Route 66 was one of the original U.S. highways, originally running from Chicago to Los Angeles. Driving Route 66 embodies the spirit of Americana. It’s a trip back in time, combined with plenty of rural kitsch. People plan entire road trip vacations along Route 66. It seems to carry with it a certain romantic nostalgia. Me? Well, up until my road trip I had no interest in travelling what is often referred to as the “Main Street of America.” Yet somehow the Mother Road got under my skin, and some of my most important lessons of the road were discovered on Route 66.
NO REGRETS. I didn’t seek out Route 66, rather, it found me. In Chicago I invited a small group of old law school chums to catch up while eating Dell Rhea’s chicken in my crappy hotel room. Little did I know, but Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1992. And seriously, it was probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It was only after devouring this mouth-watering chicken and visiting with my friends, that I realized that there are no wrong choices in life. Every decision I’ve made in life was made for a reason, and it is often only years later that I can reflect on a seemingly “wrong” decision and realize that it made perfect sense in the grand scope of life.
DON’T FORGET TO PLAY. Up until Missouri, my road trip lessons were heavy. I was often wracked with emotion, and I intentionally let myself feel my pain. I wrapped myself up in my pain and tried to own it the only way I knew how: by submerging myself in it and then going to battle with it. I did this intentionally, because I wanted to do the work. I wanted to grow. I didn’t want to put a band-aid on the unhappiness and regret I had in my life, rather I wanted to deal with the problems once and for all. It was the only way I could see to finally create the change I so desperately sought. However life is about balance. You can’t have one extreme without the other. This is why my whimsical Route 66 drive through Missouri was so important. You need to have fun in life to balance out the difficult part of life. And so Missouri taught me the importance of keeping my eyes and heart open, of being in the moment, and of seeking out the playfulness that each day has to offer.
FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND TAKE LEAPS OF FAITH. In the last days of my road trip I found myself outside the Grand Canyon in the quaint Route 66 town of Williams, Arizona. It was here that I struggled with making one of the biggest decisions of my life. I had decided to move to Houston to explore a relationship with someone I had met on the road. Making such a drastic, rash, seemingly irresponsible decision to explore a relationship that was so new was wildly out of character for me. Yet my intuition was telling me to do it. For the first time in my life I made a decision for myself, and silenced my worry that I would be judged. After the move I fairly quickly realized that this relationship was not going to be healthy for me. Yet now (going back to my Chicago lesson of No Regrets), I realize that I made that decision for a reason. It led me to Austin, a place that has screamed HOME to me since my very first visit.
I recently stumbled upon the book Route 66: Lost & Found by Russell Olsen. Complete with maps, profiles and beautiful photography, it’s a remarkable guide to traveling Route 66. It’s also proven a remarkable guide for me to reflect on some of my more valuable lessons of the road.
Read me on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-buckley/