The tall, cathedral-like arches of the Golden Gate Bridge loomed ahead as I followed the line of cars in front of me. The day was overcast and traffic was shrouded in fog, draped in the mist blowing in from the bay.
I was a rolling island. All around me a sea of people were buckled into cars and walking on the sidewalks at the sides of the bridge, but alone in the car, behind the wheel, I was singularly solitary. And that was fine by me.
There is something about traveling alone that centers the psyche and opens the imagination. It is a rare pleasure.
There are no distractions; no music, no television, no idle chatter. There is no worry about housework or making dinner or folding laundry. It is a chance to leave behind the matters that worry and distract us.
For those of us who have spent years, happy years, at the beck and call of a busy family, the idea that we are free to board a plane or a train, that we can slip behind the wheel of a car and simply move away from it all, is exhilarating. The freedom goes to your head when you least expect it. It’s not that we want to run away forever. It’s just that time away can be good medicine. The luxury of listening to our own minds refreshes and renews us.
I love my family. I love my home. I like being with the people who mean the most to me. But now and then, when I can arrange it, I take off on my own. No spas. No workshops. No schedule. Just a dot on the map; a plane, train or automobile, and a place to breathe in the peace and quiet.
On the surface, age has its cruelties. Gravity takes a toll. The years are etched into our faces. We become invisible, overshadowed by the young and beautiful. We learn to find our way without any of the tricks and trappings we relied on when we were just starting out.
But, as one eventually discovers, time bring its own grace. We discover that on the inside we are always young. We are still who we always have been. And the fine sense of adventure that comes with any journey is evergreen.
Travel is the bridge between who we are, who we have been, and the person we want to be. A trip to a new place spans the the years, drawing out memories of where we’ve been and dreams of where we long to go. Each experience is, when you think about it, sweetened by the knowledge that time moves quickly and years have the stronger wings. Fly now, something inside us whispers.
Passing over the San Francisco Bay and back onto solid ground, I looked back at the Golden Gate in my rearview mirror, at the perfect metaphor for what I was experiencing.
I know a time will come when I’m bound to my home, or some place meant to be my home, and my wings will be clipped forever.
Until then, for as long as possible, my life will be a road from here to there.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org