Senior plans to take solo road trip across the US

Rachel Lock, Web Editor

You throw some bags into the back of your Ford Explorer, the vehicle that’s about to carry you across the United States.

Equipped with a map, extra supplies, and the clothes on your back, it may not seem you are ready to take on the adventure ahead of you, but you feel strangely calm.

In a few moments, you will be far away from school work, the sound of the bell, and a plan that dictates your every move — for an entire year. 

With no one at the helm but yourself, with the world ahead of you, you take off into what was once unknown.

Senior Paige Dorko is taking a year off to explore the United States on a road trip starting in San Diego. 

“I’ll be traveling to every single state and seeing all the different things it has to offer,” she said. “I’ll go to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and all the touristy, scenery things you can see there. It’s just me and my car traveling across the United States.”

Despite this seeming like a big undertaking, Dorko said she is not particularly concerned and is not tying herself down to a specific plan.

“I’m bringing clothes, snacks for the road trip, good music — obviously — just to keep myself entertained and a lot of energy drinks because I’m going to have to stay awake,” she said. “The good part is that I have a lot of family in each of the different states, so I’m basically going to be living from couch to couch.”

Dorko said other people having doubts has not discouraged her.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” she said. “This is all totally random. I’m going to leave whenever I get the chance to — I’m going to take all my stuff, throw it in my car and just go.”

Though her parents were originally skeptical, Dorko said they support her and are paying for half the trip.

“They [said,] ‘You know, obviously you are going to be 18 and you can make that decision for yourself, but we will help you out with it,’” Dorko said.     

Dorko said this trip will bring her a greater understanding of people across the country.

“I just want to experience life firsthand with everything that it has to offer,” she said. “I want to meet people. I want to learn things about different personalities, things that go into each state and how people live [there]. I just want it to be a huge learning experience and to see history.”

There are a few destinations Dorko said she is particularly interested in.

“When I was younger, I went to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, and that was gorgeous, so I’ve always wanted to go back there,” she said. “I really want to go to New York City — I’ve wanted to do that forever.”

Dorko’s idea for this trip came when her future plans changed, she said.

“Originally, I was going to move in with my boyfriend, and we ended up breaking up recently,” she said. “I had planned on taking the year off and working to save up money for our apartment. Once he and I broke up, I realized I didn’t have to save money for that anymore, but I still wanted to take the year off.”

However, Dorko said she’s taking a gap year as an opportunity to do something she loves.

“I have so many places I want to see before I die, so why not take the year off and do that instead?” she said. “I came to the conclusion that I’m going to go on this crazy, wild adventure roadtripping and see what happens.”

After her gap year, Dorko has plans to go to school in San Diego to become a social worker.

“[I want to] help kids get out of bad situations and help them heal from that,” she said.

Dorko said she thinks people should chase their dreams whenever possible.

“Anything can happen,” she said. “I’m going on this unplanned road trip across the United States by myself. Anything can happen in life — you just have to go with it.”