Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

April 8, 2004. On Traveling.

Iím trying to figure out what traveling is about. I have been on the road for sixteen days now. Mostly staying with people I know (or know now), hardly camping at all so far. I get antsy staying with people, get to feeling like Iím still not on my own. But when Iím on my own and donít have to be someplace at some particular time, I donít quite know what to do. Why should I do one things or another? Why should I go to one place or another?

Itís going to take a while to sort this out. When I began this venture, and thought about how Iíd spend my time, I thought Iíd like four hours a day biking or hiking or paddling or some other physical activity. Four hours a day working on one project or another Ė writing this blog, writing the other book Iím planning, researching the project I want to do soon. Four hours a day getting to know places, visiting, meeting people, talking to them. And four hours a day goofing off Ė reading my huge pile of old New Yorkers, reading silly novels, watching movies on my laptop, whatever. I guess thatís more hours than there are in the day Ė maybe thatís one of my problems.

When Iím not out moving and Iím not writing I feel aimless. When Iím changing places all the time, too. When Iím visiting people instead of finding the world that I donít know yet. At the beginning I was simply excited to be on the road and out of Arlington. When I left Savannah I was excited to be on my own and camping. Now Iíve been out for more than two weeks, and itís time to think again about where I am and why and what Iím doing.

I am on the road for several reasons:

  • I didnít want to feel tied down to a place Ė New Jersey, Arlington, wherever. Being fixed in one community has gotten to feel constraining and I wanted out. Iíve wanted to just get up and go for a long time now, and it seemed like Iím ready Ė I didnít have ties to keep me anywhere, I was going to leave NJ anyway, and it was the right time.
  • I have never seen most of the US, and I want to get to know it. I want to spend time in the rural south. I want to see the Grand Canyon. I want to get a sense of the Great Plains and the buffalo and what that region is becoming. I want to explore eastern Canada and paddle in the St. Lawrence and be in cold stark landscapes.
  • I want to be away from people and their expectations, from everyday life, from routine.
  • Maybe Iím looking for something? The next place to live? A reason to want to be part of a community, or more part of a community than I am when on the road? Perhaps.

The aimlessness comes when I donít feel Iím accomplishing anything. Some people say just relax, you donít have to do anything. But this isnít a vacation, where I could Ė indeed should - just hang out and not worry about wasting time. It's real life, not a departure from real life, and for me that's not about being aimless. It does have some purpose, even though in part I have to figure out what that is, because I don't entirely know yet.

Itís going to take a while.

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