Driving My Life Away

Written by Kimberly Roth : April 7, 2008

airstream trailers

I’ve got my car all packed
With cassette tapes
And sweaters and loose change
And cheap cigarettes
I’m gonna drive through the hills
With my hand out the window
And sing ’til I run out of words

~ Rosie Thomas

Gas prices are on the rise and with them my guilt.

What is it that drives us to “get away”? Why is it that we assume “there” will be so much better than “here”? A change of scenery, an alternate perspective, a difference of opinion – all lie just beyond the next horizon… or so we’ve convinced ourselves.

This weekend I skipped town. Up all night on Thursday watching for tornadoes, I tossed random items of clothing into my backseat on Friday morning and spent my workday looking forward to the open road. Granted, this was a planned trip to visit a college friend, but after an intense week of unexpected events, a road trip felt like a spontaneous escape.

Two hours into the drive I pulled off for my first pit stop, and filled up my tank as it had only been half full when I left the office. Click… click… click… hmm… that amount use to get me an entire tank. “Oh well,” I reasoned, “this is so worth it!”

The weekend was a wonderful opportunity to relax and catch up with a friend, but at what expense? The distance between Little Rock and Dallas is over five hours… that’s ten plus hours of driving to spend a day and a half with a friend. There was a time when I would not have thought twice about this situation – roadtrips, visiting friends, reconnecting - these are the memorable moments of life.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning, the busyness of my week came crashing down on me, and left me in a melancholy state for the long drive home. Perhaps it was the (un)fortunate decision to pop in a CD on poverty and the role of the church. Perhaps it was too much self-inflicted exposure to the De-Motorize Your Soul campaign prior to take off on my little adventure. As I traversed the vast expanse of the I-30 freeway, I felt the presence of the rich young ruler riding shotgun beside me, and he was content.

I tried to scoff at the enormous RVs, hauling compact SUVs for the necessary Wal-Mart runs from the KOA campground. At the very least, I wanted to applaud myself for driving a small, fuel-efficient car. It was to no avail, as all I could dwell on was all of the ways my gas money could have been put to better use while my thumbprint on the Texas landscape could have been lighter (or, I suppose, nonexistent). My passenger looked over at me and smiled – he was pleased we hadn’t surrendered any pleasures.

Perhaps I’m overanalyzing, as I have quite the tendency to do, but I could not shake the feeling that there is something to the idea of opting out of our assumed inalienable right to mobility. How do we weigh, in a society looming on the brink of a recession and drowning under the rising price of fuel, the competing values of relationships and responsibility?

True, with all of our technological advances, it has become possible to maintain relationships across the miles with little time, effort or cost. However, at the same time, we are beginning to question the impact of exchanging face to face conversations for internet chats and online journals. We are poised to know so much more about each other these days, and yet to not truly know each other at all.

In May I fly to Austria to visit a dear friend I haven’t seen in two years. The ticket is bought and paid for, and my anticipation is growing. I wept when she moved out of the country, and I have longed to spend time laughing, chatting and dreaming out loud with her. As I approach the trip, however, I have to wonder if this will be my last. Should I really be traveling across oceans, or even across state lines, at the sacrifice of the dwindling resources of money and gasoline? Would I do better to rest at home, pay down debt, and resign myself to exchanging letters with my friends (a skill I’ve yet to develop on a regular basis)?

How do we submit ourselves to staying home for the sake of the kingdom of God?

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at

Print This Article Print This Article

for further reading . . .

