Wanderlust, or why I hit the road

The school year can be a trying time. With classes, studying, responsibilities and late nights, the need to take a few days off can prove to be just as important as remaining vigilant in your academic endeavors.

Not just the school year, but life in general, can be a lot to handle sometimes. We have a tendency to fill our plates with more than our fair share and become complacent. We grow older, fall in love, find jobs, marry and have children; this is expected of the average human being.

But there is a small gap in the middle of those requirements that unfortunately gets overlooked all too often. Just in case you don’t know where that gap is located, I’ll give you a hint: you’re in it right now.

We are in college, young and preparing for the vast responsibilities associated with life. This is our time to expand our horizons, take chances and experience life. While the path leading toward a high-paying job, kids and a loving spouse is to be cherished, that path will always be right where you left it, and there is no need to stray down it before you’re ready.

Take it from a guy who was given a second chance at these golden years of college, falling into the expected routine of life is easier than you think. One day you’re sitting in front of a map with a red pen, plotting the path for your next adventure, the next you’re sitting at home late at night, wondering if you’ll get your full eight hours before work tomorrow.

I’ve always been a believer in the road trip. Whenever life would begin to collapse around me, cutting off my attention span to the world and confining me to my immediate surrounds, I always made a point to get away for a few days, or even a few hours.

A few years back, I purchased a 2012 Harley Davidson Wide Glide, a beautifully slick machine with a 103 ci engine and a flat black finish over the engine and exhaust pipes, accompanied by a light and dark blue paint job covering the tank and both fenders. The motorcycle was my first two-wheel purchase, and it’s safe to say that when I laid my eyes upon it for the first time, I fell in love.

Having bought the Wide Glide in my hometown, Adrian, Missouri, I was faced with the obvious dilemma of transporting the machine to Camp Pendleton, California, where I was stationed as a Marine at the time.

There were several options available to me; ship the bike via a cross-country transportation service, inquire with the nearest Harley Davidson shop about shipping the bike for me or riding it some 1,600 miles myself. Considering the cheapest shipping service would complete the journey for me at $700, I decided to save the money, spend the time and head out myself.

Over the next three days I fought through high and dry winds through southwest America, opting to take the southern route through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as opposed to the middle-American route: Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Nevada. Everyday I would wake early, load my backpack with my essentials, cover my body with my protective equipment and head off into the cool morning air.

Everyday my wrists and rear end hurt like I had never experienced before, but by the time I made it to California, a sense of accomplishment I’d also never experienced before filled my chest like the first deep breath of the fast-flowing air over the highway.

I nearly got ran off the road numerous times, took quick naps in gas stations and got drenched by sudden rain showers, but I wouldn’t take it back for the world.

The memory of that first ride invigorated me in such a manner that I made the trip two more times, opting to take the middle-American route from California to Missouri and back again, trading up for a 2009 Harley Davidson Road King this time.

I’ll never forget several moments from my trip, but the one that stands out the most was my journey through western Colorado. Cruising along I-.70, comfortably nestled within the Rocky Mountains and alongside the Eagle River, I would routinely swerve to my right and left as my eyes wandered up toward the clear blue sky, feeling a gentle breeze against me as I got lost in the moment of the then and now.

Had I died at that moment, I can honestly say I’d have been the happiest and most clear-headed I’ve ever been in my life.

My time on the road served as an important reminder that life isn’t relegated to the 10 feet by 10 feet cell I called my room. It reminded me that no amount of time is guaranteed on this earth, and you must make every attempt to experience as much as you can while you can.

At the end of my life, as I lay upon my deathbed, I can only imagine what will be going through my head. If I had to guess this early — hopefully — in the game, I’d imagine it would go something like this: I’ll imagine all that I’ve done throughout my years, but more importantly, I’ll imagine the things I didn’t do. I’ll imagine the chances I never took; the trip I never made, the concert I didn’t attend, the girl I didn’t ask out and the broken friendship I didn’t mend.

With any luck, the list of things I never found the time to accomplish will be short and negligible; this is my intention. I urge you to take some time off and experience life in a way you haven’t before, because the sad fact is you never know when it will be over.

Matt Eidson is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]