outside Tucson, AZ. A homeless man on the beach in Key West told
us of his plans to ride his bike through Iraq and Kuwait. And, of course, there
were tourists. We were tourists surrounded by other tourists. We met Germans
while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, took photos with Japanese on tour buses
at the Grand Canyon, ate chowder in sourdough bread bowls with Australian
hitchhikers touring Alcatraz and shared campsites with fellow Americans from
age 16 to 60. Just when we thought we couldn't stomach another bowl of oatmeal
or ramen noodles, we'd meet someone who would fix us a home cooked meal. These
are the things we felt were missing from within our cubicle walls back at the
As time passed, some common questions came up over and over.
What was our favorite place? There were so many to choose from, each special for its own reason. Driving the rugged coastline of Big Sur, tasting moonshine outside of Jasper, Arkansas, catching the sunset in Joshua Tree National Park and devouring monster burritos in Bryan, Texas all come to mind.
What was the funniest thing that happened to us? We saw a naked man run out onto the pitcher's mound in the middle of a Chicago Cubs baseball game.
Did we fight? The answer, proudly, is not once.
Did we ever feel threatened or in danger? Only when confronted by a grizzly bear on the trail in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Were we ever bored? We passed hours in the car rehashing old Colgate memories, creating lists and of everything imaginable and even making an abysmal attempt to learn Spanish on tape. It was time well spent, thinking of the things in life that really count.
What was the longest we went without a shower? Believe us, you don't want to know . . .
Now that it's all said and done, we both believe we are a little clearer on what life is all about. We feel refreshed, ready to take on new challenges and able to look at things a little differently. A co-worker in D.C. left us with these words of advice that we feel ring true for every grad who isn't quite sure where the next turn will take them: "When in doubt, road trip. It clears the mind and liberates the body." In our 100 days on the road, folks young and old across the country reiterated that philosophy. "Experience life sooner rather than later," they told us, "because you never know when the next chance will come along." Our generation is supposed to switch careers an average of seven times before retirement. Whether right after graduation or a couple years down the road, no one will miss a year or two from the career track to seek some kind of personal adventure. We don't regret our time off, and neither will you.
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