Virus of restlessness
I have been tweaking this draft for months. I submit this as a “business plan” for your feedback.
I am young, restless and unattached. My first great act as a child was to run away from the house for an adventure down the street. Ever since then, my trips have been getting longer and more ambitious. My first university afforded me the opportunity to see most of my country, but on many nights I toss and turn in bed wondering about the great big world out there, about the swath of my own country that I have missed. A great curiosity overwhelms me. Not being certain of existence after this one, I want to taste, touch, see, smell and hear as much I can before I can’t.
For many years I feel like I’ve been watching the tide of my soul, waiting for it to rise high enough to launch my journey. My feelings about this have swelled and subsided for years now. They vacillate between fear and maniacal desire. Before I fall back into fear, I have decided to launch upon an adventure.
A few months ago I designed a route that centered on traveling to the great cities and states of the union I had not yet visited. My journey relies primarily on Amtrak and Greyhound, with a couple of exceptions that keep me out of a long journey through parts of the deep south I’d like never to see again.
During this new adventure I will check in with the heroes of older ones, now scattered across the country. In fact, one mission for this journey is to rescue a collection of my books currently held hostage in Louisville, Kentucky.
There are many well meaning angels in my life trying to temper my vagabond spirit: “You’re getting old; you need to settle down; you should get a steady job and then travel during your vacation time.” There are bogeymen on my shoulders whispering fear into my ears: “You will fail; how can you pay for this without a job?; You should feel guilty, because most people can’t do what you’re doing.”
The fact I am not getting younger figures heavily in my launch. I don’t want to get to the end of my life left wondering what if I had gone on that trip instead of settling into an office job? I’d rather fail at finding out than succeed at safely wondering.
I am not married nor do I have kids. I have no employer. I do not owe money on a car or house. Notions of what someone is “supposed to do” do not impress me. Right now I can do what I want to do and so I will do it until I don’t want to.
Why not travel during vacation time?
To me “needing a vacation” is an admission that your day job is a poison from which you need regular inoculations. The point of this journey is not to take a break, but to actually get started. I have not been happy with the rat race I’ve been told to settle for. I see people accept jobs with promise of great reward, but after they cash their checks, many seem to check into the bar and out of life. By the time they’ve recovered from a miserable weekend, it’s time to hop right back on the wheel of misfortune. If this is the stability everyone says I need, I politely decline: keep that insanity for yourself.
I have felt guilty that I might have a great adventure while so many around me are tied to their spouses, kids, jobs and homes. I realize some people want that life and some people never had a choice. Perhaps someday I will also want the ties that bind, but it is lunacy to feel responsibility or guilt for people’s circumstances over which I have no control. Instead, I will celebrate that I can enjoy this blessing.
“How will you make money? Where will you stay? Where will you put your stuff?” I have a bit saved up to get me started. I am still selling copies of my first book from my first years in Los Angeles, accept patronage through Square Cash, or work the occasional odd job if I have to. I will stay in hotels, motels, hostels, Airbnb’s, and the occasional friend’s couch. I lost my love of accumulating junk years ago (though I admit to letting big ticket items break the bank from time to time), so I won’t have a lot of stuff weighing me down; my life fits into a suitcase.
The opening of Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley summarizes my feelings on the matter perfectly:
“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and the vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.”
“I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it.”
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