Three days before leaving for Logan Airport, I decided to drive up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to visit my grandparents. It would be well over two months before I’d see them again, and besides; traveling to the seacoast would be an excellent justification for consuming a gallon bucket of fried clams. But before we could get to gorging, my grandfather bequeathed to me a book that he thought I might find interesting, in light of this cross-country adventure I’ve just begun.
The author is Rebecca Solnit and her work in question is titled A Field Guide to Getting Lost – not in the literal sense of being cold, hungry, and alone in…oh, let’s say, the Siberian woods, but rather, being existentially adrift. And almost immediately after cracking the book, I fell upon the following passage:
“[Today’s] children seldom roam, even in the safest of places. Because of their parents’ fear of the monstrous things that might happen (and do happen, but rarely), the wonderful things that happen as a matter of course to them are stripped away…I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest.”
Those of you who visit the blog regularly will recall earlier posts describing the structure of this trip, like a movie trailer. But now, in the final hours before jumping on a plane to the Pacific Northwest with a bushel of bus tickets, I must confess: how this journey will play itself out is a complete mystery to me. Sure, I’ve booked travel and lodging in advance, lined up interview subjects, and even squeezed in precious time to catch Only God Forgives before it’s booted from theaters to make room for that Grumpy Cat meme movie. But when it comes to the outcome of the interviews and all those long, sciatica inducing rides along multiple interstates, I’m willfully, excitedly lost.
Many of us have fallen for the notion that we can realize our tourist fantasies, right down to the beachside bungalow with flamingos in the front yard. This is an illusion. One doesn’t plan a trip so much as gamble and hope for the best results. It’s a kind of getting lost that we still allow ourselves as adults. Perhaps that’s why so many Americans have managed to scrape together the means to travel during a recession economy. It allows surprises that most professional lifestyles do not.
Temporary separations also allow emergence of thoughts that might stay hidden amid the more superficial obligations of daily life; thoughts like, “what am I doing with my life,” or “what are we doing to our planet?”
These concerns are worth your time.
Despite Solnit’s fear of a generation brought up “under house arrest”, I see more and more Millennials launching themselves into that dangerous maw we call the great wide open. This fills me with joy. Because eventually, one of those Millennials is going to return from their travels, survey their familiar digs, and go, “Wait a minute…” Henry Rollins calls this the moment when “the light bulb goes on.” And right now, all of us could really use some luminance.
So with that, on the eve of departure, I leave you with this plea: get lost. Keep on following Drive All Night, by all means – the best is about to begin – but find the nerve to embark on your own adventure as well. It could be climbing a windswept mountain, traveling to a foreign country, or simply walking through the doors of that sex shop you’ve always ogled at fleetingly while commuting to work. Go for it. And for god’s sake, welcome the consequences. Rip a hole in your pants, ask a stranger for directions, and – breathe slowly here, folks – let your iPhone battery run out. Chances are, you’ll discover something wild about your surroundings, or within yourself.
See you on the road,