For most of my life I overlooked the simple act of reflection, but lately I’ve had a lot more life in my years to reflect on. That’s a good thing.
Before I left home three years ago to travel full time, I felt suffocated and starved of experience. Which is to say, starved of life. I was entrenched in a routine, a regular paycheck and I was waiting for my “real life” to begin. At a distant point, yet to be determined.
I am proud to say those days are behind me, and my third year of full time travel was the best yet. Here are my 2016 road trip highlights including some interesting statistics, favorite places and hard knocks.
My wife and I began the year in her home town of San Diego. We had just wrapped up another holiday season with her family and our sights were set on the opposite side of the continent. Newfoundland and Labrador! It was a tall order. Mostly because it was the furthest point we could imagine getting to over land. Thinking of all the places we’d experience along the way only fueled our inspiration. It’s always invigorating to arrive somewhere new and take it in for the first time. If I had to condense our 2016 road trip highlights into a shortlist of three, it would go something like this.
It’s almost cheating to name such a large area as a favorite place, but in this case I’m just referring to Southern Arizona and Southern New Mexico. We were able to drive quite a ways south of the I-8. All the way down to the Mexico border. There are some excellent wild camping areas north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We camped on public lands there for several days – free of charge. We drank in the quiet solitude and gaped at the enormous cacti of the Sonoran Desert. From there we cut across to Southern New Mexico. We hiked 75 stories down (and up) inside the Carlsbad Caverns.
Big Bend National Park
This place had been on my bucket list for quite a while. I’m happy to report that it lived up to every ounce of hype. One of the best things about Big Bend National Park is also the worst – it’s extremely remote and it requires serious effort just to get there. Once you arrive, however, there’s no shortage of adventure, dramatic views and dark night skies to behold. Cell phone coverage is scarce which makes it the perfect place to unplug from society and reboot your soul. I'll never forget taking a solo backpacking trip into the Chisos Mountains and watching the sunrise from high up on the South Rim Trail.
Newfoundland and Labrador
I have personally dubbed Newfoundland and Labrador as Canada’s best kept secret. The island of Newfoundland is a giant, granite rock and it’s as close to Europe as you can get on North America. Upon arrival, as seen in my Vlogs: Hanging Around St. John's and As Far North As We Could Go, you’ll be rewarded with a rich cultural heritage, warm and friendly hospitality and stunning coastal Atlantic views. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in late spring, you’ll be rewarded with the sight of icebergs and whales casually drifting by.
I’d be remiss not to mention a few low points because in the words of Yvon Chouinard, “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” Thankfully, my wife and I had no health or safety related issues. Only a few hassles that were expensive and tedious. Such as the time a deer jumped in front of our rig on a rural Quebec highway. The deer died on impact and crushed its way down the side of our Ford F250 causing thousands of dollars of body damage. We were stuck in Montreal for several weeks awaiting repairs to the truck and the arrival of an insurance claim check. Another "character builder" came on the fateful day that I crashed my favorite toy, a DJI Phantom 4 drone, into the Atlantic Ocean. I recorded the experience in one of my travel vlogs. I’m still mourning the loss. Regardless, 2016 rounded out very nicely and it will go into the books as one the best years of my life.