One of my favorite movies is JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I believe this was the first movie starring both of them, and they went on to establish an on-screen romantic rapport in several more, better well-known, movies, such as SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and YOU'VE GOT MAIL. But JOE... started things off. In the movie, Joe (Hanks) is living a miserable life, with a miserable job, poor health, and a generally poor outlook on life. Then he finds out he has a terminal disease and only a few months left to live. An eccentric millionaire (Lloyd Bridges) offers him a chance to live out his days like a king, but he must jump into a volcano on a South Pacific island as a sacrifice to the island natives' god, which will allow Bridges' company to mine a rare mineral found on the island. He accepts the offer and begins a fantastic journey. Along the way, he meets three women (all played by Ryan), and he falls in love with the third one. There is a scene in the movie where Joe is on a raft at night in the middle of the ocean, and the moon rises over the horizon. Joe is reminded that God is bigger than everyone, and he immediately thanks Him for his life. Later, at the end of the movie, again stuck on a raft in the middle of the ocean, Ryan's character asks Joe where they should go. Joe replies, "Away from the things of man, my dear. Away from the things of man."
That statement set me on my journey. I discovered, as an adult, that travel has a way of taking us away from the things of man, or the normalcy's we find in our life. Travel can be a spiritual journey, and many of my trips have been exactly that. I've found that road trips, especially solo trips, are best, when it's just me, God, my car, and the road in front of me.
My first major road trip was a solo trip from Maryland to New England, Atlantic Canada, and Niagara Falls, before returning home. The first day, I drove almost 800 miles, and I realized soon after I had to begin pacing myself or I might physically run out of gas before I finished the trip. I confronted one of my fears (of heights) the following day while driving to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. After a harrowing drive to the summit, I spent a frantic hour wandering around the gift shop at the top of the mountain wondering how I was going to get back down. After recording a Last Will & Testament on my camcorder and saying a lengthy prayer, I headed down the mountain and had no problem at all. I was so surprised that the drive was so easy. I determined that God really does answer prayers, and that my fear of heights is only present while going up, not down.
I met some interesting and wonderful people in Nova Scotia, including the desk clerk at the hotel in Antigonish who was fascinated about cartography (my profession), and the gas station owner in Dartmouth who allowed me to gas up my car at 5:30 a.m., even though he didn't open until 6. I drove possibly the most scenic road in all of North America, the Cabot Trail, around Cape Breton Island. I spent all of 2 hours driving through the narrow streets of Old Quebec City before heading out of town because I was so intimidated by the French culture there. And, after checking into a cheap hotel in Montreal and finding a condom on my nightstand next to the bed, I figured out why rooms could be booked by both the night and by the hour.
I confronted one of the most tragic moments of my life by returning to the spot on the QEW in Burlington, ON, where my grandparents were killed in a horrific accident as passengers in a car I was driving. We were hit from behind by a tractor-trailer going about 60 mph while we were stopped in heavy traffic. I was pulled from the burning car by my father, who was driving the rest of my family in our van in front of us when the accident occurred. While driving past the accident site, I realized the entire highway interchange had been redesigned, and I wondered if that was because of our accident.
The whole trip last about 10 days. I had rushed through it without really seeing much, other than the road itself. But having done it, I realized that I could travel by myself successfully, and I began planning more trips. God had been with me throughout my journey, and I felt closer to him than at any time in my life, to that point. I had traveled away from the things of man, and I was a better man for it.