The Unexpected End to Our Great American Road Trip

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Today was supposed to be about something else entirely. Self discipline, I think, or maybe the idea of breaking big goals down into small bites.

Instead, today is about rushing home to attend a funeral.

Jessica and I have been friends since the 8th grade. I cried in the bridal shop when she put on the dress that her mother and I knew without a doubt would be her wedding gown. I was the matron of honor in her wedding when she married Justin, Jared’s best friend. Emma’s beloved bunny was a baby gift from Justin and Jessica.

I apologize; the threads here are random but so intricately woven together.

She’s family, is what I’m trying to say.

Her dad died Monday night. He’d been diagnosed with cancer just a few short weeks earlier when he’d gone to the ER complaining of back pain, and now he’s gone. She texted me early Tuesday morning to tell me.

Once again, I felt so far away from home, from the place I knew in an instant would always be home, no matter where we get our mail or pay our rent. Every connection I had to Jessica, connections that weaved through people and places and memories made, through her mother and sister and dad, through her babies and husband, through the girl she was when we met and the women we’ve both grown to be – every thread came alive like a spider’s web caught in the morning sun. I wanted to follow them, to follow them to her side where I could hold her hand and grieve with her.

There’s nothing I can do to lessen her pain, but I can’t not be there to bear witness to it.

As Jared reminded me when we were debating the impracticality of a mad dash home for an hour-long service, this is the point.

It was for this moment that we gave it all up – the house, the car, the credit, the jobs.

It was not only to be able to hike the Grand Canyon, but to be by our friend’s side when she buries her father. As much as death is a part of life, heartache is a part of happiness; we can’t be open to one without fully embracing the other.

So, once again, we’re cutting time off our trip. We went for one last hike today in Arches National Park, one last adventure for the road, and now we are headed back to Iowa. We’ll be driving quickly through Denver rather than visiting and finding ourselves back in our hometown a full two months before our original itinerary was set to end.

This is not how we thought this American road trip would end, but it is for exactly this reason that we began our journey in the first place.

I can say now with certainty, this trip was a success.

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  1. kateanon says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, and hers. I wish you safe travels back.
    kateanon’s most recent post: When you’re smiling

  2. Marcia says:

    Oh Britt – so sorry for the loss of your friend’s father…your journey has brought so much to so many people’s lives…those lucky enough to see you in person and those of us who although we have never met you in person feel as if you are one of our closest friends. You are not afraid too share your feelings…you put everything out there, regardless. You have taught us so much…and I’m sure you have learned so much…thank you for taking us on your trip…remember the journey is not over. Hugs to one of the bravest, most honest friends I have yet to meet in person ;-)

  3. JW Moxie says:

    Britt, I’m so very sorry for your loss, and for your friend’s loss. You’ve woven the point of your whole experience and documentation of it beautifully. Being in pursuit of happiness and achieving it doesn’t mean that you’ll never be without sadness or heartache. It means that through those hard times, you can find those moments of small happiness and recognize them for what they are. Here, that means being able to be there with your friend to hold her hand as you both say goodbye to her father. There is beauty in this. xoxo
    JW Moxie’s most recent post: What Trayvon Has Taught Me

  4. Alan Labovitz says:

    I just read about this post on facebook and came over here to read it. I’m so sorry for your loss. I will still try to keep in touch with you and your family’s adventures. My sympathy goes out to you and your friend and her family. Thanks for your good information.

  5. liza says:

    so sorry for your (and jessica’s) loss. i think it is wonderful that you are able to make it home for this. xoxo

  6. FireMom says:

    Thinking of you and her and all of yours. Sending comfort during this time.
    FireMom’s most recent post: The Things You Do Differently in a New House: Hanging Photos

  7. I’m so sorry to hear of this loss, in many ways, but know what you’re doing is so much bigger than that. Much love.

    Steph
    Adventures In Babywearing’s most recent post: Water Wings

  8. eggy says:

    Life can spin on a dime, and has for you and your family, once again. Your reasoning is exquisite, romantic, and full of meaning. What wonderful modeling for those two kids.

