Words and Photographs by April McPherson
The last couple years of my life have been liberating. It began when I made the decision to move forward, step far out of my comfort zone, and create change. I was in desperate need of “me time,” which I had ignorantly pushed aside for several years prior. Years I can admittedly say were filled with an abundance of void that I had brought upon myself, yet void nonetheless.
I was falling out of a marriage built upon several years, and at the mere age of 20 I found myself questioning life, myself, and where I was going. I spent a decent bit of time just wandering, assuming that I would find my place, or believing that something would come about; hoping that something would come from nothing. But deep down, I knew that life did not work in this way. If I wanted something, I was going to have to make it happen.
I was quickly growing tired of Southern California – the only home I had known, and the mediocrity of nine-to-five jobs, freeway traffic, over populated spaces, and most importantly, the feeling that I just wasn’t going anywhere. I had picked up a two-year college education several years prior and knew that was a route I wanted to explore further . . . so I figured, what better time than now? Education was not something that was discussed much in my family, nor was it stressed, but I had taken a keen interest in it, and in a way it worked as my outlet: my outlet to leave California and better myself. This education would only be a small part of what I was about to gain.
And so it began. My life in boxes, my Subaru packed full, and all that stood before me and my soon-to-be new life and home was a 400 mile stretch across the California and Nevada desert. I had never left home or been completely alone. The day that I left was not good bye, but the start of my life. I drove away in shambles, a mixed bag of emotions – mostly sad at this point – but once on the open road I was confronted with a quite unexpected feeling; that of being home again. My head and heart seemed to be aligned for once, and l knew that this was the best decision I had made in my 24 years of living, and I was not going to look back now.
My adjustment was very difficult, yet I felt out of place and content at the same time. I knew no one around me, yet had a sense a freedom never felt before. And I was scared shitless, all at once. But it was then that I found comfort in the open road: exploring, discovering the unknown, making my own decisions . . . and living for me. Perhaps it was my way of coping and finding a sense of belonging in this new place since I spent my first year knowing very few people and adjusting to being the “new girl.”
Though I settled in a civilized (yet rural) area making my small apartment just cozy enough for me while focusing on my education, day in and day out the only thing on my mind was getting out into nature. Every weekend I craved adventure. I wanted to get out, discover, and most of all, test my own limits. This was the first time I had done anything like this alone yet I found it peculiarly calming. I’d drive through the local canyons and mountains, quickly finding my favorite spots, and felt a complete sense of belonging finally. This is what I wanted and this is how I wanted to live my life.
Some days were short, spent clearing my mind with an enjoyable trail run, other days turned into nights (my personal favorite way to fully embrace nature’s beauty), and there I was setting up my hammock, climbing into my sleeping bag, and (attempting) to put my astrology knowledge to use as I lay directly under the stars. In these moments I found myself alone yet comfortable, anxious yet content . . . and completely free.
Nearing graduation, my curiosity piqued wherever I was. I made several trips back home across the Nevada and California desert and found myself with the same itch to pull off the road with no agenda. Here, car camping became a new favorite of mine, as low temps often reached the teens and I had no trees in sight to even ponder hanging my hammock (have you ever tried to hang a hammock between two Joshua trees??). I woke to gorgeous, untouched sunrises, and places that were so secluded they begged to be ventured into. I like to think that, thanks to all of these adventures, I make a pretty mean camp meal, know how to efficiently pack my bag (or car), and have decently effective shelter and navigation skills (ok I won’t lie, this one I’m still working on!). But when I’m out there, all these things suddenly take a slight bump to second place, as me just being there will always rank number one.
Hopefully one day my stories of lugging around my tripod and running back and forth with my camera on self-timer, or better yet not bringing a tripod and strapping my camera around the best looking bush or shrub I can find all to capture the moments as I see them for others to enjoy, will also make others laugh. After all, providing my own entertainment is no exception to being responsible for my own needs while out there – and that’s just another element that makes my adventures wholesome and distinctly mine.
Now here I am; going on 27 years and nearing a new end that initially felt endlessly away, yet I eagerly await my new beginning. I have grown to believe that life works in that way sometimes, most times actually. I am ultimately just along for this wild ride . . . but find myself peculiarly content with that.
Photos (C) 2015 April McPherson
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