Westbound Pt. I
I woke up with a sinking feeling, remembering the anxiety of the day before that was mercifully, albeit momentarily, reprieved by my slumber. I lay there, sleep-and-panic paralyzed in my borrowed bed in Paul’s family home in Wyoming, where I'd been staying the last few days. I looked out at the Tetons outside my window, wild and windy cutouts pasted in front of a brilliant blue sky, majestic mountains proud and established and completely indifferent to my fragile mental state. I don’t know where I’m sleeping tomorrow. I’m running out of money. That’s OK. Take a deep breath. Something will work out. One step at a time. To stave off the panic, I texted a friend that I’ve been keeping posted on my journey’s progress. “Praying for a place for you to burrow, a reprieve from not having a home” she wrote back. I’m thankful for friends who can believe in you, believe for you. How did I end up here? I wondered for the umpteenth time since this trip began. What am I going to do now?
Let me rewind. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the pilgrims in Provincetown, and was working at a photography workshop at the Fine Art Work Center on the tip of Cape Cod, at the end of the world and surrounded by the Atlantic on all sides. I bought a one-way ticket; it was cheaper, and I was toying with the idea of making a conscious decision to stay, find a studio, a restaurant job and doing the whole starving artist thing. Provincetown was, after all, the country’s first art colony, a haven for outsiders, and the place of new beginnings for this nation’s first settlers. Where else could serve as a better start?
Upon arriving I realized that my plan may need some adjustment. The season was ending, and businesses were cutting their workers loose. Real estate was at a premium, bought up by vacationers with high paying jobs and hedge funds. It seemed like there would be no room for a homeless, jobless, naively aspiring artist like myself.
While staying on a little couch in an already overcrowded apartment my friends were subleasing, I considered my options.
- An internship in DC that paid far below a living wage.
- Staying in Ptown and fighting an uphill battle
- Going home to NC and figuring it out from there
I purposely chose to not secure myself into a job this first fall as a postgrad to leave myself open to life and where it wanted to take me. I knew from my previous travels that there were always more opportunities out there than what existed in my understanding, and without the schedule and structure of school, I saw this as my opportunity to really test that theory. A restless spirit, I craved the open road and unexplored territory (insert obligatory allusion to Kerouac here), chance encounters with strangers, and the freedom to say “yes” to accidents and spur of the moment invitations. So when a friend emailed me about a house sitting job in Seattle, my problem solving, Macgyver-ing brain went into overdrive.
How would I get out there? I couldn't afford plane ticket home, let alone a cross country flight. I remembered a friend I met at a job training in June who mentioned a possible road trip out west this fall. He had just graduated from college, and like me, had no plans after the summer abroad trips we were leading. I reached out in a Facebook message, explaining my situation, not sure how he would respond.
“Hey Kristi, driving out there soon, would love the company if you want to join! You can probably crash in Jackson for a bit if you want! What brings you out west? Everything ok?"
After a few more exchanges, I considered the possibilities, the risks. I didn’t know Paul very well, but he seemed like a decent guy. I had no idea where Jackson was. I had no job anyway. But I had nothing holding me back either.
I was going to be poor whether I stayed on the Cape, went home, or moved to DC. Might as well have an adventure if I’m going to have to be scrounging around anyway. To tell a good story, you’ve got to live a good story, I reminded myself. I could see the door opening, feel the story’s exposition forming around the framework of my ad hoc plan. I graciously turned down the internship, Googled “Jackson Hole,” (a mountain town in Wyoming, I learned. Sweet.), and told him I’d meet him in Boston the following week. I was going West.
To be continued.