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Hello! This is somewhat short notice, and I recognize that I have been absent for months, but I would really appreciate some constructive criticism for this paper. In my English class, we are writing a synthesis essay and one aspect we need to include is a personal narrative. We had to write about a journey we took that inspired some sort of self-knowledge or growth. However, I'm not very good at writing personal narratives and keeping my point concise. I would really appreciate any and all comments, especially because I really want to do good on this paper. Thank you all so much!

Submitted: April 13, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 13, 2017




It was about the fourth time that my grandmother lost her keys in Indiana that I started wondering if I had made a terrible mistake agreeing to this excursion. My furthest distance from home to date with only a carry on sized suitcase and ridiculously high expectations for this trip. When my grandmother suggested to my sister and I, seemingly out of nowhere, a road trip across the entire country we thought for sure she was joking around; poking fun at the lack of adventures my sister and I had yet to have. When we both realized she was serious, I think we held a full minute of silent eye contact before we slowly starting nodding. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into; but there was a part of me that was itching with anticipation because of that.

My grandmother, albeit forgetful, is not one to go into something without a plan; she had spent the previous week with an agent before asking us, planning the most effective routes and tourist stops along the way. She had an immense map of the country already, with different colored markers leading us like a game of connect the dots. A straight ride across the country, from Standish, Maine to Truckee, California including numerous stops along the way: after all was said and done, we visited nearly half the states on the continental US. We would each pack one bag, package them into the trunk of the Camry we would be traveling in, and we’d be gone by July. Things happened and time continued on; it was a particularly busy summer this year, so there was no shortage of entertainment. By the time the Fourth of July had arrived, my family had all but run out of conversation topics that didn’t revolve around our upcoming trip. Our bags were bursting at the seams as we tried for hours to finish cramming in the last few items my sister and I felt were necessary; my outfit for our departure had been carefully picked out weeks ago and every penny I had saved in the last six months had been converted to cash and was sitting in the new leather wallet my mother bought me. I was prepared for nearly anything; I know our route like the back of my hand, my bags were ready and waiting, I had even taken the time to research national brand name hotels to choose the best ones. However, I still felt that I may be making a mistake.

Our first day on the road was a compilation of Beatles music and pine trees. We left around nine in the morning, not surprising as my grandmother could almost be considered nocturnal, and started off on the freeway, surrounded by the last wave of forest we would see for two weeks. Immediately we dealt with truck tires blowing off in front of us and more games of Mad Libs than I had played in months. It wasn’t until we reached our first destination, New York, that I had a realization of what I had signed up for. There was no going back now, no giving up and turning around; so that night I put on some lipstick and the only fancy dress I brought, and we found ourselves a fancy restaurant.

It seemed as if each day following our first, we left it behind with a new story to retell. It was day two we took a wrong turn and wound up in the heart of Cleveland, in possibly the worst bumper to bumper traffic I had ever experienced; the exterior of the sleek, black car was hot enough to cook an egg and the brief reprieves we had in the dark tunnels were the best part of our day. It was on day four when we stopped in a surprise stop, the Omaha Zoo; we explored through butterfly coves, filled with rainbows fluttering across the ceiling; we visited the baby giraffes in their barred off sanctuary, smelling strongly of freshly cut wood shavings and hay; we were swept along with the crowd through the deep blue, mirrored aquarium watching the thousands of multicolored fish dashing around their detailed tanks. On day five we stopped for lunch and wound up leaving through a tornado, driving with rocks pinging off the car as if we were in a pinball machine; the car was left covered in a inch thick layer of dry dust. We dealt with seemingly endless instances of lost keys and maps, multiple wrong turns, and a side of the road break down in a ghost town straight out of a western movie; we had yet to even reach our destination.

We crossed the California line on day eight. Surprisingly, the environment felt like home to me; pine trees were splattered across the mountains like paint and the winding roads felt like a glove. Before the day was up we had accumulated a series of anecdotes for the following days’ bonfire with our distance family; we had yet to even find our quaint rental cabin, hidden away amongst the forgotten ski lodges, awaiting winter. We spent ten days in Truckee, rotating between the various families we had traveled so far to see. The small storybook tales continued to collect during our time away; some strange tourist destinations; several good lunches, and better breakfast; days spent swimming in the blazing sun; nights spent with lemonade playing board games on the scratchy carpet. There were tearful goodbyes and hugs that felt similar to chokeholds, but there was still more in stall for us.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the entirety of our road trip. Our journey home was comprised of dozens of stops and enough ridiculous narratives that allowed me to fill an entire journal. We made stops at the Grand Canyon and Four Corners; Bryce Canyon and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab; Salt Flats in Utah and several more western ghost towns. There are little, indescribable details that I will keep in my mind for decades and I have a journal full of every memory we made, regardless of how miniscule it may be. Those stories were the ultimate highlight of my overall experience traveling such an immense distance.

I left for this trip with high expectations; I had read plenty of young adult novels in my time and recognized if there would ever be a time for an epiphany, I was going to find it on this trip. I was going to find myself during this trip. I was going to come out of my shell and build a new personality, someone who left the comfort of home and sought more exciting things. What none of my young adult novels succeeded in illustrating was how completely ridiculous that entire concept is. What about travel supposedly digs out newfound realizations and changes in a person? I traveled the length of nearly the entire country and yet I ended that trip as the same person I was when I left: nothing changed. I did not excavate some newfound confidence from within myself and, if anything, I just returned with slightly tanner skin. Simply traveling and expecting to come across self-knowledge is unreasonable and extremely unlikely; you cannot expect for a new personality to find you in the dark, dry desert.

After all is said and done, I suppose my experience did lead me on my way to a realization. While simply traveling may not bring about some profound change in your attitudes or beliefs, the small stories and details you save along the way help to form a newfound appreciation for the seemingly unimportant. It had been about two years since I left for the West Coast and, since then, I have been able to look more carefully at the small things I find along the way through my short little trips here and there. I visited Massachusetts for my sister’s volleyball tournament and I revel in the memory of my entire family sitting in silence, reading our own books. I visited my aunt’s pet store in Gorham and I still remember the name of the shelter cat that spent the afternoon bathing in the warm sun splashed across the brick floor. These little details that I pick up whenever I even leave my home are things I had never found appreciation in before my road trip. I had always figured looking at the big picture would move me forward in life; you never see movies or read books where the protagonist goes on an adventure and returns with simple appreciation. The big picture moves time forward, you uncover new aspects of yourself, and the journey itself is a complete story. However, I have found that this could not be farther from the truth; I spent my time yearning for the big picture to devise a new me, someone capable of anything, but it was the small stories I saved in my memories that actually brought out changes in me.

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