Driving vs. Flying

This week, I had an amazing opportunity to drive out of town to teach a private hoop dance lesson. A woman contacted me from a town three hours away, asking if she could set up a lesson. We decided to meet in the middle in a town an hour and a half away from both of us.

It consumed my day, driving out to meet her, working with her, and driving back home. I loved every friggen’ minute of it. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to do this, to meet incredible people with incredible stories, to see the joy on their faces when I help them nail something they’ve been struggling with, and that thanks to the Internet, people outside of my hometown find me and ASK for my help. It’s a wonderful feeling!

It might seem odd that I’d be willing to drive an hour and a half out of my way just to give one hoop lesson. But I love driving. In the past two and a half years, I’ve driven to Colorado, to California, to North Carolina, and a number of shorter distances in the name of hoop dance. When I first started planning these trips, I got plenty of odd looks from friends and co-workers. “You’re driving? Why don’t you just fly?”

The truth is, it never even occurs to me to fly when I plan trips. Growing up, my mother did not enjoy flying, so my family opted to drive when we traveled, even on long trips. My dad’s parents lived in Missouri (about a day’s drive), and my mom’s parents lived in Ohio (a two or three day’s drive, depending on how often we stopped). When it came time to pay them visits, they would pull out the back seat of the minivan and lay down foam padding and blankets for me, and later my sister. I’d bring books, games, my portable cd player, and settle into my cozy little nook for the duration of the trip.


My cousin and I, all tucked into the minivan for a trip to grandma’s.

My parents might be able to say for sure, but I don’t ever remember being one of those kids that constantly asks, “Are we there, yet?” I loved the journey. I liked watching the scenery change as we traveled from state to state. I liked watching for the signs that said, “Welcome to Oklahoma!” “Welcome to Tennessee!” “Welcome to Kentucky!” It gave me an awareness of the size of my country.

As I got older, these road trips became special to my mother and I. We’d drive to Ohio every year to visit Cedar Point, and the journey was just as much fun as actually arriving. We had our own special landmarks along the way (like our favorite town, Bucksnort, TN), inside jokes (while driving through Effingham, IL, we’d say, “Dang it, are we having effing HAM for dinner again??”), and travel rituals (everyone gets to listen to their iPod for one hour, then we switch).

For ten years, I didn’t get on an airplane, but did plenty of traveling.

Then, a few years ago, one of my best friends was getting married in South Carolina. I had a day job and limited vacation time. Ah, “vacation time”, a concept I had a difficult time adjusting to. I will never forget how stunned I was when I told this new company that my mom and I were going on our yearly vacation, and they responded, “Oh, that won’t work, somebody else is going on vacation! We won’t be able to approve that!” I couldn’t believe that somebody could actually tell me I couldn’t go out of town with my mother. Madness.

Anyway, I decided to fly to my friend’s wedding rather than drive. It would save time, as all of my coworkers pointed out, so that I didn’t use up all of my vacation time. So I bought my plane ticket and prepared for the trip.

The last time I’d been in an airport was before 9/11. I knew I didn’t want to check any luggage, but I hated having to pick and choose what to pack so it would all fit in my carry on. I disliked having to wake someone else up to drive me to the airport at asscrack AM. I felt herded through the security checks. When I finally got on the plane, I realized I’d either forgotten how small the seats are, or grown quite a bit. (It was probably a combination of both.) Sure, the trip was short, but I was stuck in my seat between a window with one constant view of the sky, and a person I didn’t particularly want to interact with.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I had chosen to rent a car, and I found out that rent-a-car places feel that everyone in the whole world drives automatics these days. I missed my 5-speed with the hand-crank windows and manual locks, panicking the entire time that I might accidentally wreck this weird, unfamiliar car I’d been given and end up having to pay out the ass for it. (I didn’t.)

What I found, at the end of that trip, was that the time saved taking a plane didn’t make up for what I missed from driving. I missed watching the country pass by. I missed being able to stop when I needed to for food, gas and bathroom breaks. I missed the feeling of sailing down a highway in a new state, singing along to my music blaring at top volume. Driving equaled freedom. Driving made me feel connected to the space I was traveling through. Driving made me feel human, alive.

And that’s why I found great joy driving to meet my new student the other day. I drove through towns I’d never seen before, I got to see beautiful buildings and gorgeous scenery, and at the end of my trip, I got to share the joy of hoop dance with a new friend. I am in love with that feeling, and I can’t wait until the next time!

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