In getting ready to be away for an extended time I’ve found myself returning again and again to Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding. Some thoughts I’ve had from reading the book:
“Life at home can’t prepare you for how little you need on the road.”
While I’m not backpacking this time around, even sorting out what I need and don’t need has been cumbersome. I’ve stored a portion of my clothes, books, and superfluous ‘things’ that will wait for me until I return, at which point I’m hoping to sell off a good chunk of my goods either at a yard sale or online.
“Reading old travel books or novels set in faraway places, spinning globes, unfolding maps, playing world music, eating in ethnic restaurants, meeting friends in cafes . . . all these things are part of never-ending travel practice, not unlike doing scales on a piano, or shooting free-throws, or meditating.”
– Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgramage
Alaska was only a thought, somewhere distant, living at the edge of my periphery. I don’t recall when it took root. But when I visited last year it blossomed. There was a vastness to the country that I had never seen the likes of before – which stood before me in such a way that I felt both insignificant and at the same time a part of the frontier. It was a continuation of something I looked for that first time I was in Europe, and I knew I’d have to go back.
“If you’re already in debt, work your way out of it – and stay out. If you have a mortgage or other long-term debt, devise a situation (such as property rental) that allows you to be independent of its obligations for long periods of time. Being free from debt’s burdens simply gives you more vagabonding options. And, for that matter, more life options.”
Well, debt is something I’ve considered in painstaking detail since getting out of school. I’ve made some financial mistakes; followed certain passions that weren’t always viable; spent too much, made too little, and sat idle occasionally while trying to reorient myself. Debt is a weight, and I work every day to lighten that load.
“I think if I can make a bundle of cash before I’m thirty and get out of this racket,” [Charlie Sheen says in Wall Street], “I’ll be able to ride my motorcycle across China.”
When I first saw this scene on video a few years ago, I nearly fell out of my seat. After all, Charlie Sheen or anyone else could work for eight months as a toiulet cleaner and have enough money to ride a motorcycle across China.
And that quote from Chapter 1 has stuck with me since first reading it in 2003. My copy of the book is beaten up, highlighted, scribbled in, and full of notes about places I want to see and methods of transportation. I regret not taking the plunge that year. Back when I was debt-free, and I needed a year off from school because I just couldn’t concentrate. But it’s never too late to do what you wanted to do. Sure, maybe it feels a little more complicated. But, it’s not too late.
I was having lunch the other day with some friends, and one of them asked whether I had the wanderlust. Yes, I do.
“To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.”
– Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road