The following is the second article in a recurring series featuring Kevin Lu and Joe D’Amelio’s cross country roadtrip, #RoundaboutUSA. The series will run every Monday and will tell the story of their journey from each explorer’s perspective. Their first article, #RoundAboutUSA: How it Came Together, can be found at http://passionpassport.com/roundaboutusa-how-it-came-together/.
Making the decision to go on a cross-country road trip was easy. It was what I wanted to do, what I was going to do. The preparation – getting myself physically ready to go and saying goodbyes – that was the hard part.
I was both shocked and relieved when I told my boss my plans to quit and venture out on the road. “Good for you Joe,” he said with a smile. “I wish I was you.” That day, I left work happier than ever.
Next, I told my family. My parents, though supportive, expressed concern and it took time to reassure them that this was the right decision and that I would be safe. Then I was faced with the biggest challenge of all: sharing the news with the one person closest to me – the one person I knew I would miss the most – my girlfriend, Tracey. I was anxious about her reaction; I so deeply wanted her support but worried that she, too, would have concerns. I knew that being on the road for two months would be tough; her encouragement was crucial in order for the trip to be a success.
“Was that enough? Realistically, would that get us to the west coast and back, or would we end up stranded somewhere in the middle of America?”
I told Tracey about my plans as we watched the Jersey sunset together. After a long pause, she looked at me and said, “I’m so proud of you, Joe. Go show the world how amazing you are.” Ahhhh. A deep breath, a sigh of relief. I smiled. “Okay, here you go”, I thought to myself. “Everyone is behind you. It’s time to carry this out.”
Though I had three weeks to prepare for the trip, the time flew by without notice. Just days before we were set to leave, I hadn’t yet packed, Kevin and I had hardly planned our route and I was still doubting whether or not I would actually be able to afford the experience. We agreed to a budget of $160 dollars per day for no more than sixty days; that included expenses for gas and car repairs, as well as food and accommodations. Was that enough? Realistically, would that get us to the west coast and back, or would we end up stranded somewhere in the middle of America? Regardless, our minds were set on driving across and around the country. Money or no money, we would make it work.
The night before we left, I finally packed my suitcase. I slept a mere 3 hours before my alarm rang at 5:00am the next morning. It was time to head off. First stop: Rhode Island.
If I could do it all over again, I would only do one thing differently: Now knowing how little sleep we got on the road, I would have forced myself to get a full 8 hours that last night at home. A good night’s rest, rather than a few restless hours, would have made all the difference before leaving on the road trip that would change my life.
As soon as Joe and I agreed that we’d go off on a road trip together, I felt excitement gush through my veins. I couldn’t wait to hit the road. My parents were not as thrilled. “You’re going to leave your job and travel with a stranger from the Internet for two months?” I told them not to worry about work (I had been working as a biomedical engineer on a consulting basis and this made it much easier to get up and leave on such short notice). The road-trip with a stranger from the Internet piece, however; that I didn’t have a clear answer for.
Nevertheless, Joe and I proceeded to brainstorm how exactly to make our road trip happen. We dove right into planning, reviewing different routes around the country, negotiating our respective budgets, and strategizing on how to reach out to other photographers and travelers along the way.
“I started to doubt if the road trip was really a good idea, and in the days before our departure, I went back and forth about the decision. After all, Joe and I hardly knew each other.”
Never having traveled before, the planning process was completely new to me and I found it overwhelming. Joe and I were faced with questions and uncertainties that challenged our initial enthusiasm: What cities would we would stop in? Where would we stay? How long would we stay in each place? We talked at length about these questions, yet couldn’t come to any agreements.
Joe suggested that we just go with the flow and improvise along the way. I thought that sounded risky and rather irresponsible. It was clear that it would be difficult to set a plan and stick to it, but the thought of heading out without any vision at all made me anxious. I started to doubt if the road trip was really a good idea, and in the days before our departure, I went back and forth about the decision. After all, Joe and I hardly knew each other. If we were struggling to make decisions together before we even left, what would happen on the road when compounded with stress or exhaustion?
Finally, as a compromise, we agreed to a list of specific cities we would visit and devised a budget that would allow us to travel around the outer states of the country. Having a basic route was reassuring. Because I had always wanted to visit Maine and the Northeast, we agreed that we’d start by heading in that direction and aim to be in Boston for the 4th of July.
Given that Instagram was the force behind our friendship and, in some ways, the motivation for our journey, Joe and I decided that it was important to document the trip on the app with a personalized hashtag. Looking at the places we hoped to visit on a map, I realized that we’d be traveling in a big circle. It was in that moment that I suggested we dub the experience #RoundaboutUSA.
As the trip drew closer, I felt excited. I couldn’t wait to get started. I have always been determined to do something in life that has a positive impact on the world; to impact the world, though, you have to see it first! This seemed like the ultimate opportunity.