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Three lessons from my road trip

  • At Creekside - Storm Mountain, South Dakota, a stop on Amanda Bastoni's cross-country trek in summer of 2013. She says about the view, "I ran into this outlook while I was jogging. Gathering my nerve, I looked over the edge and saw this!"

    At Creekside - Storm Mountain, South Dakota, a stop on Amanda Bastoni's cross-country trek in summer of 2013. She says about the view, "I ran into this outlook while I was jogging. Gathering my nerve, I looked over the edge and saw this!"

  • At Creekside - Storm Mountain, South Dakota, a stop on Amanda Bastoni's cross-country trek in summer of 2013. She says about the view, "I ran into this outlook while I was jogging. Gathering my nerve, I looked over the edge and saw this!"

Dream big.

I don’t remember exactly when I made the decision.

I know it was shortly after my husband told me he had cheated on me and somewhere between counseling sessions, moving out, and running my own wedding photography business. I can’t tell you where the idea came from, or where I was when I first had it. I do know it had never been on my “bucket list” or even something I dreamed of.

But, the minute I had the idea I knew I had to do it.

“I am going to buy a motorhome and drive cross-country,” I told one particular therapist. She told me that people in traumatic situations often make “spur of the moment decisions.”

“They decide to go back to school or lose weight. What you need to focus on, Amanda, is recovering.”

And, I did. I really did.

I worked out. I attended support groups, got counseling. Cried. Read about 100 books. Got my finances in order. Hired a lawyer. Wrote in my journal every day. Took baths and bought expensive red wine.

I worked harder at recovering than I have ever worked at anything. But, the idea never went away. My dream — my secret plan — kept me focused on moving forward. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me something to work for. I clung to it, like a buoy in the middle of a vast ocean.

Through it all I knew – just, somehow knew – I was going to buy a motorhome and drive coast-to-coast: from Plymouth, Mass., to Cannon Beach, Ore. I was going to take my 9-year-old son on a road trip.

And I did. I really did.

It’s not about the stuff.

Dishes, silverware, pots, two bikes, sleeping bags, pillows, a couple of books, cleaning supplies, towels, swimsuits, the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” my Bible, my laptop, a deck of cards, some groceries, and we were set.

I was about to spend four weeks on the road, yet it had taken me only one-and-a-half-hours to pack everything we needed. I am seriously not taking that much, I thought, motioning for my son, Trace, to jump in.

Looking back at my tiny 400-square-foot house, I smiled to myself. Come to think of it, I’m not leaving that much behind either.

I shut the door, made sure my mirrors were adjusted properly, took a deep breath, felt the heat from the bright summer day pouring in, and then hit play on the “Defiant Joy Road Trip Playlist.”

“I love this song, Mom,” said Trace smiling as, “Life is a Highway” began streaming from the speakers.

For a moment my mind drifted over all that I had lost, and my eyes began to burn.

Then Trace interrupted my thoughts: “Mom, do we have anything to drink?”

“Of course,” I said, pulling myself back to the present moment.

“We have orange juice, water and soda.”

And, it hit me. Just like that. I had everything I needed.

I didn’t need anything else.

Let joy happen

We had arrived in South Dakota the day before. We visited Mount Rushmore, checked in to our campsite and, in what was becoming a common theme, Trace had made friends with about a dozen bike-riding, ball-throwing kids.

On the morning of Aug. 1, 2013, I got up early, left Trace sleeping, and went for a run.

I headed out to the highway, not sure where to go exactly, deciding at the last moment to turn left, heading uphill. Throughout the trip, I had consciously decided to stay on major highways or main streets whenever running. It just felt safer. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t interested in more of life’s “little surprises.”

However a mile into my jog, I noticed a path that drew my attention. It led gently uphill and appeared well-maintained, but it did veer away from the main road.

My first instinct was to keep on going. “Stick with what you know, Amanda. Stick to the plan and nothing will surprise you and, if you always know what will happen, you can’t get hurt.”

But, the path seemed to be where I was supposed to go.

So, finally, after standing staring at the dusty road, winding through ponderosa pine trees and dried grasses, I decided I would just do it.

Before long I was at the top. I stopped and looked around.

To my left was a deep gorge. From where I was on the path, though, I couldn’t see down into it.

Curious, I made my way to the edge and peered down.

There, 300 feet below me, was a gigantic peace sign.

In the middle of the forest, someone had cleared a field, planted grass, and then mowed it to look like an enormous peace sign.

Backing away from the edge, I smiled and laughed aloud.

Never in a million years would I have expected to find that. I decided to bring Trace back, but of course I wouldn’t tell him what I found.

The joy was in the surprise.

Amanda Bastoni, a Peterborough resident, is going to spend the next year exploring the theme of “Defiant Joy” through her own story and the amazing stories of people she meets along the way.

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