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Part 3: Couchella 2019 “I drove 9300 miles in 28 days and here’s why you might consider doing it too”

April 6, 2019

During the month of ‘Madness” (March) I spent 28 days driving across the United States. I saw everything imaginable, from towns with the population of 2, yes 2 and visited 20 major cities. Through all of the miles and the cities I visited, my favorite part wasn’t a location or a beautiful drive, but it was all of the extraordinary people that I met and reunited with along the way. 

 

Before departing Charlotte, NC on March 1st, 2019, I made a list of interview questions in hopes to interview as many as possible on my journey. Fortunately for me, 15 folks agreed to take my short interview, and each interview gave me a new perspective on life. 

 

The interview questions were across the board, but consisted of the following: 

 

Who are you/What’s your elevator speech on who you are?

 

What does life mean to you? 

 

What would you do with your life if money didn’t exist?

 

What’s the biggest opportunity you have or see right now? 

 

What’s on your desk/what’s a problem you’re seeing or dealing with right now?

 

What’s your favorite city and why? 

 

The interviewees consisted of folks that were from all walks of life. The ages ranged from 24-55 and I received answers that were all across the spectrum, except for two questions. Millennial aged folks would travel the world if money didn’t exist, and each would want to make an impact in another region of the world. 

 

The question of ‘what does life mean to you?’ created a response that sounded eerily similar to the last person I asked (I started wondering if they were calling each other and telling the next person what to say):

 

“Do things you love, with people you love, and be loved back” 

“It’s about the people you meet, not how much money you make or how successful you are”

“Life is about friends, family, and fun” 

 

Every answer to the question revolved around people. Meeting people, enjoying people, loving people, you name it, they all kept telling me that life was all about the people. Some told me about their belief in Jesus and how they believed they should live a life like Him, impacting people in all they do. 

Before leaving Charlotte, I didn’t plan out how many miles I would drive. I just told myself that if I could find a couch, or a spare bedroom, I’d go. I didn’t really know why I felt led to go on the trip, but after about the third interview, I realized it was about to learn about one of the most special gifts we have in this life. People. Yes, I had the chance to see the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, The Rockies, The Redwoods, The plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Texas. I got experience the sights and sounds of Mardi Gras, eat potatoes in the great state of Idaho, and how could I forget the Kansas City barbeque. However, the people along the way, friends of my past, new friends, and friends of friends, made the drive so worth it. 

 

During the month of March, I drove an average of more than 300 miles per day. Somedays I drove a lot more, somedays I didn’t drive at all. I slowed down a bit after hydroplaning in eastern Utah, but that didn’t slow me down for long.  Simply put, I moved really fast in the month of March. 

 

April 1st, also known as April Fools, was the beginning of my first full week back in Charlotte. After kicking off my first day as a full-time entrepreneur, I wanted to finish the day off by playing the greatest sport ever invented, basketball. You see, I’ve played basketball since I was 4 years old, and the only injury I’ve ever experienced was a sprained ankle (never worn Adidas since). However, one swift jump and land later (at the Dowd YMCA in Charlotte), left me wishing my knee was playing an April Fool’s joke. My knee 20 years in the making on the basketball court, blew out on April 1st, 2019. 

 

As I sit here and write this post, I’ve got a torn ACL, meniscus, and a sprained MCL. April nor May, and most of June will not be fast months for me. I’ll most likely be moving at a snail’s pace with no running, basketball, or even driving over 300 miles each day. 

 

As my PA informed me, this ‘unhappy triad’ creates a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve experienced them all thus far, and I’m not afraid to tell you that this has made me cry like a baby. However, as I prepared this post, I re-listened to each interview I had during the month of March. Hearing the voices of friends in these interviews served as a motivator (life isn’t about playing basketball), and a reminder that “life is about making the most of every situation.”

 

I realize that everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to leave their job and drive 9300 miles across the US and ‘couch surf.’ However, I believe everyone has the opportunity to have their own version of ‘Couchella.’ If it’s driving to see a family member you haven’t seen in a long time, or if it’s a family member you’ve never met, go. If it’s driving to see a long-lost high school buddy, go. 

 

The month of March showed me that sometimes in your life you get to go fast (thanks Ricky Bobby), sometimes you have to go slow (thanks unhappy triad), but in all times, you have people. 

 

Ironically enough, the end of Couchella 2019 will leave me on a couch with my leg elevated and getting iced. Life is unexplainable sometimes, but it just matters what we do next. 

Just a kid, 

 

Austin Helms 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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