I spent a weekend this October off in western Maine, driving between Oxford and Franklin counties. The last morning of my mini-vacation, near the New Hampshire state border, I woke to a view of the White Mountains in the gray light of dawn. The leaves were at peak, and the view was unreal. I hunched deeper in my puffy jacket to wait out a sudden gust of wind. It was sublime.
Earlier that weekend, on a Friday, I had left home in perfect driving weather. It was bright and sunny in Connecticut. Temperatures hovered around the mid-seventies. I had a light fleece, and that was all I needed. That perfect weather meant no traffic meant nothing slowed me down, and I made it to Maine in under four hours.
Speeding north with the music at full volume felt liberating, but I had no real reason to be driving anywhere. I certainly don’t need extra mileage on my Subaru. Had I stayed, I would’ve gone into work. I was behind on several projects. But I wanted to leave. So I checked in with my friends; I found a couch up north where I could lay my head, and I went.
didn’t matter, I
wanted the journey.”
We typically use wanderlust to define an indescribable need for travel, but the etymology is more subtle. The German wandern has the same early Germanic root as the English wander, but it more commonly means “to hike” or “roam.” There’s no implicit destination, only the joy of getting lost or of exploring.
This matters because I’m filled with wanderlust. I wanted to be in Maine, but the destination didn’t matter. I wanted the journey.
The idea was simple: no need to plan my every minute. All I’d do was visit friends. Maybe get drinks. Maybe go hiking. Plans didn’t matter. I packed a duffel bag with clothes, extra boots, my travel pillow, and a sleeping bag. No laptop. No stress. My phone I brought with me to play music.
Western Maine is the rural hills hidden between White Mountain National Forest and the North Woods. Franklin County, where I lived for several years, has a population of fewer than 30,000. Empty rocky fields, large family farms, and wooded tracts typify the region. It’s as easy to disappear here as it is to find something greater than yourself, and I wouldn’t mind losing myself in those hills.
The foliage that weekend was beautiful, of course, and I didn’t want to leave. The trees mixed red hues and golds. When my GPS accidentally routed me north on my way home, I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t be so hasty.
I pulled over on the side of the road by a lake, popped my trunk, and just sat in the back to watch the fog lift. When my coffee was done, I got up and drove south.
Get Away and Find Yourself
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