On the Healing Power of Road Trips, a guest post by Chloe Spencer
It took me three tries to get my driver’s license. The first time, I failed miserably, after not knowing which direction to turn my wheels when parked beside the curb. The second time, the bad-tempered instructor had snapped that I had the right-of-way (I did not) at a four-way intersection. The third time, the instructor had mispronounced my name horrifically in a crowded room, and I’m convinced that she felt so embarrassed by her mistake that she awarded me my license.
Needless to say, driving did not come naturally to me. For most of my teen years, I refused to learn, instead opting to hitch rides with friends or walk as much as I could. My father would graciously take me to work my shifts at the bagel shop in town when I needed to, and while he was behind the wheel, I would fantasize about a life in New York City, where subways and buses would get me wherever I needed to go. When driving a car, my anxiety would spike, but I still recognized it as a valuable-enough life skill that I put in a lot of effort practicing so that I could finally pass my test.
18 year old, newly licensed me would be unable to accept that at 26, making long distance road trips would become one of our favorite things to do—and that in fact, these road trips were important for our emotional health and wellbeing.
When I first sat down to write Monstersona, I knew that I wanted it to be a road trip story. Riley and Aspen, the protagonists, embark on a cross-country road trip after a freak explosion destroys their hometown, and they lose everyone and everything that they know. At its core, Monstersona is a book about feminine rage and overcoming trauma. Over the course of my life, I’ve taken many solo road trips. These experiences have given me the opportunity to learn more about myself, as well as heal, and this was something that I wanted Aspen and Riley to have as well.
My first major experiences with cross-country road trips came after I made the decision to move from Minnesota to attend the University of Oregon—a 24-to-28 hour road trip which encompassed almost 1,900 miles. My parents helped me trek across the first time, and my dad would help me with the drive every summer after that. In 2019, when I began attending SCAD, I made my first solo road trip. I think I’ve gone back and forth from Minneapolis to Atlanta almost eight times now, but honestly, I lost track after five.
I’m not keen on city driving, but there’s something about the open expanse of the freeways and interstates that helps quiet my often chaotic stream of consciousness. On the open road, I don’t have this impulsive desire to check off things on my to-do list. It boils down to simple questions and decisions. Do I need gas? Check. Do I know how many miles there are until I reach St. Louis? Check. Do I want to stop for food at Wendy’s, or keep going until I reach a Subway that’s actually open? Check. (Note: you will never find an open Subway along the highway in Iowa, they do not exist.) Any decisions that you make are small and simple, and you have nothing to truly do on a road trip except make sure that you and your car get to your destination safely. Because of this, I’ve learned to second-guess myself less, and hone my intuition.
On a road trip, the distraction from the monotonous day to day lends itself well to reflecting on one’s life experiences. What else are you going to do, aside from listen to music or count the deer hiding in the tall grass beside the freeway? Sometimes I think about how certain friendships of mine ended, and what I learned from those experiences. Other times I’ll reminisce about loved ones who have passed, and my favorite memories of them. Things that I normally would not have time to think about or consider are things that I can process without interruption within the confines of my car. Road trips give me back something essential: time. Time to think, time to process, and time to sit alone with my thoughts, and with that time comes catharsis.
But also? Road trips are just fun. It’s a great way to see the country. There’s a highway that crosses Tennessee—somewhere near Chattanooga, if I recall—that hovers over a body of water, and your car is so close to the lake, it feels like you’re gliding across it. I’ve never seen trees taller than the ones I’ve seen lining the rolling hills of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Missouri may be boring, but at least you’ll know where to stop for fireworks. Even if the scenery doesn’t move you, music always will. I’ve belted out my fair share of tunes while trying to work through an emotionally challenging event in my life. It’s why I know the lyrics to almost every single song on Jessie Reyez’ Before Love Came to Kill Us album.
Road-tripping is certainly not a replacement for therapy, and it’s not something that’s going to solve all of your problems. But I think that when you’re young and on your own, a road trip is an incredibly valuable experience. It’s about learning self-sufficiency, independence, and being comfortable with getting to know yourself. I’ve learned more about myself on road trips than I ever did in a classroom, and all of the experiences I’ve lived through were worth more than all the miles combined.
Meet the author
Minnesota native Chloe Spencer is an award winning writer, indie gamedev, and filmmaker. She enjoys writing sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and romance. In her spare time she enjoys playing video games, trying her best at Pilates, and cuddling with her cats. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Film and Television from SCAD Atlanta. You can find more about her on www.chloespenceronline.com.
There’s a little monster in all of us.
After her parents’ divorce, 16 year old Riley Grishin is forced to move from Portland, Oregon all the way to Little Brook, Maine, a small town that serves as the headquarters for Titan Technologies, an international tech laboratory. Having left her friends and father behind, Riley spends most of her days running through the woods with her dog Tigger, and eavesdropping on her classmates-in particular, the gorgeous, but very strange, Aspen Montehugh.
On the night of the homecoming game, Riley wakes up to find her town on fire, terrorized by an unseen monster. With flames spreading rapidly, Riley and Tigger have no choice but to pile into her beat-up pickup truck and flee. Speeding out of town, they come across the only other survivor: Aspen.
When Riley and Aspen finally reach safety, they realize something far more sinister is afoot. According to the news, all other Titan Tech laboratories on the East Coast have been attacked. And even worse, they’re being followed by an SUV with blacked out windows. With all air travel grounded, Riley has no way to fly back to her dad, so she and Aspen embark on a cross country road trip, all the while pursued by men with guns, mad scientists, and the monstrous truth. Slowly, Riley realizes something’s not quite right with Aspen, which puts her feelings for her-and her own humanity-to the ultimate test.
Thelma and Louise meet Godzilla in this queer sci-fi adventure, that will appeal to fans of Erik. J Brown’s All That’s Left In The World and Charlotte Nicole Davies’ The Good Luck Girls.
Publisher: Tiny Ghost Press
Publication date: 02/14/2023
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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