I decided to take an impromptu road trip down to Asheville, NC this past weekend. It was a plan made in the spur of the moment and maybe not the smartest idea I’ve ever had considering the time is short until Costa Rica and I REALLY need to try my hardest to be frugal, but do I regret a single second of it or a dime that was spent? Absolutely not.
Saturday morning came too quickly. I hadn’t even packed yet. Why do you always do this, Ashley? The hands on my living room clock moved from three to four within seconds, I swear it. I was rushing, gathering any random objects around the house I felt I may need while I was gone. I shoved my belongings into the suitcase, kissed Alex and the pups goodbye and headed out. I put the key in my ignition to be greeted with a flashing gas light. You forgot to get gas last night. Jesus, woman. Is any part of your life together? I took advantage of the gas station stop to grab a coffee and a bite to eat. I was exhausted and not exactly looking forward to the seven hour drive ahead of me.
Finally, I’m on the road…nearly two hours past the time I had said I’d leave by. This was my first time going on a road trip by myself. My mind was cluttered with all of the worst-case-scenarios that could play out. What if you fall asleep while driving? It feels possible. What if you lose GPS signal and get lost? And then maybe your car charger magically stops working and your phone dies! Surely you aren’t equipped to survive in the wild- especially in the middle of winter. You didn’t even bring a blanket. Are you positive you packed everything that you may need? The anxiety kicked in early. The road was empty and dark and my eyes traced every inch of the land my lights exposed, searching for that one rogue deer desperate to end his life quick and easy at my car’s expense. I was being completely ridiculous and I was 100% aware of it. The bad thing about anxiety is that it doesn’t just go away the second you acknowledge its absurdity. I turned my radio volume up so loud I thought my speakers would burst; partially to keep myself awake, but also to drown out the sound of my thoughts. It worked. I only realized that I had been driving for three hours when the outline of the forests appeared in my peripheral. That hauntingly black sky mellowed into a royal blue and I knew sunrise was just ahead. Minutes later, I saw the sky erupt into flames through my rear-view mirror. The different hues of red and yellow: a painter’s dream. I felt something inside of me shift. I turned down the music and opened the windows. The frigid air stung my face. I broke out into spontaneous laughter because how crazy do I look here, in late January, with my hair blowing in the wind? Sometimes you need to break the pattern to truly feel alive. Yell into an empty highway or go somewhere very unfamiliar with no itinerary whatsoever. Hug a friend too long– even a stranger. This is your life. Don’t waste it.
I arrived in Asheville around 11:00 that morning. I ate breakfast with my friend Torii and her family, whilst catching each other up on the latest ins and outs of our lives. Although I’m often shown that distance has no effect on friendship, it amazes me every time that I’m reminded. I remember reading this quote online once about how friends are the ones that help you find things when you’ve lost them: your smile, your hope, and your courage; also adding to that list, your self-worth, strength, laughter.. hell, sometimes even just your wallet when you’ve had too many drinks to keep up with yourself. There’s no better way to summarize the meaning of these relationships you create with people.
The friendship that Torii and I share is unparalleled. We feed off of one another’s energy and creativity. We long for the same things in life. We’ve shared a slew of adventures together- among them: foraging for the best local eateries, exploring abandoned buildings, photographing nature, all the hikes, the cornfields, the wild parties, even those beautifully mundane days spent on a blanket on the beach talking about our dreams and drinking beers. Time spent together feels refreshing, like a much needed nap or a cold glass of water on a hot, summery day. Hours move too fast. We are like two halves that keep separating and even though we can’t always be there with each other, we are always there for each other.
Torii, I love you and I thank you for your part in my journey. You’ve made it much sweeter.
Our first day was spent chasing waterfalls, eating the best pizza on the planet, playing life-sized Jenga and trying signature beers at tons of different breweries. Oh, yeah, and Weirdo Gigglefest 2017!
Day two started off slow, eating breakfast with the family again before they all trekked back to the coast. Soon enough it was just me and Torii left to do what we do best- aimlessly explore. That afternoon started out great, sunshine and bright blue skies. We planned on doing a second round of waterfall hunting, followed by a hike up a mountain to watch the sunset, but the weather gods had other plans for us. We parked the car at the first site and those blue skies turned gray as we watched the snow begin to fall. We shot through it, ice bouncing off our skin and cameras, numbing every inch of our bodies. Even through the cold of frozen rain, it was pure magic.
I can’t get enough of those snowy pictures because they really look like I photoshopped those snowflakes in, but SPOILER ALERT, I don’t even know how to use Photoshop and all of what you see is absolutely REAL and the world is just naturally that freaking beautiful.
My favorite part of my short time spent visiting the area was ending our evening at Dobra Tea. (It was an especially nice change going from the cold to being swathed in warmth.) I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It’s the cutest little tea shop where you check your shoes and your worries at the door. Overhead, the shop is filled with old Indian folk music. The lights are dimmed to a perfect degree of comfortability. You sit on pillows on the floor. I felt more relaxed there than I ever had anywhere before. It dazzled with sensuality. You’re greeted with a tea menu the size of an encyclopedia filled with all of the best teas from all around the world. You’re left with endless options and a tiny bell to ring once you’ve decided. The tranquility of it all combined was life changing. You know those people that go to coffee shops and sit there for hours? I’ve always wondered why people do that, telling myself, well, maybe they don’t have wifi capabilities at home. Now I understand. AND IF ANYBODY IN THE HAMPTON ROADS AREA CAN SUGGEST A PLACE ALMOST HALFWAY AS PERFECT AS THIS, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I need this serenity on a daily basis.
I’m going to leave this here for the feels because not only is this one of my all time favorite songs, but the flute fills make me feel like I’m right back at Dobra, sipping tea and laughing about the wild randomness that brought us together in the first place. “..and dance in snow, and flurry home..”
Isn’t it brilliant when you take risks and enjoy your life?
I think so, too.