  9. I am sorry for your loss, and your friend’s loss. I’m proud of your willingness to change your plans on a dime and to be there for her when she needs you.
    thepsychobabble’s most recent post: Blogging for Dollars?

  10. Nanna says:

    This made me bawl my eyes out. You ARE the real deal, child.

  11. Shanon says:

    So sorry for your friend and for the subsequent change of plans. Thoughts and prayers are with you. Safe travels on this last leg of your trip.

  12. Anna says:

    I’m sorry for Jessica’s loss. I understand the interwoven nature of these relationships. this too, is why i’m now back in Australia. It is for this that we adventure, we make big decisions, we seek joy.

    There is much wisdom in your words, and in your approach. I hope and pray you will be able to seek solace in your love and friendship during this time of sorrow. I look forward to hearing about the next steps.
    Anna’s most recent post: Before the birds are awake

  13. Liz says:

    Oh, Britt. I’m so sorry for your and Jessica’s loss. I’m heartbroken for her family. Cancer is such a nasty beast.
    Liz’s most recent post: Life Stuff: Overloaded and Loving It

  14. Secretninjamom says:

    Thinking of you at this time. Hope it gets better.

  15. Megan says:

    I’m sorry your trip is ending for something overwhelmingly sad rather than something overwhelming joyful, but what a gift it is to be able to rush to your friend’s side when she truly needs you with no thought or worry about what you’re going to do about whatever is not really important right now but you’d have to worry about in your past life.

    Love and healing to Jessica’s family. And to you. xo
    Megan’s most recent post: Word Play: Sunday Morning

  16. Hockeymandad says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss. 2 journey’s end and a new one begins.

  17. The Grand Canyon will always be there…These moments to support your friends and family will not. All the best to you and your friend during this time…
    D.J. – The World of Deej’s most recent post: Where to Stay at Disney – On-Site vs Off-Site

  18. Sarah says:

    Britt, I’m so sorry for your loss and your friends’. But I’m glad that you have the freedom to be there for her, and I’m glad that you are the kind of friends who would. I can’t imagine what that means to her now.

  19. The Muskrat says:

    So sad to hear why you’re headed back early, but I agree with your final thoughts about it.

  20. Angi says:

    I have tears streaming down my face…but I’m also so happy and proud of you. I’ve quietly watched ths trip. Told many if my friends how brave ou and your husband are. I’m in awe of your family and while heartbroken for you, also so happy…you came out of this trip better and more aware and this post is proof. You guys did it. hugs and peace for all of you, including Jess and her family.

  21. Lisa says:

    I’m so sorry for your friend. Losing a parent is devastating. She’s very lucky to have a friend in you, who just wants to be there for her. I’m glad for both of you that pursuing your dream has given you the freedom to be by her side when she needs it.
    Lisa’s most recent post: Who Finally Published a Life List?

  22. Faiqa says:

    My prayers are with your friend and her family.
    In some ways, I think this is a very fitting end to your journey. To me, your trip wasn’t about adventure, it was about living your values completely. I know it’s not in the way you imagined, but you’re still doing that. What a gift to be able to be there for your friend like this. XO

  23. Ally Bean says:

    I agree with Faiqa. Your trip has ended just as it should– with you staying true to your values and doing what makes you whole. Life can be so interesting– no matter how unexpected it turns out to be.

    Safe travels and my condolences on your loss.
    Ally Bean’s most recent post: Notes To Myself, Part II

  24. i have no words, only much love to you. and jared. and those you love.
    hello haha narf’s most recent post: Life Changing

  25. I’m so sorry Britt. But I don’t see this as an end. By embarking across the country in an RV you only started the adventure. This is part of it. Every peak and valley in life is part of it. The adventure is not over. It continues every day.

    Sending love to you, your family and Jessica and her family of course.

