The following rant was produced during a final purging session in the Honolulu airport. These are quite raw thoughts from a mind coming down from a solo RTW at a very early and confused age... It's been far too easy to accept being around people I know, spending money that's not mine in amounts unjustified, sleeping on mattresses and wearing clean clothes, letting someone else fend for my safety and entertainment, letting myself forget about what I just did. I was so anxious to get off the plane in Maui and see people who would release so many burdens for me and make me finally feel comfortable. I received the treatment that comes with money at no cost to me. And I had the luxury of ears that would listen to my stories, and my mouth wouldn't stop. I wanted to pull out every shirt and bag of tea I bought to display, telling stories of their capture and the game I had to play to pay the right price.
We immediately went into recovery mode, sending me to the spa to cleanse my craggy face. Laying in that perfect bed with someone treating my face to sublime perfection only had me adding the costs and realizing I was spending so many families' yearly incomes on something for myself…that I could do to myself.
I came to the realization that the world is not fair, and I was born in a prosperous and privileged society. I cannot be mad at that. I cannot be mad that people don't know what's out there when it's so hard to penetrate that bubble around America and find the truth of billions of lives. The greenbacks have so little value here, though I was spending them with no problems in worlds that treasured their worth like golden tickets.
And I was once a spectacle with my white skin, my fine hair, a massive German-built backpack and real trekking shoes. I had to hide the location where I stashed my $1 bills and never pulled out my phone unless I could hide it in a corner or feel the comfort of a two-star hotel. I stare at the shoulder of the road, in awe of the space available, and wish there were snack, merchandise, and restaurant stands where I could spend my cents on a cultural gem.
I'm still among oceans and volcanoes, neon sunsets and an international crowd, so I imagine something profound will hit me when I return home to a bleak and misty hometown. I'll be wearing scarves to shield low temperatures instead of covering my shoulders for temples or my hair in Muslim cultures. A coat will be worn more often than a t-shirt, and I'll have a choice of clothing that will make the matter between my ears ache. I'll be tempted by and probably often succumb to the vices of alcohol and club nights more than I will sleep on public transportation and pull out my camera.
I never have to change money. I will have vast quantities of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, hot water, clean water, make-up, light, clean towels, towels with any nip at all, floor surfaces that don't stick or require flip-flops, clean sheets, mattresses with springs and without stains, AC blowing from all angles, air that doesn't have the hint of watered down urine, and I could go on.
There are postcards available through Dragoman Overland that showcase posed pictures of people making the rough transition back home from their overlanding experiences..men squatting in their manicured front lawns while reading the Times and using toilet paper that hovers from an isolated wire…or a person prepared with fork and knife looking at the live guinea pig in front of them, unsure of where to go from here. I plan on being confused again for a long time, and hopefully this time around I will combine that feeling with a little more happiness.
I know that traveling is something that challenges me like a social, gastronomic, survival, monetary, cultural, geographic game of strategy, but I yearn for something other than what I can do for myself. I have taken to heart the advice of a selected few I met on the trail, and whether they were reliable sources of wisdom, I believe there was a fated reason I heard those words trickle from their lips. From their knowledge, I have learned that I think too much, that my imagination has stood in the way of my realized life, and that maybe…I am not happy.
That last statement hurt me the most.
How is it possible to be successful at motivating others, pulsing life into parties, making others and yourself laugh, and listening to your inner most desires without honestly knowing whether happiness is something you truly possess. I have family and some friends that complete my heart's need for company and love, and I have the ability to do things only a tiny fraction of the world's population can share with me. How can I live with an Italian family, cost free, weekend at a Tuscan villa, drink top notch Limoncello, and slice through the world's best pizza without feeling the satisfaction the majority of the world would treasure? I cried at their lunch table because they told me I was unhappy. I started asking people I didn't know if they could sense my Happy Meter.
There could be some merit in the fact that I've done something so magnificent that, now, the thing I want to do the most is what is normally expected of me, at this age, in this culture, in this family, and in this millennium.
It is so important to me to stay in touch with the most primitive side of myself, peeing in the grass, drinking river water, grabbing soil and sleeping undisturbed with the crickets, but I have such a problem following suit in the effort to find the other half that humans have decided is necessary. I've grown so much. I know this has to be true. I've learned recipes and have talked to people in historic societies. I've had a distant perspective on a huge event in my own country and seen how the world reacts to our words. I've been secluded from people who think like me and have found a hidden sense of nationalism that never existed in the consciousness before. I've been without my crutches and my companions for so long that I've become a ready-to-punch, survival-minded Neanderthal that talks to itself for amusement.
This is my mind on overpriced beer, teetering on the edge of a big life landmark. I just traveled around the world and am boarding my 22nd plane of the year. I've maxed out a persons allotted superlatives at the age of 23, and I could brag, I am compelled to unknowingly brag, but I don't want to. I want to seal my lips and hold those thoughts inside. I want to write a novel of secrets and leave the publication the gift of surprise on those I know. So the trip has come to a close. I feel like the world around me should be fuzzy…give me another beer and I think that could happen.
This is a piece I will read at a later date, edit and add to, and suck on like a sweet nostalgic candy. This is a big moment in my life. 203 days of scouring the Earth for happiness and the meaning of life. It was a noble quest that makes me pretend to believe I connect with the greats of history. And now I wish to relate to the greats of my radio, my toted books, the personas on the screens, the withered wrinkles of a past generation I admire. The only thing that matters at this point of time is the word behind the cursor.
I want to make money in some way. I wish I could paint and write and sing dollars into my account while enlightening others to Van Gogh their lives instantly. I'll set such goals lofty high in order to give my life meaning I can be proud of. However, what is very likely is that I will get a job that sets me in a nice place and find myself a few years down the line reminiscing too much about a trip I took one year.
My hope and rock lies in the fact that I've had this thought before, and I squashed it by the conception of my Big Journey. I became a nomad after dreaming about being one. I had a highlight that depressed me, knowing it would soon be in my wake. But a new highlight bubbled into my biography, and I made it happen with desire, dollars, and the knowledge that it was envied. I used to have so much confidence in the person that was myself, that I had never let go of my values, even when they changed, and let the microphone of my consciousness' decisions always resonate the voice of my being…but now I think I am more complicated than I ever let myself acknowledge. I want someone to probe me for information that uncovers layers I've never allowed the light of day. Maybe that's the information that tingles when I have epiphanies, when the broom sweeps the matter I keep piling for comfort and leaves me to feel the rush of wind that combines with a peaceful moment.
I hope that even an ounce of this purge is true. I cannot truly be confident in that fact anymore. I'm just following the ranks of Mrs. Dalloway. Today I wondered why the shuttle driver was so chatty. You ask one question and they ramble like they're the prime time attraction on the latest late night show. And then it came to me, from my father's knowing mouth…they want a tip. Blasted!
America! I forgot your sneaky ways! Welcome home, me. Enjoy your cat. She probably hates you. Begin your life as it was predicted to be. But keep your new knowledge close by. And go pee for Pete's sake! You've had a liter already!
And with this, my Big Journey comes to a close.