Updated: Jun 27, 2022
“You’re averaging more steps a day this year than last year,” is what the health app on my phone said when I hit that little heart icon. As I scrolled down, a bar chart showed me that I happened to be more active in July and November of 2021, while this year I’ve made more progress in February, March, May, and June.
Upon realizing this, I immediately rewound the clock back to July 2021. “This is when I first came to Rolla,” I thought to myself. I saw a mental picture of me learning how to make a money order at Kroger so I could pay my apartment’s deposit and the first month's rent. Then a vision of a mug I bought from Walmart flashed in my mind. It had a print on it that said “I am fine.” Suddenly I remembered walking along the aisles of Walgreens trying to find a European to U. S. plug adapter. How on earth would I be aware that the most popular U. S. paper size differs from its European counterpart but not have the slightest idea of the difference between American and European plugs?
Then I moved forward to November 2021 and I felt a smile on my face. It was when I wandered around beautiful Nevada and Arizona. I stood amazed at the grandeur of Hoover Dam, breathed in the spectacular sight of the Grand Canyon as the meaning of the name made sense, and soaked up the gorgeous colors as I canoed for the first time in my life to get from Willow Beach to Emerald Cave.
In February 2022, I spent a couple of days road-tripping by myself around Florida. After being snowbound in Rolla, the heavenly weather in the sunshine state was what I needed the most. Being the perfect escape destination for cold-climate residents looking for a winter getaway, Florida certainly has no shortage of things to do.
Located in the heart of Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola was the perfect spot to inhale the city vibes. The next day two breathtaking places were waiting to be ticked off my bucket list. First, I was embraced by Fort Lauderdale a.k.a The Venice of America. After trying to get the most out of this high-spirited city in a limited amount of time, I moved on to irresistible Miami which was the second destination of the day.
Two places that impressed me the most in Miami were Little Havana and The Wynwood Walls. Little Havana, as its very name signifies, was the best place to immerse myself in Cuban culture. I couldn’t get enough of wandering through this atmospheric area with the crack of dominoes, the scent of cigars, and salsa music spilling out of colorful storefronts. It was really hard for me to say goodbye to this vibrant neighborhood. Wynwood Walls was just fifteen minutes away from the Cuban district. Known for its many colorful murals, Wynwood Walls is an outdoor museum showcasing large-scale works by some of the world’s best-known street artists. After swinging around the walls twice just to be sure there was nothing left for me to see in this temple of creativity, I decided to hit the road to Keywest.
I was bursting with excitement to drive through the Overseas Highway stretching from Miami to Keywest. Since it was quite late when I arrived at Keywest, I felt a little sad about not being able to enjoy the view. Yet, I knew I still had to return the car, so I would be starting the adventure in reverse the next morning. I thus decided to hit the sack in my hotel, which turned out to be the worst place I have ever stayed. After a restless night of ‘one-eye-open’ sleep, I found myself at Denny’s at five something a.m. ordering freshly brewed coffee with choconana pancakes and hash browns.
Just after sunrise, I was standing next to the colorful buoy at the southernmost tip of Keywest. What I felt standing there and what I feel now thinking about myself standing there are exactly the same. The world is huge and until my free spirit rests in peace, I will do my damnedest not to be confined by the circumstances I might find myself in. In joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as I shall live, I am going to be the one behind the wheel.
The view I’d missed the night before was filled with sunshine, and the road from Keywest to Tampa flew by in a blink of an eye. On arriving in Tampa I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit the Tampa Museum of Art, and I feel so lucky that my instincts led me there because otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity to gaze upon the largest collection of Greek and Roman antiquities in the southeastern United States. Returning my rental car back to the airport on time, and making my way home safe and sound was the perfect ending to my road trip.
When I first realized how much walking progress I made in March I was surprised. By now you must have gotten the idea that the more time I spend outside of Rolla, the more I walk. During March, on the contrary, I was fully committed to work, trying to catch up with a lot of deadlines. When I checked my diary to be sure of what made me walk this much in Rolla, I recalled that I was unable to get in touch with one of the professors I had been working with. Despite living very close to each other, my emails were not replied to and no ideas were being exchanged in person. I was completely left in the dark as to the answers to my questions and it really pissed me off. I felt like I had only one choice; abandoning the idea of getting enlightened by that professor, and instead enlightening myself. In this journey of guiding myself, I went out to take long strolls to clear my mind and deal with my anxiety whenever I felt stuck with the theorems I needed to prove.
In the midst of May, all the theorems had been proven, every result regarding my paper had been typed, and the second manuscript from one of my projects had been sent where it should have been sent. I finally felt that relief of getting things done, and since everything had been done without any proper communication that relief was accompanied by a little bit of pride.
On the 22nd of May, I was again on the road to attend my first in-person conference since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite Waco, my home base during my visit to Texas, being very similar to Rolla, it hosts more attractions to visit and a lot more upscale restaurants which serve delicious food with locally sourced ingredients. With the help of a rental car, I was able to visit two more cities in Texas. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and LBJ Presidential Library in Austin were two of my favorites, I walked out with more knowledge than I walked in with.
As I have been writing these lines on the 24th of June at one of the corner desks in MST Curtis Laws Wilson Library, my landlord has been doing a move-out walk-through in my apartment. In six days I am vacating my home-sweet-home in Rolla. Next month I am planning to do some touch-ups with my remaining tasks and travel around a little bit more. Wish me luck, stay tuned, and to be continued.
June 2022, Rolla.