The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Hyundai Elantra

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Hyundai Elantra is the author’s reflection on the blessings of modern travel and the deeper meaning behind those miles spent.

Following a brief car-theft-turned-recovery in early July, I have been the proud lessee of a 2020 Hyundai Elantra. Never before had I driven a car with all of the amenities I now drive with everyday: pristine interiors, Bluetooth capability, and that new car smell that can’t quite compare to anything else. It has become a joke among my immediate family to send our car thieves a thank you note, as my grandfather’s car (which has since been recovered) is now in the best condition of its life. In the meantime, I have happily made the switch to a car of my own; only yesterday, I glanced down at the odometer and was surprised to see I had just hit the 1000 mile mark. And it was that that got me thinking.

My grandfather’s car, which had been “mine” since his passing, was stolen from our driveway on July 4th. After a brief discussion with a police officer and the silent few days that followed, my parents and I believed we might never see the car again. So I decided it was high time I drive a vehicle of my own, preferably one whose key was not permanently jammed in the ignition. So on July 8th, I walked into the Hyundai dealership with my mom and sat quietly as she tried to get me the best deal on a car. The conversations were brief and pointed as my mom quickly held control. There were several moments where I was certain the salesman might burst into tears at my mom’s hard bargaining but, after much back and forth, he pulled up to the doors with my beautiful black Elantra and sighed as he handed me the keys.

That was just over a month ago now. So I was surprised, when I pulled into my driveway after visiting an aunt, to see 1000 shining on my dashboard. At first, I was concerned: how had I put on so many miles in so little time? Thoughts about my engine, transmission, and brake pads raced through my head as I tearfully apologized for using her so much, so soon. But then I thought about it a little further: I work for Shipt and spend most of my time driving between the houses and grocery stores of Round Lake. In July, I had driven my mom to O’Hare airport and picked my parents up two weeks later when they both arrived home. I’d spent hours visiting family, driven to see cousins who’d just flown in from town, and spent more than one night aimlessly driving down the highway, music blaring with the windows rolled down.

In little more than a month’s time, I had filled my life with enough experiences and memories to fill a thousand miles. It’s a realization that was new to me as I had little reason to keep track of the odometer on the family cars, as five people used them. Because of an invention made within only the last 150 years, I traveled more in a month than most people traveled in a lifetime only a few hundred years ago. And unlike a horse or a carriage, my Elantra will continue to last until it hits the familiar realms of 150,000-200,000 miles that live within my parents cars. Week-long journeys once spent on the backs of freezing wagons has been reduced to a few music-filled, temperature controlled hours. It is astounding, sometimes, to think about how far we have come.

So after I thought all of that, I’ve decided that 1000 miles is a good thing. As I sat down in the front seat to drive to Culvers, I realized they were 1000 miles well spent. They were hours spent in the company of Bluetooth music or with a person I love. My car had worked those Shipt hours with me, dutifully carrying me from order to order without problem or complaint. Those hours are what fed me and filled my bank account and allowed me to buy my mom an ice cream as we sat at the McDonald’s drive-through. Next time you’re in your car, I want you to take a peek at your odometer. Look at the number there, from to first digit to every one that follows, and think about those miles. I hope that, like me, you remember the moments of beauty you saw in those miles spent and can’t help but smile at the memory. The path our life follows will always have its ups and downs. Today, I realized its just a beautiful thing that our paths have kept going.

Stay safe and hopeful!

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