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I’m gonna stray from the highway (no this isn’t a country song)

I think that the best learning occurs when you take the side road, and driving across the country, I was able to, literally, do just that. By getting off the main highways, I put myself in line to experience the true gems, the soul of an area, and each unexpected turn in the road not only taught me more about the type of college I want to attend, but it also taught me about myself. 

We hit the ground running, and from the beginning it was clear that this would not be just an average  road trip.

At Blue Star Donuts in Portland, while savoring a basil, blueberry, bourbon donut (who knew that could be so good!) I remembered how important it is to take time to enjoy the little things. Likewise, as we were getting pulled over by a cop not far from the boarder of Canada, in New York,  I was reminded that it is also important to pay attention to the little signs… such as the one stating how the speed limit decreases from 65mph to 55mph for no apparent reason.

Standing on the edge of a tour boat, heading straight into Niagara Falls, and screaming alongside Claire I felt the deep importance of friendship. Even though Claire and I didn’t always have the same opinion on every school we saw, I wouldn’t change my travel buddy for anyone else. Sometimes it is important to look at things from another perspective and I feel so lucky to have such a bright, kind, and loving friend whose perspective I can borrow.

Of course there are some occasions when everyone has the same reaction. On our first night in the Soho Grand Hotel after arriving late to NYC, all we wanted to do was sleep. My mom and I were sharing one side of the room while Claire and Christina shared the other. No sooner had we crawled into bed when “it” started. “It” was such a cliché… Here we were, one floor below the penthouse, trying to fall asleep, and above us the constant and unmistakable sound of a creaking bed started, well, creaking. I turned to my mom, maybe when I was 8 she could have passed it off as people jumping on the bed, but now there was no denying it… “it” was sex noises. I smiled and she started laughing. I started laughing, and before we knew it, all four of us were cracking up; “Welcome to New York!”

Okay, so I’ve learned that my mom’s pretty cool. It’s not just that she can laugh at sex noises, I honestly admire her sense of adventure, her curiosity for the world. I like to think I have inherited that. She has helped teach me not to be afraid of the road less travelled and to stay excited by all the little things you discover on the way to your intended destination. I think those things often turn out to be even more important than what you thought you were headed for. In Georgia, I’m pretty sure we all thought we were only there to see Emory University, but it turned out to be the indie coffee shops, friendly people, and adorable bookstores that really stuck in my mind.  Then heading to Louisiana, we really got off the main roads, and drove the smaller road that runs right along the gulf coast of Mississippi.  We pulled over, went for a run on the beach and waded in.  We were able to fulfill our peach tasting dream by stopping at every small road side stand to find the best one. (They were all great) I realized you just can’t know a place by flying over it, or even speeding through it.  You’ve got to slow down and let in seep in.

Similarly, in New Orleans, I also strayed from the path. Yes, I did walk down Bourbon Street, and I may have seen a psychic (apparently it’s all good things in the future, just in case you were wondering), but I also adventured into quaint neighborhoods and onto quiet streets in search of the most delicious, local, fried oyster sandwich shop and a  jazz club that you don’t have to be over 21 to get into (and YES… such a place DOES exist! It’s Preservation Hall in the French Quarter).

As our trip came to a close, I learned one of the most important lessons of all. At Barton Springs in Austin, Texas, I learned that we shouldn’t be afraid to take a plunge. Sometimes testing out the water isn’t the best method, and whether it is a plunge into a new school, new activity, or quite simply a freezing cold spring in Texas, the real memories are made when you get outside of your comfort zone. Life is unpredictable, it’s fragile and I don’t think I can truly hold on to anything, because it will always be shifting, breaking, and growing in a new direction. But when we are able to leap into an experience, with an open heart and mind, the real memories are made and beauty is created.

I feel so grateful for this experience I have had, and I hope that this blog has inspired you to look around at the relationships and experiences you are grateful for in your life, and I hope it has also moved you to give back to those who need more support and help them build a strong foundation of nurturing relationships as well.




Emerson Tenney

Emerson Tenney

Emerson is a junior in high school. She loves literature and is passionate about writing, poetry in particular. When she is not playing the drums, participating in school musical theater, or training for marathons, you can find her with her friends checking out vintage records and used book stores in Hollywood.

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