The Origin & Big Picture of My Wandering Ways
What follows is a very broad description of the journey to date. Check back and experience my wandering ways in greater detail in other postings. Hitch a ride!
As a child I had a huge appetite and curiosity for travel and experiencing locations and cultures that were quite unlike where I was raised. I’m not certain of the origin, but it sometimes made my family uncomfortable. I read books with characters unlike any I’d seen around me and watched television programs with very different people and lifestyles. There were faces of color, foreign languages and cities, oh so many cities. The women were fashionable and the men handsome. The music was not country but rather Motown, jazz and pop; I was intrigued. I was ready to explore.
I’d daydream of living in these far-off glamorous places and quite literally getting lost. I longed to fit into a world with layers of diversity. I took slow incremental steps. I left the North Dakota farm and inched across the border to Moorhead, Minnesota for the first two years of college. Here I learned I could survive on my own. I shared a freshman dorm room with a girl from upstate New York who was on a track scholarship for throwing shot put and another from Japan. Talk about differences! I certainly got what I asked for.
Then I shuffled off to Ames, Iowa to finish undergraduate school and earn a Masters Degree. Still today I recall driving in my four-door silver Plymouth Fury loaded with all of my possessions for the first time around Minneapolis, Minnesota en route Ames. I’m quite certain I left permanent grip marks on the steering wheel. I can feel the anxiety pounding through my chest and the fear of causing an accident. I was overwhelmed by the largeness of everything: number of vehicles and lanes and signage, and just the city itself. I had never driven on a highway with more than four lanes-two in each direction. I certainly knew my way from the farm to Bismarck or Fargo. But, holy cow, Minneapolis was like crawling into the mouth of a monster and I don’t think I took a breath until I found I-35 south.
I left Ames and headed to Washington, D.C. and re-lived the same fears as I drove through states I’d only read about. Mere mention of The Pennsylvania Turnpike, to this day, conjures up a sense of claustrophobia while driving in pouring rain feeling like I was on a NASCAR track, only this one has metal barriers on both sides of the narrow road. Big rigs expected me to keep on truckin’ when I felt like pulling off and crying. I’ve never gotten back on that turnpike. I’ll take the long way anywhere to avoid this turnpike.
In Washington, D.C. I learned the public bus system cost more than the quarter I’d see characters on TV deposit in silver boxes as they gallantly stepped aboard. [Thank goodness for a patient and understanding driver.] Once I got off the bus, I rode my first subway to Capitol Hill. I started work in the senator’s office the day after Memorial Day and it took me the entire day before to get to and from my office using public transportation. In fact, I rarely drove my car when living there as I became so efficient using the buses and subway. Okay, let’s be honest. The volume and speed of traffic intimidated me and parking was limited and pricey. But I did enjoy letting someone else drive and meeting ‘new’ people along the way.
By the time I got to Atlanta, Georgia I felt more confident blending into a major metropolitan area both from a living and a commuting standpoint. I had two different jobs there both requiring me to travel four to five days a week. I was single and literally in Heaven. I covered nearly every square mile of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. One day I was on Miami Beach in Florida and the next in the backwoods of northern Alabama. Every day provided a new landscape. Driving in a rental car from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida in the days where one still used gut instinct and paper maps for my first post-college business trip was a freeing moment. The sun was setting as I cruised east on Interstate 10 with a large body of water on either side of me. Decades later that sense of independence and adventure is imprinted on my spirit and emboldens me when I feel fear or lack of confidence creeping in. It never occurred to me that a North Dakota farm girl couldn’t be here experiencing this sensation but it was a remarkable entry into my career. I smile recalling the pure joy I felt.
The pace of everything in Charleston, South Carolina was slower than I’d lived in years and it was just what I needed. By now I understood Southern culture, though one is never truly considered southern unless she is born and raised there. Here too I traveled considerably, so much so that I had an apartment in Florida and one in Washington, D.C as well as a house in Charleston. If someone asked me to go, I did. I served on national non-profit boards of directors as well as did my job. I met interesting people and was blessed to see most of the USA. Traveling then was sure a lot less difficult than it is now, though I really could have used a suitcase with wheels and a more relaxed dress code at that time. I traipsed around a lot of airports in suits and heels lugging a briefcase and hard sided suitcase, learning later how awful this was for my body, especially my spine.
I married, had a son and started, grew and sold several businesses in Charleston, South Carolina before our family decided to move back to the Midwest and settle in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The culture and mannerisms of the people were so familiar and comfortable and it was a great community for Alex to attend high school. Did I use the verb, settle? That’s laughable.
What I’ve learned over time is that my childhood curiosity remains as does my adaptability and ease of fitting into a new environment. What is becoming more challenging is the physical move. I long for the days of where all my possessions fit in a four-door Plymouth Fury and times were simpler, yet equally exciting.
I’m a wanderer. I believe in adventure. I live simply. I experience deeply.
Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.