I just finished Franz Wisner’s memoir, “Honeymoon with my Brother,” in which he tells his story of being dumped just before his wedding and taking his brother on the honeymoon instead, which transforms into them quitting their jobs and traveling around the world for two years.
In regards to travel, Wisner writes that one thing you can expect for sure on a trip is “your best experience will be something spontaneous.” The first major instance of spontaneity that happened to me on my van travels so far was Kansas. After having breakfast with friends in Kansas City and exploring the city for a bit, I set off with the goal of driving across the state in one day and reaching Colorado that same night. I saw Kansas as a state I just needed to get past. But Kansas was having none of it. It pulled out all the stops, showing me long and endless views out to a distant horizon over wide swaths of flat land and spinning brilliant thunderstorms with blasts of purple lightning, just to show me it was worthy of my respect and admiration.
It worked. I stopped at a Subway to eat dinner in some rural town that didn’t know what a veggie patty was and caught up on emails and post cards. I left with a renewed determination to reach Colorado that night, but found myself pulled over just a few miles down the road to take pictures of the biggest, brightest rainbow I had ever seen, arcing across the southern sky with occasional flashes of lightning shooting about under its curve. A few minutes passed and the first rainbow was joined by a fainter second.
I pushed on until sunset, at which point I was forced to stop again. I pulled over onto a dirt road, turned up the radio, and climbed out of my van’s window and onto the roof. In the west, the red sun disappeared behind a grain silo, igniting the sky in pinks and oranges, and in the east a lingering thunderstorm still raged, with clouds boiling and intricate webs of lightning darting about. All around me, fields of wheat glowed in the sunset, rustling and dancing in the wind, rippling like a golden ocean.
I wanted to laugh and cry and run as fast as I could all at once. But I stayed atop my van, watching the world move and breathe around me until it was dark. This was the moment I had been waiting for, the one that would hit me like a brick over the head and say, “See? I told you the world was beautiful. You knew it all along, but do you see it now?”
I felt myself falling in love with Kansas and life and the winding, endless road ahead. I watched people drive by on the nearby state road, staring at me from their windows with puzzled expressions. Who is that crazy girl with the New York license plate sitting on top of her van staring at nothing?
I wanted to yell to them, “Wait! Come be crazy with me for a while. It’s wonderful!”
I didn’t make it to Colorado that night. I gave in to Kansas and pulled over, exhausted, at a rest stop outside of Garden City just after midnight.
Another certainty of travel, according to Wisner: “Travel is the only investment with guaranteed returns. Count on it.”