Monday, January 4, 2016

The Fear Of Traveling

Small Fish in a Big Pond

So after a great deal of thinking and research I've decided to buy a minivan, outfit it for living and road trip indefinitely around North America. When I was younger, my urge to see the US died sometime around elementary school (when we were no longer doing oral reports about each state). I mean New Jersey couldn't be THAT different from the rest of the states, right? And even if it was, who wants to hang out with country bumpkins?

That was the subconscious mentality of my youth for the longest time. One could be outraged by my ignorance but I'm pretty sure a great deal of the tri-state area thinks that there isn't anything worth a look between Philly and Cali...except maybe Denver and Chicago.

Shamefully, I escaped that mentality fairly late in life; I'd say the moment I came to Kansas City about a year a half ago. Even now I find it amazing that such a gem exists smack dab in the middle of the country. So with my teensy perspective once again shattered by travel, I am inspired to see more of the US. As The Great Curiosity that inspired my penchant for adventure tales such as "Fievel Goes West", "Tall Tale" and "On My Honor" takes over, I now begin to feel a bit of that fire rising in my gut.

Unfortunately, something else rose in my gut. At first it was a steady rational voice in the back of my head reminding me of the overwhelming lessons I had learned while backpacking in France and Maui. "You still suck at saving and traveling with no money is stressful.", "won't you get lonely from being alone for so long?", "You've finally started to make good friends and there are more people who want to be your friends, here. It took you so long to make them, what if you never get this chance again?" These are the biggest fears I have. But to counter these fears I have a few more. "You can't work another normal job again. No matter what you do you'll be miserable working for someone in the long term.", "You'll miss some important moment with your family because you HAVE to go to work.", "If you stay in the conventional work force you WILL go nuts.", "You're always the person you want to be when you are traveling."

The anti-travel fears started as a small voice until I watched a certain movie. "Into the Wild" is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a youngin' well-versed in Thoreau, Walden and other heroes of the transcendentalist movement. After graduating college he leaves his broken family -without a word- to travel around the US mostly via hitchhiking. Later he is inspired to rough it in the wilds of Alaska. (Spoiler Alert) After successfully surviving a season and getting lonely he decides it is time to move on. But to his misfortune, he is trapped where he is when the river he originally crossed by foot turns into full fledged rapids. After the wild game disappear, he attempts to eat plants. Unfortunately, he mixes up an edible plant with a poisonous plant, suffers paralysis and starvation then dies. The director did an excellent job of traumatizing me with McCandless' last week or so of life. But throughout all of that, the thing that resonated with me the most was the lesson I had learned in France.  In his last dying days McCandless' wrote in the margins of one his books "Happiness real when shared".

I've never met this man. We will never meet. And yet he found out what I found out. I don't plan on roughing it in Alaska (I hate the cold, honestly) or hitching myself up in an abandoned bus, hunting animals with little to no experience. I know that I will meet people on the road and I have the added advantage of being able to speak the language but I wonder if I leave Kansas City at 29 years old (going on 30) and travel around and end up who knows where (Mexico? Asia?) will I have thrown away my final chances of having a deep face-to-face relationship with another human being? When I am finally ready to settle down will everyone my age be married and babied with no time for socializing with anyone except with other couples? Will the adult cliques be formed with neon "no vacancy" signs flashing for those they didn't go to high school or college with? I know it's easy to think that I am being dramatic but I see the consequences of my travels not only in my life but some of my friends' lives. People get significant others and disappear. Parents are too tired to hold a conversation. Newbies are interesting for five seconds and then townies move on to the next new thing. It's all very real and right in our faces.

So after reflecting on it, I've managed to restrain these thoughts to a loud voice in my head rather than an infection of my whole being. But it's still there. The mental comforts I have are few but somehow they are working. I think about how God will take care of me if I focus on Him. I think about being able to see my family when I want. I think about all the ways my eyes will be opened beyond my feeble imagination. I think about the more loving, tolerant person I will become by traveling and somehow it keeps me going.


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