I slide the still warm freshly printed driver’s license in the excuse of a wallet that promptly goes into the pocket of my knee worn through jeans. It didn’t take long for my first “road trip” at 16 years old to a beach that was 3 hours away, just because. Then, a completely solo trip to a state 12 hours away for a weekend at 18 years old. Followed by my first of 8 cross country road trips at the real responsible age of 20.
“I just like to drive”, is what most people would tell you. That’s not entirely wrong, I do love to drive, but what brings me back time and time again is the absolute dopamine atom bomb that goes off in my brain when I am completely alone in a brand new place with no idea where I’m going.
Disclaimer: I’m 100% not highly educated in the field of psychology nor do I pretend to be, but this is how I’ve been able to understand and work through my own brain.
If you are of the ADHD/ADD kind like myself then you might know exactly what I’m talking about. For those neurotypical folk, let me give you some insight into how some of our brains work.
Every brain has receptors to receive chemicals. Dopamine is one of those chemicals and it’s awesome! It makes you feel good and happy, it’s the reason you get that feeling when you do something impulsive or eat food you like.
Now let’s think of those receptors as small children and the dopamine as a cookie.
When I give a non-ADHD/ADD brain a cookie, there are only 4 children, they split the cookie and enjoy the cookie in a timely manner slowly, savoring each delicious morsel. But when I give an ADHD brain the cookie there are 10 children, they split the cookie and eat every bite within seconds.
In short, dopamine does not stick around ADHD/ADD brains for long, leaving it in a deficit.
“Follow the dopamine”
Some people turn to drugs chasing that rabbit. Luckily, I found dopamine in the form of freedom in 4 wheels and burning fossil fuels. Which then led to rock climbing, high lining, white water rafting, and every other outdoor “extreme sport” you could think of.
Sounds like a dream right? Until you realize that moving every 6 months and filling out 5 W2s every April is an absolute pain in the ass. The stress starts to outweigh the dopamine.
This brings me all to the point (I bet you thought I didn’t have one).
I have a home base!
For the amount of shit I gave California in the past, it’s a pretty awesome state. Mammoth Lakes in particular. I have all the access in the world to the prettiest and most challenging mountains with just a short 6-hour drive to the best beaches.
But let me tell you right here, it was not an easy lifestyle change. In a very real sense, I basically went through a withdrawal of sorts. I now had a home, I wasn’t traveling every month, and I wasn’t doing the “extreme” sports I use to partake in. Remember it’s all about perspective.
I was down, uninspired, and apathetic about everything. Don’t get me wrong, I was still surfing great spots and doing amazing things most people would kill for, but I was still at just a solid 6 on the happy scale. I wanted the 10s and 11’s I used to get from serendipitously finding a waterfall in the middle of a heat wave while on the road.
I’m not going to talk about mental health here because we all have it shoved down our throats 24/7 and I think we all know people deal with their own journeys. This was a massive change for me and a lot of other external and internal components had their play in it.
So what the f*ck kept you in mammoth Shelby? Why not just pack up and leave like before?
Great question fictional audience member in my head.
Very similar to dopamine, but a little more complex and helps regulate mood and emotional well-being. I like to compare serotonin to a complex carb like wheat bread and dopamine to a simple sugar like candy.
I may have been a solid 6 on the happy scale but I was able to maintain that, I wasn’t jumping to an 11 and then quickly plummeting to a 2. I was able to create and become a part of a community that I could always count on. I was consciously making the decision to choose long-term happiness over a quick fix, choosing something that made me a better and healthier person.
Will I stay in Mammoth forever? Pfft, I don’t even know what I’m doing in the next two hours! I still maintain room for spontaneity and creativity, otherwise, I think I would actually shrivel up and die. Who knows what the future holds, I definitely don’t! And that’s exactly how I love to live it. Just because we choose the not-so-glamorous things in life to be a little more stable and happier for longer doesn’t mean we lose our sparkle. (That sparkle in question was self-destruction if you were curious).
Again, I’m not a professional in psychology but I am at skiing and snowboarding, so if you need a lesson feel free to contact me!