It’s taken me 22 years to reluctantly admit I’m a born and raised homebody. I was always the person that would never pass down a night when my couch invited me to stay home to be swallowed whole by its perfectly worn-in cushions. The less I was visible, the better. The goal was to be camouflaged enough to prevent roommates, unwanted neighbors, and “going-out peer pressurers” from realizing I was even home. I liked that my identity would become one with my burgundy, soft companion.
I know, it sounds like I became a version of the cat lady every middle schooler naively joked about when referencing their teachers that had personalities that screamed forever single.
This comfortable behavior could have led me down some slippery slopes. I swerved the inevitable fate of ending up like the hoarders on TLC I binge watched on Saturday mornings because of one quality I developed - road trip fanatic. In college my blue Honda CRV had some of its longest and most memorable travels. People tell you when you go to college to enjoy living at your university. “You’ll never get that true college experience again.” True. But oh gosh I beg you, take as many road trips that you possibly can. Leave that college town you love so much, pick a place, and just drive.
Let me go back to when it all started for me. Thanksgiving break, 2017. I rolled into my driveway with Phillip Phillips (16 year old Nicole was a huge American Idol fan) and 12 hours later I was driving right back out. I was heading to NYC to spend a good chunk of my one week home. One of my closest girlfriends from high school had an abundance of cousins living there. When one of them decided to try to make a living in NYC they all followed like moths to a flame. They made the Big Apple their cousin playground with each one of them picking a different borough to claim their own so all of their residential bases were covered. We found ourselves claiming Brooklyn as our home for the next several days.
You start figuring out in college that getting a free place to stay is the catalyst to which destination you plug into your GPS.
This is key. When you’re low on cash, finding a free couch to crash is my secret weapon. College is the four years when you don’t have to depend on Airbnb to get you a roof over your head. You have those friends that have been attached to your hip most of your life that branched away and decided to go to different states for undergrad. You’re in this constant state of tug of war, trying to meet up during holiday breaks with the occasional phone calls, but the real Elmers glue that keeps these friendships sticky is visiting them at the university they call their home base. You experience other college cultures while you’re still a student (trust me, it’s different after graduation).
I learned this tip a little too late. Megabus offered an overnight bus ride to New York City from my campus. My redhead, soul sister since 1st grade was living in the Upper West Side. Spring semester senior year was when I caught the bug and found myself in her apartment any free weekend I could finagle on my calendar. I sat on that bus 6 times in the months leading up to graduation with the third member to our Three Musketeers joining me along for the ride. Those weekends were filled full with laughter, crazy adventures, and just good quality time with girl friends I know will be in my life forever (we lasted 16 years already).
I can tell you right now that my most recent trip to Nashville stemmed from one of my best friends just moving there. She barely finished unpacking her boxes before I decided to scour flight websites and book my plane ticket. Was I rushing it? I like to think I was just proactive...But I jumped onto that opportunity because I knew the longer I waited, the faster the excuses would come flooding in, preventing me from ever taking the plunge. You know the feeling when you’re about to jump into water that obviously looks cold and will take your breath away when you hit the surface? This skepticism convinces you that you should just dip your big toe in to get a small taste of how cold it really is. You know it’s probably cold as hell. You’re just prolonging the process, allowing yourself to have a reason to back out. You regret not just doing a cannonball in the first place.
This is how I’ve found spontaneity to work. The less planning or thought I put into my adventure, the more fate played a hand in making the trip work out organically. Sometimes you just have to trust that your car will take you to the place you need to be because it knows you better than you know yourself.