We got lost in Idaho Falls, a sprawling community where no one seems to call the streets by their posted names. Passing signs urging people to report poachers, and another sign that read: Tourists, do not laugh at the natives, and finally a market name Stinker Store.
As we wove in and out of Idaho Falls, searching for the road to Wyoming, I marveled at all this natural beauty, so much space, and the state’s faded renegade feeling. Idaho was physically stunning. This is the only place in the US where base jumpers were legally allowed to plummet off a bridge. Hiking trails line the Snake River, a glorious waterway that stretched 1078 miles through the Pacific Northwest.
When we finally found our way to the highway leading to Wyoming, it was hard not to marvel at the journey those first settlers took to travel from the east coast through the Rockies and into this wild western world. Jagged peaks enveloped with glaciers sprouted from the earth, housing grizzly bears and mountain lions, rattlesnakes and wolves. They didn’t have bear spray and GPS, 4WD, and DVD players to entertain their kids. That nomadic life was a crapshoot. Rumors traveled back thousands of miles about a spacious land, ready to be taken by those who dared to make the trek. Nomadic people, searching for a place to call home. Desperate people wanting a better life. Some flourished, finding gold, or careers as fur-trappers or farmers. Other’s failed miserably, like the Donner party. Migration is a human experience, just like monarch butterflies, whales and elk travel to other places for food and shelter, we do as well.
Societal pressure expects us to stay put. Get a partner, a job, pop out some kids and feed our economy while selling our souls. Comfort allows us to accept that a night of watching America’s Next Top Model, while updating our Facebook status, with some Ben and Jerry’s is an ok way to live. And it is, for some. There are people, like owls, who nest in one place, find one mate, raise children and burrow down to do their jobs.
I have never been that person. Identifying with migrants, flying fish, monarch butterflies and other creatures that wander from place to place, I realize that my need for movement stems not from a need to survive, but a need to thrive, and live. I can’t sit still and watch life pass me by. I am about to turn 40. Moving around is the way I know to continue growing and living. When I stop having something to look forward to, what is the point of going on?
Around our campervan, the Tetons rose around us. The “grand breasts” as the French explorers called them. A line of imposing mountains so brilliant in height (the tallest reaching over two miles into the sky), and design they make me feel silly for ever doubting the existence of a God. To call them spectacular would not do these natural wonders justice. Our van chugged upward; our kids listened to an audio CD about a boy with epic burps at inopportune moments. Eddie gripped the steering wheel, stress lining his brow. I kicked up my feet, breathing a sigh of relief at having arrived at yet another destination that breathes life into an otherwise mediocre day.