Book Excerpt: Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway: An RV Travel Adventure
Runaway Publishing, 2019
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Ever felt suffocated by your routine and responsibilities, lost your passion for life, or just longed for some adventure? Heidi Eliason did, so at the age of 45 she quit her job, sold her house, bought a motorhome, and embarked on a five-year road trip with her dog, Rylie. It was a journey that transformed her life.
Heidi Eliason is an internationally published author and editor. Her past freelance work includes writing for an RV adventure company and producing more than fifty RV travel articles for an online news source. Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway is her first book and was a 2022 Readers’ Favorite Nonfiction Travel Award Finalist. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and gentle giant dog. Find out more about her adventures and read author interviews at HeidiEliason.com.
The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
I stood barefoot and alone in the cool sand of El Coyote Beach, surrounded by the cloak of the
black-velvet night. It was the kind of darkness that can only be experienced when you escape
from the bustle and bright lights of civilization. Looking up, I searched for the constellations that
were usually so brilliant and plentiful above the Sea of Cortez, but the clouds had been stitching
themselves together throughout the day, creating a puffy layer of insulation that hid the twinkling
trails of stars.
I wandered down the beach toward the usual spot for the evening campfire and came upon
Frankie standing near the water.
“Heidi, did you see the water?” Frankie asked.
I turned to look at the sea and saw several other people splashing and kayaking in the
shallow water. Whenever the water was disturbed with a splash, boat, or paddle, it would glitter
as though buckets of diamonds had been scattered into the sea.
“It’s so beautiful!” I kicked off my flip-flops and ran into the water. “What is it?”
“Bioluminescence. Have you ever seen it before?” Frankie asked. “It’s from tiny sea
“Never. I’ve heard of it, but I had no idea it was this amazing. So that must be what I saw in
the water earlier today.” I’d spent hours that day frolicking in the warm bay like a kid during
summer vacation, swimming and lazily floating around on my inflatable tube. When I neared the
shore, I saw a frothy foam where the sea met the sand. Now I knew this was from tiny organisms
that produced the bioluminescence. These little, light-filled creatures put on an amazing show.
We splashed along the shore and paddled in kayaks for a long time, delighting in the water
shimmering with every stroke. When we were done in the water, we gathered around the
campfire, happiness spilling throughout our conversation as we experienced this special show
from Mother Nature. Eventually, the last licks of the campfire turned to ash, and everyone
murmured their good nights as they wandered off to bed. Reluctant to let go of this unusual
experience, I was the last one lingering on the beach.
As I trudged slowly through the sand back to my motorhome, my dawdling brought me a
precious gift. A light rain began spattering through the warm air, and as the drops hit the water, it
winked and flashed in the darkness. The entire sea looked like it was filled with glittering fairy
dust, and it was the most magical sight I have ever seen. I caught my breath and, for a moment,
felt as though the world had flipped upside down and billions of stars were now bathing in the
My heart was flooded with happiness, and I was reminded of what I felt when my daughter
was born. After the pain of labor, an overwhelming sense of wonder at the miracle of life and my
part in it had me drenched in euphoria. This time I was a mere spectator of this fantasia of nature,
but it was still a transformative moment for me.
For years, I had been closed off to joy and the beauty of nature and life surrounding me. The
pain from years of struggle and emotional suffering had me so thoroughly wrapped up in my
cape of unhappiness; I lost my passion for living and the wonder of nature. My loneliness and despair once had me teetering on the brink with suicidal thoughts before I realized I had other
options for escape.
I knew I’d made the right decision when I decided to embark on this journey. Leaving the
conventional life of the “American dream” behind to take a solo journey to recover my spirit was
a life-changing decision. I had crawled through the dark tunnel and made it to the brilliant
sunshine at the other end. My eyes were opened.
Witnessing Mother Nature’s incredible water show was somehow so personal, and because I
was by myself, it seemed intended just for me. I was a solo traveler on an empty beach
witnessing a magical moment. Although I had no special someone to share it with, I didn’t feel
the least bit lonely. This performance seemed like it was choreographed for an audience of one,
as though a gorgeous and talented dancing partner were holding out a hand and inviting me to
rejoin the dance.
I quick-stepped into the sea again, smiling as the blinking water shimmered around my
ankles and warm raindrops tickled my skin. I felt certain I was meant to be here, in this moment,
and I realized how completely my life had turned around. I felt connected to the universe, like I
was a tiny but integral part of it. I’d learned that even when life looks very bleak and we are
certain the future holds nothing but hard work, loneliness, and sorrow, good things can be
waiting right around the corner. My world had turned upside down, and it was for the better.
This experience opened me up to a sense of awe and wonder about the world that I hadn’t
felt since I was a child. Emotion washed over me, but instead of tears, laughter welled up inside
and spilled out my throat. I knew how special it was to be in this moment, full of life and love,
and grateful to be alive. It made all of the struggles and strife of my lonely childhood, draining
divorce, single parenthood, and sagging confidence in myself melt away, and in their place was a
new-found happiness, and a deep-in-the-soul knowledge that everything was okay—I was okay.
The knowledge that I had been ready to give up when this wonderful adventure was just around
the corner made me giddy with gratitude.
Later, when I told other women about my solo travels in a motorhome, some would tell me
how brave I was. At the time, I didn’t think of my decision as brave. I thought it was necessary
for my sanity and survival. Running away in middle age saved my life.