The Joy of Riding in the Back of Trucks

Some of my fondest memories have taken place in the back of a pick-up. The earliest memory I have is being a young girl with my sisters laying down and looking up at the stars as my mom drove us around in my papaw’s old clunker. I would plug in my Walkman CD player into some computer speakers and play music for the occasion. It was the group of us just enjoying the night sky and the summer breeze. No matter the turmoil of childhood in a single mother household or quarrels between siblings, these nights were peaceful and brought us close together.

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My sisters and I

Fast forward 20 years and here I sit in the back of a packed pick-up on the dirt roads of Santo,Vanuatu. If I close my eyes, the breeze and the smell of the air would take me back to those many years ago. Obviously, when I open my eyes I see coconut trees instead of pines. The breeze of a summer night is actually the “chill” of the South Pacific winter. The other passengers are not my sisters (or even people I know), they are local Ni-Vans. All the same, I feel home. This is my new home and being able to experience it one long truck ride at a time makes me excited.

I don’t think my mom was knowingly grooming me for these life experiences when she tossed us in the back of that beat up Ford but I do think the moments we shared during my childhood helps me recognize the simple joy of the ride more than most.

Whether it be pre/post football game or concert, a loading and unloading of everything I own because I decided to move AGAIN, the nights at the drive-in, the meals at cook-out, the mission trips to Honduras, the planned or unplanned trip to the beach, or the tailgate heart to hearts; they all hold a special place in my heart. All courtesy of the access to the back of a pick-up.

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While on a truck in Honduras. Photo Credit: Harrison Caldwell

Tonight the truck is piled with more people than it probably should be. Everyone is chatting about anything and everything. That is what I love about the back of trucks. You are in the elements and usually aware of your surroundings. In my opinion, it beats a convertible any day. While chatting with these strangers I couldn’t believe two things:

  1. I was conversing in a language that wasn’t English
  2. How similar it feels to previous rides I have taken in NC and Honduras

I thought about the time in Honduras where we rode a very long way to go to an evening service at a church that had no lights and how many stars we could watch because of the darkness and the great discussions it created.

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Photo Credit: Harrison Caldwell

I thought about the time in high school when a bunch of us piled into the back and drove around one Halloween aimlessly. Even in the silence you feel connected with the others.

This morning, I rode in the cab of the truck on the way into town and coming home in the back made me feel so much more integrated and linked to the vibes of Vanuatu. I found this to be the same in Honduras. Whether it was watching Kaydi getting married off to an old man’s grandson while all of us held a tarp as the rain came down or just waving at people as we drove by. The people in the cab always had to be caught up on the craziness (awesomeness) that happened on the journey.

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One of our first truck rides around Santo with other PCVs

I don’t want to miss out on those moments here in Vanuatu. I sit in the back of this truck with a grin on my face and a small better understanding of the people around me. I know some trips will be uncomfortable, rained on, delayed,or just plain crappy. I look forward to the sunny days, the starry nights, the stormy days that end with great stories, and the deep or humorous conversations along the way.

It is much like life; the sheltered have much comfort but those who dare to put themselves in the elements enjoy this world and enjoy each other. They have the much better ride. 

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