  • None Found


Viewing 5 Comments

    • ^
    • v
    I am often faced with similar feelings of guilt about traveling during these times of dwindling resources. My family lives about an hour away. While that may not be a great distance, the trip is made several times a year and the mileage adds up. On the other hand, my wife's family lives on another side of the planet. In fact, she is there now visiting her family. She doesn't get to visit them as often as I get to visit my family, but when she does go she really adds up the miles. I guess we have allowed ourselves to become disconnected from our loved ones during times when we thought that resources were plentiful but now will be forced to pay the price for our decisions now that our resources are not as readily available as we once imagined. I guess our only real choice will be to limit even more the amount of time spent with our loved ones.
    • ^
    • v
    A first step could be use more public trasnport and less particular cars (for people who own cars). Use more bike, and try to supoort (or at least, to know about) alternative sources of energy (not necessarily so-called "biofuel"... this seems to be very pollutant, and for its production there are deforestating some tropical forests).
    • ^
    • v
    I saw an anime series at the comicbook store I work at a few months ago that looked interesting, and significantly out of the norm. No giant robots, no vampires, just a young girl and her talking motorcycle. So I bit. We deal only in used movies and as an employee I am able to "borrow" things over the weekend to "check for scratches". So me and my roommate watched it over the course of a week and were very pleased. In each episode Kino, the girl and her talking motorcycle, Hermes, visit a different "country" and interact with its citizens, only spending three days in each, and only three days so that Kino wont get tied down. Each country was different with its own philosophical conundrum wrestled with.

    This whole premise has been a topic of conversation for both me, my roommate, and my girlfriend since. As seasoned travelers, we have all been across the world and back, but we all struggle with it. Telecommunications brings the world together while skyrocketing fuel costs and environmental consequences keeps friends apart. In my romanticized view of the past, each city was its own country like in Kino's travels, with its own unique flavor and traditions, neighborhoods and quirky restaurants owned by cute little old couples. I feel this is historically incorrect, or has been generalized and conformed to a multinational norm of franchises and fastfood restaurants, where downtown Tokyo is as much like Paris as it is New York.

    I wonder if we would see the need to travel as far if the city across the river was as unique as the one across the ocean? I think if we could shrug off the jacket of conformity and step out of the "progress" march we could give time to our concrete and marble downtowns, our forested and laked countrysides; instead of looking to build yet another strip mall or aluminum sided townhouse. If I made friends with more people on my block would I have the spare time to spend on friends so far away? hmm....
    • ^
    • v
    Again, I'm stuck between two "good options." On on hand, there doesn't seem to be anything "wrong" about wanting to spend time with family and reconnect with old memories and to live "life together" with people who are not necessarily in my closest proximity. Jesus wouldn't mind this would he? Love is the aim, genuine friendship is the goal, etc...

    On the other hand, our traveling to make this happen can be destructive and irresponsible. Jesus wouldn't want this would he? Pollution of the planet, over consuming of resources, and contributing our fair share to the plight of the poor (almost all environmental and economic consumption falls harder on the poor) can't be something the Godhead celebrates. So something has to give. Or we have to find a "middle way".

    Perhaps Jesus redefines friends and family in such a way that allows us to not feel guilty or lonely when we can't be with our immediate family...because perhaps our "immediate family" has been completely transformed when we encounter the gospel in such a way that our neighbor, in theory and proximity, becomes our new "family." Just thinking out loud...
    • ^
    • v
    I often lament the distance between my husband and I and both of our families. We drive little and mostly ride our bikes during the year (when it's snowing, we mostly walk). This makes us not feel as bad about going to see the ones we love, but it still doesn't feel great (for the reasons mentioned in this article). And truthfully, I'm not so sure if I am willing to give that up completely. I agree with Michael that these are two competing values (family connectedness and stewardship), and while the proposal to make those in close proximity "family" solves part of the problem, I still long for my mothers physical embrace.

    I grew up heavily influenced by two cultures that value family in a way that would be considered unique to most Americans (who "grow up and move away"--I have followed this pattern myself, but have found it wanting). Maybe the trick isn't to move away from the traditional notions of family, something that we, in the USA, seem too ready to do. Maybe the trick is to not "grow up and move away". But I long for pilgrimage too!


close Reblog this comment
Powered by Disqus · Learn more
blog comments powered by Disqus