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Thank You, America

The #GinsAcrossAmerica tour stats: 30 days, 9,179 miles, 26 states, 483 gallons of gas, 112 cups of coffee, and the renewed spirit of a 45-year-old man.

When I set out on this adventure, I believed it to be the first chapter in the next phase of my life. A man can't outrun what's in his head, but distance and a constant change of scenery can provide a measure of clarity impossible to find at home. Travel changes your perspective; a deep solo dive into the vast heart of America forces you to confront your fears and be brutally honest with yourself. The miles get lonely, leading the mind to wander as desert landscapes and heavy low clouds frame the desolation you feel, alone and unsure of what this is all leading to, questioning everything.

What I discovered is that this trip wasn't the beginning of the next chapter; it was the end of the last chapter. Death, loss, heartbreak...the road is a truth-teller, a vehicle of liberation that allows you to let go of the weight of the past, to forgive, and to forgive yourself. Somewhere in the Utah desert, after days of an aching loneliness, frustrated from the pointless exercise of trying to force logic to resolve emotion, I found myself feeling free again, light and buoyant. Traveling solo (Pearl was a fabulous companion, but not much of a conversationalist) will teach you a level of mindfulness and presence you won't find in a book or a seminar. The road forces you to be in the moment at every moment, to concentrate on the drive, on your surroundings, on the next stop. Finding a safe place to sleep at night, making sure your basic needs are met, monitoring fuel levels and road conditions, paying attention to the GPS. This hyper-awareness is intoxicating; it made me feel alive again. Engaged with the world on a visceral level, far from the comfort zone of home and routine and the trap they set, the false promise from the safety of the familiar, brought out an edge I thought I'd lost. It turns out, it had just been buried somewhere, resting. It was never gone.

Epiphanies don't always come easily. Sometimes it requires a painful honesty with yourself, a direct confrontation with the fears (almost every negative emotion ultimately stems from fear) that takes all of their power away and makes you stronger. This is what I experienced as we crossed over the Continental Divide, the long road between Wyoming and Utah, 7500 feet above sea level and the sky so close it feels like a blanket. Driving through the American West, writ large in the red rocks and sandstone of the mountain landscapes, in the desert scrub, in the grazing cattle and horses across hundreds of rolling miles, tears streaming down my face as I felt the weight of these exhumed ghosts fall away. In a moment, realizing that I'm enough, I'm good enough, I've done this, and it was over. I felt like myself again, my best self, my strongest self.

America is a beautiful country. Forget the artificial divides created by media and ideological insanity. America is filled with good people doing their best to carve out a decent life for themselves, for their families. Drive into the heart of it. Get away from the elitism and snobbery of the urban coasts. Drive across the badlands of Wyoming and the deserts of Nevada. Drive up the mountains of northern California and through the Texas hill country. Explore the Deep South and see how the people are living, up close. Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Shenandoah Mountains and catch your breath as the sheer beauty overwhelms you. Explore America, and explore yourself.

This trip is over, but my journey is far from complete. I'm forever grateful for the freedom to live as I choose, and for the opportunity to set out on such an adventure.

I have thousands of miles yet to go.

Thank you, America.

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