Charlottesville, VA — 8.22.2016
You won’t hear how a traveler’s time is mostly spent. You’ll see Instagram pictures with perfect filters and witty captions, and you’ll read blog posts of discovery and adventure. But you won’t hear about the in-between.
Most of a traveler's time, though, is spent in that in-between. At coffee shops, when he needs to get off the couch he’s staying on. Searching for AC and a place to burn a couple hours.
Walking. By himself. Trying to familiarize himself with a city. Hours of walking in the heat of the day. Sweating all over himself. Losing any hope of keeping clean.
Travelers are always sweating. Often over dried sweat from earlier in the day or from the day before.
There’s nothing but time, but travelers have trouble finishing anything. Half read books become a burden on the mind. Emails from home build up and take surges of energy to send off. But these surges don’t happen often.
Any contact with the real world is difficult. Checking his bank account is the absolute worst. Even though he worked for this time and saved up, seeing a bank account dwindle can ruin a day. Or at least an hour. It can set off questions of “what the heck is he doing out here” and “what the heck is he going to do when he gets home.”
Talking with loved ones back at home can be difficult too. The traveler set off on this trip to find quiet and solitude, and so checking in with loved ones can feel like a chore and counterintuitive for his initial reasons for travel. But when the loved ones don’t call and don’t text, the traveler grows weak and lonely and he wonders if he’s slowly becoming forgotten.
And as much as he wants to shut himself off from home, he needs to stay relevant. He checks Facebook and Instagram more than ever before. He posts frequently and likes become his lifeline.
The traveler sees the days, while everyone else is at work. He sees the homeless in the parks. Lying on their backs, on benches, with theirs shirts off. Some are face down with their eyes rolling back into their heads. He wants to help but he keeps walking.
Other travelers are around him as well. Mostly at museums and monuments and this is where he sees young families. Fathers pushing strollers with empty looks on their faces. And mothers yelling at their older children who don’t need to be in the strollers anymore. He wonders why fathers are so lifeless and mothers are so angry. He wonders if he wants to be a father.
Early in the trip, the traveler talks to every person he meets about his plans. He talks to Uber drivers and fellow passengers on the train. He tells them he’s traveling around the country. He’s starting in the south, heading up the east coast, back across through the north, and then down the west coast. But soon he grows tired of this story and his trip around the country is shortened to a trip across the south. Then just a trip to Atlanta. Then he pretends to be from Atlanta. Then he stops talking to Uber drivers and fellow passengers altogether.
A lot of this in-between is filled with anxiety. Am I seeing what I should be seeing? Am I eating where I should be eating? Why am I walking in circles?
But you won’t see this on Instagram or read it on travel blogs. You will only see beautiful landscapes and ironic street signs and hear of the wild adventures.
And so, my time in Charlottesville has been great.
I’ve hiked through green forests and swam in crystal clear lakes. I’ve visited Jefferson’s Monticello and philosophized with friends late into the warm, summer nights.