The year 2017 brought me to a crossroads in life with multiple potentially life-changing decisions to be made. I needed an escape from the distractions of everyday life to do some soul-searching and introspection. While contemplating the idea of this getaway, the perfect opportunity came through my brother. Rishab, my younger brother, was at the time studying at a university in the US and was scheduled to return home soon. During his last month in the US, I quit my job here and flew to the US to join him. It was a rainy July morning when I got off the plane. I remember thinking to myself, “I quit my stable job to go on a long holiday!” However, that thought lasted all of five minutes.
Our road trip in the US proved to be everything we hoped for, full of adventure (maybe a little too much), unbelievable scenic beauty, and long winding roads that fuelled epiphanic conversations. Suddenly, everything became clear with a new and fresher perspective on life.
One of the precedents for the trip was to stay on a strict budget. This meant, no fancy hotels or even motels! We decided that we would camp wherever possible, and that hotels/motels would be our last resort. Our entire life for the next 45 days was packed into Rishab’s car. This gave me the confidence to survive life even with a significantly lower standard of living. It also gave me some real-world practice in the art of cost-cutting and prioritisation.
Some nights were hard. Camping sounds rosy until you do it! I remember a horrible day in Aspen when we drove looking for a campsite till 2.30 am, but in vain. After six failed attempts to find a spot, we camped in our car. It was an uncomfortable night, but it turns out, the place we parked our car was at the base of two mighty mountain peaks in a valley. Golden sun rays, glimmering peak tops, and nature’s tranquillity was our reward for an uncomfortable night spent in the car. At that moment, I realised that sometimes, the darkest of nights are followed by the brightest of mornings and hope is always on the horizon.
As we drove from Aspen to Las Vegas, we sought to put the adventure of the previous night behind us. Little did we know that we were in for much more. On our first night in Vegas, my brother and I decided to check out the Michael Jackson tribute at the Mandalay Bay hotel. The show was incredible, but about halfway through the show, everything stopped and the hall’s doors were locked from inside. News about a mass shooting erupted on Twitter and my brother and I were locked inside with hundreds of other frightened people. The fear kept engulfing us until the Las Vegas Police Department barged in and managed the crowd with sheer efficiency. This incident defined my second learning on the trip – when things don’t work our way, we as human beings are bound to get jittery, but with composure and clarity, a lot can be accomplished. Fifty-eight people were killed that day, but my brother and I were safe and sound. For the rest of the trip, the two of us were filled with immense gratitude to have survived this incident.
During the last leg of our trip, we cruised through small towns with little racial diversity, which made us apprehensive about being treated differently. Much to our surprise, we were always welcomed. This experience made me think that most people in this world are inherently good and want to do good. At the end of the trip, we both viewed ourselves and each other differently, in a good way of course! For 45 days, we had both journeyed through new lessons about life, love, and the world we live in.