For the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Industry, I contrast two moments in my life: buying my first car and, years later, my potential second. The Long Mile: What our shifting desires can tell us about where we are on our own journey.
Recently, I drove a big, smooth, sleek, insulated ride–a Ford crossover called the Edge. My reliable little Corolla was in the shop. Whenever anything happened to it (this time a hit-and-run while it was parked) I thought back to the good old days when I had just three things total to worry about…days when I opened my mail monthly.
…I had to admit that despite its size, its gas mileage, its flashiness, I liked living in the Edge. It was comfortably a level up–sleek, self-announcing, not remotely soccer mommy. It seemed made for me, and it made me want to fill in its promise, whether with children or camping gear and a dog.
This month I have two articles out in Industry’s summer issue.
The first is a travelogue of my visit to the beautiful Caribbean island of Roatán, off the coast of Honduras. Besides the spectacular diving, I went to a brewery/hostel in the jungle, climbed all over Mayan ruins, and hiked in the cloud forest.
I am about to go on a trip to Honduras. I haven’t really travelled much the last few years, so this trip occasions reminders of my last trip cross-country, two years ago, that ushered me out of New York, an old job, and a relationship, and into the unknown. Why does the open road hold such wonders for us? In this I think I shall never grown up. Though when it comes down to it, a big trip, as magical and dreamy as it is, brings a whole lot of practical matters front and center.
Though it seemed silly later, the anxiety around leaving, moving, going “offline” and the preparations for it, mounted to a fever pitch. It was all mixed up with a breakup and a financial overhaul. And then, New York, sexy bitch that she is, decided to be all coy and inviting again just as I was leaving. Typical narcissist. I was warned it would be so, by the indomitable @bludog10003.
This list from that trip reminded me of the logistics in making dreams real. A nice corrective to my overly idealized visions. You cannot argue with artifacts. I love them, when they wash up from the past, randomly. It’s probably why I love writing.
I wrote a lot before that trip, and while on it, though less than I thought I would. Turns out that being on the road is not really conducive to writing. I need a fairly routine schedule to get a lot of creative work done.
Now, two years later, having finally outgrown my devotion to procrastination as a complete worldview, I think I’ll post a series on the move and the trip, including a visual essay I made–my first multimedia effort– that was originally going to be my ticket to artistic residency at Glacier National Park. I received a nice note with my rejection for it. I was going to send it out again to apply for Badlands, but I missed the deadline. My weak time awareness and turtle-y pace do wonders even when my procrastination is on the fritz. Sigh.
I see myself then as young and confused, gullible, but good instincts and a good heart. I guess I am, still, but less confused. I have engaged more, and become happier and more confident. Travelling alone helped. Thoreau said “the wildest are the most alive” and Whitman said “I am large, I contain multitudes” and then Frost said “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”
I had to get out and to render it as something other than escape.
Is travelling an avoidance of life? As with all things it’s the tenor of the thing that gives it meaning. So it depends what the point of it is. We all must decide for ourselves. Anything that fuels indecision and lack of commitment can be just avoidant, life in the waiting room. And we learn really nothing there, except we learn about dead-ends by going down them. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.” William Blake, via Susan Sarandon. But every choice has a sacrificial element to it, its shadow side. Thinking of the other road going on in some parallel world, helps, takes the edge off deciding.
The mind begins to rally around the decision once it is made, neuroscience and psychology (modern-day Confucius) say. Unhappiness is not making it, eroding our ability to be satisfied with our choice.
I was just looking for a quote from a TED talk by a sociologist talking about the paradox of choice (watch it, it’s great):
and instead I randomly remembered his name, and googled it. Another Barry Schwartz (nice sync!) studies collective memory. Though the collective remembers better than individuals, and is therefore a more stable unit of continuity in life and history, it is also a fount or foundation of groupthink. It is not a guidance counselor of decision, only a datamine of results. Deciding things for yourself can net you some pretty harsh criticism from others, both true and outlandish, especially if you refuse to settle down to a few basic truths, or if your and a cherished other person’s truths do not trip along merrily together. And especially if it starts to look increasingly like a dream world to said others.
So what to do? Travel is a pressure release on life, reminds us of our fundamental fragility and separateness, and moving occasionally just shakes things up, it gives change within a tactical advantage. Though it will not just happen by osmosis, just because you’re moving.
I forgot where I started. Anyway, enjoy this week, the beginning of the rest of summer! See you in a couple weeks.
In this travel piece (my first!) for Industry, I had to sort through hundreds of sites and locales boasting trendy eco-tourism, and brought forward the most thoughtful sustainability and ecology practices now on display in the best resorts and destinations, as well as showing you what to look for when you are booking travel plans.