By Ada Lovelace
About two months ago, I boarded an Amtrak line up to Brunswick, ME. It was October 5th to be exact. Where I was really going and where I would be staying would be a mystery to me even then. You see, this trip up to New England was an experiment inside my head. I had just started a blog online and decided between the east and west coast. Ultimately, after a number of factors, I bought a ticket up to the east coast and started packing. This was all due to being burned out with the regular grind. The service clerk job that I held down had started to become a prison sentence with each day clocking in setting a new low for my morale. So, I decided that was it after daydreaming about traveling around the country in between the tension and being verbally attacked by bosses and customers.
Brunswick is about an half an hour’s drive north of Portland, the end of the Downeaster rail line. The natural thing for me to do was to stop for coffee at a local cafe and see where to go from there after getting off. And this went on for a month where I would bus it or hitchhike it after either being stuck in the city or from walking alongside the road out in the country. I had camped out and squatted in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and western Mass. I ran into some rough neighborhoods but managed to get out in time. But the strangest notion that I found was other people’s reactions whenever I told them my situation on the road. And this goes back to my thought experiment.
There were people who picked me up and then told me that they wished that they could go back packing around the country or in Europe but couldn’t because they were now raising families. And then there were some folks who told me about their experiences when they train hopped or hitchhiked while they were younger. Then there were those people who thought I was crazy and even foolish for putting myself out there like that. I had one guy working at a halfway house yell at me for going about this way and insisted that my friends and family abandoned me and that I was stuck there.
Sometimes, I would tell outright that I was walking to Austin or at least to the nearest town, and then I would get stared at or asked if I knew how long a walk it was. And sometimes, I got this from people, “you’re hitchhiking are you” as if I was planning to rob a bank or something. I got a series of lectures with my favorite being something along the lines of everyplace is like everywhere else and that I didn’t need to go anywhere in the first place. I could take a vacation, but traveling? And then there was another about how friends will readily leave you when things are looking down but you’re family will always be there for you. I didn’t tell the couple about what happened to me over a year ago.
I was shocked about how readily people came up with assumptions about who I really was. To them, I was a white, twenty something female stuck on the side of the road. And people thought that it was these characteristics that made me more vulnerable, but that’s not true at all. It was because of these characteristics that got me out of rough situations. All I had to do is be smarter than what people thought me to be, and I was golden. That and it always doesn’t hurt to throw out the word Texas or Austin out there whenever people ask you where you’re from.
The people who were explaining to me over why I shouldn’t have even dreamed of traveling like this were those that expressed a negative outlook on society, that there were evil people out there and that it was only a matter of time, but I’m not that naive. I am not blinded to the places where it would suit no purpose to venture into. This came to mind when the Texas Eagle rode into the Chicago train station. As for New England, I have to say it is very unlike Austin, nor is it like any place that I ever been to, nor is Austin like any other place I ever been to. And I have to say that no place is like everywhere else, at least that’s what I believe so far.
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