The Life of a Traveler
By Martti C. Peeples
The year was 2014. I had spent the weekend at Oprah Winfrey’s “Live Your Best Life” tour. Oprah had an exercise in the booklet we received. One of the exercises was called “Capture your new vision.”
This is part of what I wrote: “I want to start preparing now to overcome my fear of leaving my current job and home and walking into my next Chapter.”
By February 2016, I had resigned from my job and was venturing out into the travel business. Now, how did I get here? Well, between 2014 and 2016, a traveler started working at my job. This person was mentioning how much money he was making doing the same exact thing I was doing, yet making twice the amount. Let’s just say, I was not pleased. I spoke to my manager about the huge difference in pay and she could not go into the details.
The person mentioned to me that I may be a good fit for this travel business and gave me their company information. I took the information and put it away. By November of 2015, I received a call from a travel company. The gentleman said he found my resume online. He went into details about how I could make a new income and get to travel around the country. I told him to let me think about it and I would get back in touch. Well, this guy would not stop calling. He had a six-month assignment in Denver, Colorado.
I went to my sister and my Grandmother for their counsel, and both said GO! My son was grown and starting junior college. There was nothing keeping me from going except myself. So I prayed about the situation and reached back out to the recruiter and said if he could work out a start date in February 2016, I would go. This was music to his ears, and within two days, he had a start date of February 22, 2016.
As I prepared for this new adventure, two days before I was to board my train, I found the exercise I had completed. When I read what I wrote, it was like I had written down my destiny. I was overcoming the fear of leaving my employer of ten years and starting to travel the country at the age of 44.
When I arrived in Denver, I was nervous. The first building I saw was Union Station in downtown Denver. The only things I knew were that Denver was supposed to be cold, and that it wouldn’t be a shock to see Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson shopping. Denver had mountains everywhere. There wasn’t one location where you could not see a mountain. Also, Denver was home to twelve tribes of Indigenous Americans (American Indians). Denver was also experiencing an influx of people moving there hoping to cash in on the legalization of marijuana. Denver also had a high homeless rate. For the first six months, I had no car and walked everywhere, except when I used Uber for shopping. A six-month assignment had now turned into a year, so I flew back to Michigan, collected my car, and grabbed my mother and son. We were doing our first road trip. Our road trip took us to Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska, and finally Denver. I was thrilled to have been able to do this for my family. While they were with me, we toured Estes Park and went by the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the movie The Shining. After my family left, I went to Colorado Springs and toured Garden of the Gods, 1300 acres of sandstone formations. I toured Manitou Cliff Dwellings, home of the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans. Denver also was known to have the largest celebration of Juneteenth. At City Park, Denver had one of the most beautiful monuments to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The city was a mix of cultures and ethnicities but was also undergoing gentrification. Many of the homeless were veterans, which I could not understand.
After my year was up in Denver, I returned to Michigan, where I spent three months in Western Michigan near Grand Rapids. I lived in Byron Center, a small yet beautiful, new, and growing area with a mix of city life and country. There was a horse ranch down the street from me, as well as many nearby lighthouses. The downside was that this was 2017, the first year of a new presidential administration, and racism was on the rise. Although I was back in my home state, the atmosphere was changing rapidly. Where you lived predicted what type of atmosphere you might encounter. After leaving Western Michigan, I returned to Southfield and started working in Ann Arbor. My old home. I loved doing the drive to the hospital to which I was assigned because I passed the railroad tracks over a nearby river. Thirty years prior, as a senior in high school, I allowed a group of friends to persuade me into jumping from the railroad tracks into the river. Every year, I went to the Ann Arbor Art Fair, one of the largest in Michigan. Ann Arbor was a “mixing bowl” of America because it is a college town, Wolverine territory and home to largest stadium in the country, known as the Big House. This assignment was pretty good, because after being away from Michigan in the past year, a lot had changed. Little Caesars Arena had been built in downtown Detroit. The night before I started work in Ann Arbor, I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream for my son. He got to see Janet Jackson in concert. I was also able to reconnect with some of the nonprofit groups I had worked with before I left for Denver.
Approaching 2018, my travels would now take me to Indiana, the home of cornfields and more cornfields. Home to the Hoosiers, Indiana Pacers, and Purdue College. Also the home state of Vice President Mike Pence and where Jim Jones started his ministry, which would move from Indiana to California and finally to Jonestown, Guyana. Indiana was also home to the Lilly family, founders of the Lilly pharmaceutical company. I would settle in the city of Lafayette. This would become the city and assignment which would change me. Politics and racism went hand-in-hand there. If you were African-American, you were automatically assumed to be a Democrat and you were perceived as part of the reason why America needed to be made “great” again. When I tried to go shopping, I was followed; when I tried to pick up food I ordered, I was rushed out the door. At my place of employment, I was the only African American in my department. So to balance the television viewing in the breakroom, the channel was changed from Fox to CBS. I was being called “gal” by the white janitorial staff. With every error made, I was the first to be questioned, even on days I was not there. I was stopped by the police three times and always followed on the highways. Traveling from Indiana to Michigan was one of the most stressful times of my life for fear of being pulled over again. I had become a caged bird. My car’s gas tank stayed on full because everything I did was within 1.3 miles of my apartment. I went to work and the nearby Walmart and Walgreens. No place else. I lived in isolation and fear for nearly a year.
In 2019, I celebrated the beginning of a new year in my apartment, thanking God for allowing me to see another year and praying the next six months would fly by fast. In between this time, I had gone to New Orleans with my BFFs for our version of Girls Trip, then on a solo weekend trip to Chicago. June 7th came and I was free to fly. I hightailed it out of Indiana and back to Michigan, resting for a couple days and then heading off to Florida for my birthday. When I returned from this trip, I went to the dealership and picked up my brand-new Jeep, a present to myself. Four days later I was on the road again to a new assignment in Nashville, a.k.a. Music City. I loved the drive to Tennessee and my new surroundings. There’s not a boring place in Tennessee. There are the Smoky Mountains, Indian reservations, many state parks, a country music museum, and a ton of celebrity country singers to bump into. The people are very friendly. I’ve met more friendly people than the opposite. The downtown area is similar to New Orleans. In Nashville, you have Broadway and Division Street, which are full of little bars similar to those on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. You have outdoor adventures as well as concert venues and a lot of water sports to do. I have taken up kayaking again.
None of this would have been possible if I had not stepped out on faith and trusted God to lead the way. And all of it was made possible by taking a 6-month course at Wayne County Community College District in Sterile Processing, inside of another program called Surgical Tech.
If you are interested in learning more about Sterile Processing (the handling of Surgical instruments) and the Surgical Tech Program (assisting doctors in surgeries via passing surgical instruments when needed), look up information at WCCCD or Macomb County Community College. You can Google information on traveling nursing, surgical techs and/or Sterile Processing.
This may be a career path for you, where you can earn a good living and tour the country visiting places you probably would never have thought to visit. The rewards are great if you’re an adventurous person.