  26. sue says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss… and you are doing just what you need to do. In the big picture, you accomplished so much that most of us only dare to dream about. Well done. As someone else here said, you’ve become a friend… although we’ve yet to meet. Take care and safe travels home.
    sue’s most recent post: Welcome Back

  27. Patriciaj says:

    Congratulations on a road well travelled and well chronicled. My heart goes out to you on this sad news. Good luck, Patty J.
    Patriciaj’s most recent post: London doesn’t disappoint a 17 year old girl

  28. Shannon says:

    I’m so sorry, Britt. You are right, though. The reason you gave it all up and went on this adventure was (partially) to make room in your life for the unexpected – good and bad. And to open yourself to all kinds of experiences and decisions.
    Shannon’s most recent post: Are Childhood Memories Connected to Personality?

  29. Danielle says:

    Sending you and Jessica much love.
    Danielle’s most recent post: I Liked Tuesday (and I Love Seventh Generation)

  30. So sorry to hear about your friends loss. Death has a way of affecting everything, including travel plans ( we’ve had to deal with it several times in our 6 years of non-stop world travel…including the loss of 2 dads last year).

    Still, there is always a perfection to how life unfolds, so trust yourself and be kind to yourselves too as you enter this transition. Death is a great reminder how fragile life is, what is important and to live fully now.

    Sending big hugs your way from Asia!!
    Jeanne @soultravelers3′s most recent post: Home School Kids Travel

  31. Kent says:

    Sorry for your loss.

    Your feelings about the end of your adventure make so much sense. It’s the exact same reason we live the No Vacation Required life we live. So that we can be present where ever we want/need to be at any given time. This freedom is great – in both good times and bad.

    Our thoughts are with you :)
    Kent’s most recent post: Requisite DC Cherry Blossom Festival Photos

  32. Miriam says:

    Think of you and your families, and be safe on the trip back.

  33. I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss of her father and it’s wonderful you want to be there to support her. My dad passed away in December in Costa Rica (he’s from there but lived in the US until 2010) and there was nothing worse than hopping on a plane by myself to get there (hubby’s passport was expired, kids have none yet so there was no time).

    Once I arrived, I was surrounded by my stepmom and all my Costa Rican family who I just adore. I was there one to visit him in the hospital and then 6 days after I came back I went there again for the funeral.

    All that to say, I had my CR family there to support me and let me cry. Good friends and family mean everything. I’m glad you’ll be able to be there for her.
    Melissa {momcomm}’s most recent post: 4 Reasons to Start a Second Blog

  34. Rachel says:

    So sorry to hear that your trip has come to an end. Even more sorry that you had to change your plans. But I am SO happy that you were there for your friend. That is what friendship is all about. Welcome home! I know I will miss seeing you in Denver but hope we have a chance to reconnect soon. Love to your family!

  35. Marinka says:

    I’m so sorry for the your friend’s loss. She’s lucky to have you.
    Marinka’s most recent post: US Weekly: A Reader’s Companion

  36. I am very sorry for your friend’s loss but I think it is awesome that you can say your trip was a success.

    One giant adventure and one giant success. That is very cool.
    Jack@TheJackB’s most recent post: Dad’s Field of Dreams Doesn’t Recognize Failure

  37. [...] as quickly and dramatically as the scenery. We started the week hiking in Moab, Utah and ended it attending a funeral in Parkersburg, Iowa. In both places, as well as on the drive in between, we found reasons to be grateful and reminders [...]

  38. Miss Britt says:

    I keep wanting to respond to these comments, but I don’t know where to start. The support you guys gave – here and throughout this trip – is just so overwhelming, in a truly wonderful way.

    Thank you. Know that each word reached me and I am forever grateful for every last one of you. Thank you, thank you.

  39. jan says:

    I had been feeling sad because my friend has moved to another Country. Then I read your post and started thinking of all the things I have to feel happy about. You inspired me to write this post http://www.budgettraveltalk.com/2012/04/03/happiness-highlights-travel-home/
    jan’s most recent post: Happiness Highlights – Travel and Home

  40. [...] made our decision to head back to Iowa in the morning, but I knew I couldn’t leave Moab without taking at least one hike in Arches [...]

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