48 States, 100 Days.
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
By: Matthew Ricciuti
On August 31st, 2018 a wave of freedom filled the atmosphere of my truck cab as its tires rolled past the dividing line of my driveway to the open road beyond. I teemed with a giddy joy that I hadn’t felt since I was a child running free through the forest behind my house, trying to escape the tedious obligations of early life; except this time, I didn’t need to be home for dinner.
Throughout our lives we are encompassed with surmounting pressures that seem to dissuade us from taking risks that disrupt assurances of comfort. Go to school, get a degree, find a job, start a family, save up for retirement and then once you’re old and decrepit, maybe take that trip you’ve been wanting to do your whole life. Yikes, no thank you.
There has always been a longing in my heart to be footloose; to run free with no plans and no destination. I would often find outlets to appease my growing appetite for adventure; such as riding motorcycles through unknown backcountry roads, only to have to return home by the end of the day to ‘get back to reality’, yet this only seemed to increased my desires to explore. At some point over the last few years, I made up my mind that I was going to drive across the country and take my share of the ‘Great American Road Trip’. During the spring of 2018, after much thought and prayer, I made the choice to do it.
I’d ask myself, “If not now, then when?”
So I set out on that brisk summer morning with my rooftop tent secured, necessities for wilderness survival packed, no plans and no obligations. The only parameter I had set was to return home after about 100 days, having visited all the lower 48 states.
I spent over three months camping in the most beautiful places in the country - if not the world. I met extraordinary people, ate some amazing food, saw some of the most marvelous works of Gods hand, laughed, cried, read, wrote, observed and listened. On several instances I would spend an entire day observing the intricacies of nature; simply baffled by its majesty. One day in Florida, a baby alligator crawled within five feet of me and we stared deep into each other’s eyes for at least three hours. On another occasion in Montana, I sat by a lake and watched the trees dance in the breeze until the sun disappeared beyond the mountainous horizon. I watched a dove float atop a lake in Kansas, letting the gentle breeze propel its body. Everywhere I went, a tranquil symphony of natures beauty seemed to be waiting for me to discover it. The abundance of such moments throughout this trip would be too great to list.
While living in my truck I realized something very beautiful about this life. I don’t need to have a big house, lots of cars or be famous to be successful. Some of the happiest people I’d meet had only what they needed. I met a man named Andrew in Colorado who had been carrying a crucifix over his back for 30 years in several different countries, proclaiming the Gospel to anyone who would listen. He was living in his van, radiating joy, totally and utterly in love with Jesus. I picked up a 23 year old hitchhiker who called himself ‘LarryBoy’. He was walking across Utah; something that he does every once in a while to “get away from it all and just live.”
Maybe those life choices sound a bit extreme, but I’ve found that the real value is in their willingness to step out into the unknown, to explore, to seek wisdom, to yearn for understanding, to find peace, to be in the moment, and truly - to live.
I’m a 22 year old, broke and unemployed actor about to start one of the most grueling and difficult careers on the market and yet, I could not be more filled with joy. I think the best way to grow as a performer is to live a life of adventure; tasting and seeing what life has to offer while listening to the stories carried by its beautiful inhabitants.