The course of a given day twists like so many wrought iron gates and ornate French mouldings, every wait, walk, meal, and museum holding untold dozens of possibilities, each one less predictable than the last. Any time I decide to move or enter somewhere new I take a deep breath, knowing full and well that plans are merely framework for the unexpected (an idea that, once accepted, delights me to no end). In this manner I learn to become an invisible and entirely inoffensive person, abandoning all traces of authoritative inflection along with my expectations of actually arriving where I intended to go. My newfound ability to purely exercise the oft-cliched mantra go with the flow inadvertently improved my conversation and people skills (or was that vice versa?)… to practice either purely is a very freeing philosophical revelation. It’s amazing what hundreds of silent hours spent pedalling, looking around, and bouncing from couch to floor will do for one’s psyche.
* * *
The complimentary obverse is the realization that perfection is sublime and serendipitous; you can never seek or create it, but rather be open to it and ready for it, and when you come across something promising, hold on loosely. Enjoy it for all it is worth, but do not forget that all is fleeting. Where there is a rest break fifty miles into a century day, where all heat and fatigue melt away with a bite of a tiny chocolate chip cookie “on the house”, where bucolic views and ridiculous experiences create highs so lofty that all else feels boring, there is deep hand numbness, skin cancer, and dizzying exhaustion to ground them all in reality. There is no ying without a yang, no sweet (cookie) without the sour or the salty (sunscreen-laden sweat drops to the eyes). Gross indulgences under the excuse of four-figure calorie burning and weeks of sensory deprivation is only satisfying for so long. I sit here attempting to digest all of the breakfast fare I have sampled on the previous premise (and the ruse that I am practicing my food critiquing skills and “expanding my palette”), I realize that I may have temporarily exhausted the extreme “feast or famine” mindset that has sustained me so well lately. Painfully full for the first time in over a month, I think I have reached literal and metaphorical satiation. Rather than bike until I resent two-wheeled machines eternally, instead of living semi-homelessly until I develop an acute peanut allergy <IT’S fuel vegetarian cheap a>, I think I am ready to seek a new equilibrium for the present. To return to the mini-feasts and mini-famines and staunch escapist mentality that has sustained me thus far, only with more clarity and purpose than ever before. To work and to play, to exercise voluntary restraint and to calculatedly indulge, to earn and to spend–all the while possessing a deeper-than-ever understanding of the fleetingness and relativity of it all. I could return to vagabonding at any time and survive, even thrive, but I also feel something that I haven’t in a long time: ready willingness to be a full, active participant in the ordinary day-to-day and all it entails. Rather than hypothetically and philosophically eschewing, I have put all of that dreadful broodingness into practice. I now know that I can do it, but I also no understand why we gravitate to certain, seemingly inane constructs.
For a smattering of reasons, we cannot all drop everything and go (though I will continue to argue otherwise), but we can all foster weekend-and-evening passions, miniature escapes that constantly ground us in our own tactile reality. <One of mine is cycling, and I really hope to never become burned out by it..> These escapes all lead to loftier versions, to dreams, motivations, and aspirations. If we can’t all have our dream jobs, perhaps our day jobs can fund our dream hobbies and getaways. Be they weekend backpacking trips one state over, monthlong extravagant vacations abroad, new items to participate in the game they call ‘fashion’, or modifications for an automobile that slowly satisfy our endless human desire to tinker and feel change (which may provide as much insight as I’ll ever have into women’s fascination with fashion and accessories), we all seek the same thing. Everyone has a different preferred flavor, but we all enjoy ice cream. I’ve long suspected as much, and spreading myself thin for various hobbies’ sake has preserved what’s left of my sanity. It took some deep deprivation and discomfort for me to gain insight into the universality of this notion and the variability within it. Nice meals paid for by businessmen in suits and cookies gleaned dumpster diving with real nomads were consumed with equal joy and satisfied the same basic need. I fear that I have been bitten by a bug that means I will never get my fill of such experiences, but being a lifelong transparent traveller is a fate that I will gladly accept. I have learned to take life both less seriously and more seriously than ever before, and what a gift that is. The journey I am on is far more mental than destinational (look it up), and can be continued with equal success in my hometown or in the wilds of the Orient. Instead of seeking to “re-adjust” as many backpacking and touring authors advise, I will hold onto this mindset for a lifetime, finding greater satisfaction in the prosaic and spectacular alike, all thanks to the maddest month I hath e’er lived.
Rather than voyaging for a year and spending a lifetime talking about it, I hope to voyage intermittently (and constantly) for a lifetime and mention it when inquiring ears earnestly wonder why I would ever ditch a comfortable bed and reliable transportation for a park bench and a janky bicycle. Far from being over, this trip is truly just beginning.