By Gary Lloyd
I’m a sucker for the words of Henry David Thoreau. I consume them like they are Peanut M&Ms, and I love Peanut M&Ms. He wrote in Journal in 1851 about why men must get hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from home before they can say they began their travels. Why, Thoreau asks, can travels not begin at home?
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that our travels can, and sometimes must, begin at home. March marks one year of working my full-time job from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also resulted in many more “travels” beginning, and even ending, at home. The point of this column is to take you through those travels, the good, bad, funny, mundane, exciting, and everything else.
When I was sent home to work indefinitely, our son was two months old. The COVID-19 pandemic is something I wish had never happened, just like everyone else in the world, but it did afford me infinitely more time with the baby. I have witnessed every milestone in person, from his first laugh to the first time he pulled himself up. It also allowed me an extra hour of sleep, an hour I’d have otherwise spent getting ready for my 35-minute commute. Given, sleep has been something of an unpredictability in the past year with a baby, sometimes finding myself sleeping in our bed, occasionally on the couch near his room, and even a handful of times on the floor in his room, but it was extra shuteye nonetheless.
I’m an old soul, so new technologies often befuddle me. But in the last year, I’ve learned some things. I’ve downloaded and used the Shipt and DoorDash apps, though they still overwhelm me. I’ve clicked the “Place Your Order” button on Amazon a thousand times and even purchased a drone, which I haven’t so much sent gracefully gliding through the clouds as I have jerked it away from pine tree limbs. Also in the technology realm, I started a podcast, which I use to talk with authors, journalists, city leaders, coaches, athletes and anyone with a good story. We have needed that in the past year, and it can be done without in-person meetings.
If there has ever been a time to knock out home projects, wasn’t it in the last year? I pulled up approximately 15 bushes along the front of our house and poured in a million egg rocks. I sifted through the woods around our house, and pulled heavy motor parts, red bricks, thick glass bottles and even a truck bed liner out. None of these items were mine. I bought a Craftsman chainsaw because, between a tornado outbreak in April and Hurricane Zeta in October, we had four trees fall. We had our flagstone porch repaired and a new drainage system installed, and I learned more about that process than I ever cared to know. We also had our hall bathroom renovated to be more kid-friendly, and I now want our master bathroom renovated, too. Maybe one day.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been traveling at home if it weren’t for television. The last year was the best time to binge watch anything you’ve ever wanted to watch. Thousands of options across dozens of streaming apps, and we still rewatched The Office four times. We had to, since the show is no longer on Netflix.
I also watched game wardens in Maine and New Hampshire save an injured broad-winged hawk from death in the roadway and rescue a loon from a frozen lake using a plastic storage tote. I sprinted through the first three seasons of Yellowstone quicker than a quarter horse, and I’m fairly certain I’d accept that “Y” brand on my chest if it meant living in the mountains of Montana. The Ranch is another show I’m watching, and while Ashton Kutcher’s dialect in this series about cattle ranching in Colorado is hilariously bad, the show is quite good.
Finally, I have been watching what may be my favorite of all these, Aerial America on the Smithsonian Channel. This show takes viewers across the United States from the chin of a helicopter, and it is outstanding. I have seen, and learned about, the icy terrain of Alaska’s Denali National Park, the Gilded Age homes along the 400 miles of coast in Rhode Island, the round-shaped church in Vermont that Henry Ford tried to buy and move to Michigan, the Texas ranch that Lyndon B. Johnson called home, and hundreds of others images and stories from Sacramento to Savannah, from Miami to Minneapolis.
Upon retirement in a hundred years, I plan to see every corner of this country through the wide windshield of a Tiffin motorhome. I want to fill up that motorhome with enough groceries to last a month, because I am certain I will still fumble my way through that DoorDash app. I want to fly a drone high above the Grand Canyon, where I cannot crash into a pine tree, but a pit of red rock. I want to talk with locals in every state and build a travelogue of sorts, like John Steinbeck did in Travels with Charley: In Search of America, and fill up dozens of spiral-bound notebooks with descriptions, thoughts and interviews.
What a plan for the decades to come. I can’t wait. Truly, every one of these future travels has begun at home.
Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.