-Zach Green embarks on a 9,730 mile road trip finding fulfillment and self-discovery
(Photography by Zach Green)
I was hit hard with the quarterlife crisis that you experience after college. Similarly, there’s one person who decided to tackle life’s big questions by taking a different route of discovery – a road trip. A few posts ago, I wrote about how Kristin LaForge gained a new perspective of the world by studying abroad. This time, Zach Green hit the road and drove through 30 states, including Canadian territory, for three months. I had the pleasure of revealing his memories in this post.
Zach returned to the states after backpacking across Europe with friends, and it only left him wanting to see more of the world with this new and fresh perspective, and of course, a flexible schedule. “The real inspiration for the trip is the desire in me for continual learning,” said Zach. He purchased a motorhome two years before he mapped out his epic trip. “I wanted to see the places I’ve heard about, meet the people who live there, and come away with a better idea of the country I belong to. I had to see the territory myself.”
The 30: CA, OR, WA, BC Canada, ID, MT, PA, NY, Ontario, MS, RI, CT, NJ, MD, Washington DC, VA, WA, KT, MS, KS, CO, NM, AZ
With an impressive route ahead of him, Zach had his sights on big cities, monuments and national parks. “At one point, I even backtracked a bit because I hadn’t realized how close I was to Amish country until I’d already passed Holmes County,” said Zach.
I asked him which place was his favorite, but instead, he said all of them. “I liked them all because in seeing them they showed me their true selves, and it deepened my understanding of the country,” said Zach. Making friends added another highlight to each city, which also extended his stay.
“Minneapolis impressed me with its vibrant foodie and nightlife culture; Amish country taught me how happy and content we can be when we act as our own masters and don’t let technology enslave us,” said Zach. He also added that Madison, Albany, and Springfield was where he discovered his family roots and was excited to stay in touch with them. “Niagra Falls and Yellowstone astounded me with their raw power and beauty.”
Zach also mentioned that his longest stop was Washington DC for its museums and history. It was important to him to see the country’s ‘nerve center’ and experience the Smithsonian and other national museums.
Other factors for chosen destinations were family and friends. “Jida, my (Lebanese) grandfather, was the only one of his 10 brothers and sisters to move west to California,” said Zach. The ambitious traveler met many of his extended family for the first time, in which the trip became a journey of self-discovery when he found himself driving solo on the road. “There I was, in the middle of South Dakota, far from home and driving an old, unreliable motorhome with a broken clutch. ‘Who was I to take such an ambitious trip?’ I found the courage and continued east.”
Find out more about his defining moment on his Tumblr.
Zach maintained a video journal of his travel and regularly updated his social media for followers back home. “Many bystanders were curious about what I was doing and wanted to help, so I made a lot of friends by putting myself out there,” said Zach. He admitted that whenever his spirits were low, it never failed that someone would contact him about their excitement for the next journal posting. “Actually, a couple of my favorite moments came from questions about the camera. Arriving at Niagra Falls at midnight, I planned to shoot timelapses all night. A police officer saw me, although skeptical at first of my intentions, ended up being very friendly and giving me a guided tour of his favorite views of Niagra. His spontaneous kindness and enthusiasm about the Falls still makes me smile when I think of it.”
The traveler was able to get passed barriers that were closed to the public. “In Boston Harbor, I started a conversation with someone working on the USS Constitution – telling other tourists that I was shooting a video for them – he took me to see parts of the ship that were blocked off to the general public.” He added that much of his trip footage is still being edited for his blog and YouTube channel.
The end of the road
After traveling over 9,000 miles and meeting new and old friends and family, Zach had a better idea of the people in this country. “I realized that, for the most part, people are good, kind, and willing to help you however they can,” said Zach. “It strengthened my faith in people.”
He also walked away with learning more about himself, what he was capable of, and the amount of courage it took to pull him through some tough times. He said he had to maintain that courage or else he would quickly give into weakness.
His next destination: Florida Keys. “I’m starting a seasonal job with the Department of Fish and Wildlife,” said Zach. For five months he will be monitoring endangered species and restoring habitat. After completion, he’s set for a summer in Denali as a naturalist, or working a sustainable farm in Southern California. “With the road trip over, it’s time to focus on career building again, but that’s not to say I can’t do it in some cool places.”
Zach aims to build awareness of our need to conserve and respect natural resources. He hopes to be a part of the sustainable movement in finding alternative green ways to produce food and energy, before too much of our environment is damaged beyond repair.
“My niche, as I see it, can be translating the information between researchers and the general public. This may come through photography, videography, teaching, or writing. Or maybe all of the above.”
If you’re dying for change, be committed to do something different. “If you don’t know yourself well, it will be easy to lose yourself in a trip this long and difficult,” said Zach. Being determined, having an interest, and saving for an immense project is important before jumping head first with enthusiasm.
“It’s not as simple as driving across the country. It’s about seeing and experiencing the country, and taking the time to meet people. Put your heart into it and you’ll have a lot to show for it when you come home.”
Blog: Zach’s tumblr