The Catalyst Trip {Part One}

How It Started

My family’s vacations were always unique. Dad was a missionary, so his work carried him around the States as he visited innumerable churches. Although he occasionally traveled alone, the family usually piled into our not-so-trusty Ford Escape with the pop-up tent trailer in tow.

We navigated the arid Southwest, the forested Northwest, and the humid South by hopping from one campground to another. From the Washington coastline to Georgia’s peaches, my sisters and I experienced the unforgettable.

Travel is woven into the core of my existence, but there is a particular trip that sparked a fire. This trip helped define my character and inspire dreams that are close to my heart. At fifteen-years-old, I found who I was meant to be by losing myself in the unknown. Standing in an airport terminal waving goodbye to my family, I embarked on my first solo expedition. And in that moment, I realized that exploring the world was my calling.

Granted, my solo expedition only lasted the length of my flight to El Paso, an hour layover, and my second flight to Phoenix, Arizona where my grandparents collected me and my suitcase. But what followed was worth giving up my momentary adolescent independence…

…A road trip of a lifetime, a catalyst adventure…

Thirty-two days of living out of a suitcase. Thirty-two days traveling over three-thousand miles. Thirty-two days capturing California’s Redwoods, Oregon’s lighthouses, Washington’s Bohemian Markets, Alaska’s hidden passages, Canada’s Yukon Territory, Montana’s grand Mountains, Wyoming’s Yellowstone, and Colorado’s Ridges. Thirty-two days of waking up to a different horizon every morning. Thirty-two days of breathtaking wonder and spine-tingling excitement.

I want to share a glimpse of those thirty-two days with you.

An Expanse Of Ocean Sky 

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The great Pacific was no stranger to me, but the salt air and curling fog must have addled my brains. Either that or I was on a traveler’s high. Whichever it was, the world became completely novel to me. An ocean I’d known on countless occasions became my newest lover.

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One of my favorite stops was Cannon Beach, Oregon. A dream of mine is to live along this coastline. There’s just something about the rock fortresses that makes my heart skip a beat. The rain and Pacific wind might gray the windows, but they allowed me to envision things in a clearer light.

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Despite the freezing weather (really it was thirty-two degrees), I ventured into the crashing ocean waves anytime I had the chance. My grandparents weren’t thrilled, but I was exhilarated as I stared across the endless expanse of liquid glass.

A City Of Tastes Sounds 

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Seattle was another returning lover. My first trip to the city was a hazy scene in the back of my mind. The ocean fog and city smog had obscured much of that early childhood memory. I barely remembered my escapade of trying to convince Mom to let me keep Lizzy, my “pet” crab I’d found on the beach.

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A feeling of contentment washed over me as my gaze fell on the towered skyline for a second time. There was a familiarity in the faceless crowds that meandering through the open markets. Pike’s Place Market was the most fascinating, and my cousin and I expertly scaled the steep streets that led into the labyrinth of vendors. We nibbled on garden-fresh produce, while the smell of the day’s catch assaulted our nose. Arts and crafts added color to the concrete walls much like leftover gum created a masterpiece out of an alley wall. What made Pike’s special, though, was the melodies of street musicians that matched the beating of my heart.

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Music wasn’t the only thing that spoke to my heart. There was coffee galore. When people say Seattle is the coffee capital of America, they’re not joking. There’s a Starbucks on nearly every street corner, and the more bohemian cafés are dispersed between. Back then I didn’t exactly appreciate the art of coffee, so it’s a reason for me to return. I need to do the coffee justice next time around.

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On the other hand, I’d prefer to leave my memory from atop the Space Needle as it is. Heights are one of my heck-no-techno situations. Yet, I somehow found myself standing on the rotating deck as Seattle’s sky shared in my sorrow and wept. Yes, it really was that dramatic. Rain, thunder, and lightning included.

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Despite my dislike for Seattle’s universal icon, I shall return, because this is a view that I long to have again. Despite my heritage as a small town, country girl, there’s something about a city street and a studio apartment that makes me really feel alive. The pace and culture of a large city is inspiring, and this city’s unique social beat has remained a huge inspiration for my writing, Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself living in Seattle one day….

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