Inspirations for this journey:

Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts:
In my case I already had the inspiration for this trip, so much of what he writes was simply confirmation. But it was a good read nonetheless – I recommend it if you want to get inspired to do something similar.

The Four-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris:
HIGHLY recommended. This book has something for everyone. Even if you have no intention of leaving your job or changing careers, he shows you how to at least make better use of your time so that you can have more time for yourself and your own passions. On the other extreme, he goes into detail on how to quit your job, travel, and truly experience a life worth living – all while continuing to support yourself.

Roz Savage, the first woman to row across the Atlantic (and now the Pacific too!) Like me, Roz was in her mid-thirties with a secure life, a good job, everything hunky-dory. But she wanted more. She wanted a life of adventure. She didn’t want to have any regrets when she’s on her deathbed. An inspiration to us all.

The newspaper column below. The author, Riz Rollins, is a Seattle DJ who also has (had?) a column in the weekly alternative rag The Stranger. I clipped this article out sometime in the late Nineties. You can catch DJ Riz late nights on KEXP or in the archives. Picture a jolly black man with long dreads who will charm your pants off. Anyway, this article has been on the door of my refrigerator for about 10 years now. I find it incredibly compelling:

From Riz Rollins’ column “Paradise”, published in The Stranger (Seattle’s alternative weekly) circa 1998ish:

Leave Your House

I told you so.

I was right when I told you to quit your job last year. Even though it took one long-ass while for you to heed my plea, once you were liberated from that life-wasting, backbiting, sorry excuse for a career, you experienced spring in autumn. Your face turned brighter than dawn. You lost weight – those insecurity pounds you put on whenever you’re stressed, to compensate for the debt of embraces the world owes you. You’ve taken to dancing in your own house again.

But lately I’ve noticed you’ve gotten a little too comfortable for your own good. You’ve taken to cooking lasagna once a week, which is at least three more times a month than you should. You’ve been watching a lot of television, even for you. You’ve taken to almost exclusively renting films you’ve already seen. Last month you watched John Travolta movies for three weeks straight. You cried twice at the end of Phenomenon. Yo momma didn’t even cry at the end of that one.

You’ve been calling your momma quite a bit recently asking for new gossip about the family, but there isn’t any new gossip about the family – hasn’t been since the holidays, and won’t likely be any until July 4th at the earliest. Normally she thinks you don’t call her enough, but lately she wonders if there’s some devastation going on that you haven’t told her about.

When I found out you hadn’t left the house except to go to work, get food, and rent videos, that’s when I started to worry. Don’t even blame the weather, ’cause you’ve lived here as long as I have, and you should be used to it by now. You”re no longer moved by changes in the weather. You haven’t even opened the windows in who knows how long. You’re starting to smell funny.

You admitted that you took a walk last week during an unusually nice day, and returned home shortly afterward puzzling over the fact that there are not one, but two new Taco Del Mars within walking distance of your house. “How long have they been there?” you wondered

You’ve settled into a nesting groove, surrounding yourself with the familiar. Nesting may be just fine for some birds. But even birds have to shake up their routines, flying south or east for the winter and return to northern Cali for a spring party just before their summer of ease. Besides, you’re not a bird, you’re a human being, descended from nomads and barbarians. It’s embedded in our genetic makeup, in our collective tribal psyche – the need to pick up and leave for no discernible reason, except to just go.

But you never go anywhere. Those holiday trips don’t count, nor do the weekend hikes, or skiing trips, or bicycle jaunts to the islands. Those are regular and predictable. Your perfectly human soul needs unpredictability. The delicious terror of the unfamiliar. To eat food that you don’t recognize. To drive on the wrong side of the road.

You need to leave, and not just for a vacation either. Vacation connotes a break from a routine to which you expect to return. You need to get lost. Literally. To wander down a road you’ve never seen, passing strangers speaking a language you cannot speak. You need the ridicule of those strangers; you need to learn the truth of your own foolishness by watching others make a fool of you. Which they will. People will laugh and point at you. Children will cower behind guarding parents in absolute fear of you. Men will clench their fists, and women will clutch their valuables when they approach you. You will be taken advantage of, people will cheat you out of money. They will purposely misdirect you. They will walk up behind you and mysteriously clear their throats. They will nonchalantly spit in your direction. They will dash in front of you while you are queuing up. They will get you drunk on the local rotgut and abandon you in a cold rainy ditch.

If you go out clubbing, they will make you stand in line longer than everybody else. And if you’re the only person in line, they will make you stand there alone. Bouncers will peruse your various identifications with the scrutiny of fascists. Bartenders will serve you slower than everyone else.

You will get hounded by pushers who will hypnotically convince you to buy the most bunko drugs possible. Drugs which will be bogus, ineffectual imitations of the real thing. Or strong enough to induce psychotic hallucinations in herds of rhinoceros. Drunks will pick fights with you – and if you happen to be in the U.K., they might actually hit you or head-butt you.

You will forget your own name.

You will be overwhelmed by whores and astronomically priced hustlers with the complexions of lepers. They will use your body for their own wicked pleasures and then ask you for money.

Because you don’t understand other systems of commerce, you will always wonder if you’re being cheated. Cashiers will not patiently wait for you to figure out the exact prices of things – instead, they will grab the money directly from your hands without hesitation.

You will never be sure of the exact time. You will only know the weather of the moment.

You will be shat upon by strange birds, eaten alive by insects that have yet to be discovered by modern science. You might get sick. So sick that you’ll believe you may never recover. You will be drenched in fever, muttering your momma’s name. There will be no glorious celestial lights for you to walk through. You might even smell slightly of sulfur.

You will get unimaginably lonely. No one will talk to you for days. You will not be able to call anyone, because nobody will be home. Or they’ll be asleep with their answering machine turned off, as you are 40 time zones away from any recognizably English-speaking acquaintances. You will have no one except your own demons and angels, and the long lost humility that comes from the realization that you occupy the smallest space of significance in a world that can get along quite well without you.

And then, quite suddenly, if you stay gone long enough, you will find yourself living solely off wine and bread, fresh fruits and cheeses. Men with impossibly big hands will drink to excess around you, because they are nervous with the promise of your seduction. Women with lips big enough to peel oranges will buy you coffee and light your cigarettes. You will quit minding the rain. You will sleep deeper than you ever did in that comfortable home you barely recall. You will dream in three dimensions, in THX sound and surreal colors. You will awaken at all hours of the night, excited by the need to wander further through unfamiliar streets.

You’ll discover that you don’t need to learn the language of the foreign land you’re living in, because yoou’ve begun to master the art of glances. You can point in six languages – Chinese, African, European, Drunk, Lost, and Hungry.

You will stumble into parades, wild pagan processions, celebrations of cultures that you’ve never heard of, that are centuries old. You will be invited to feasts, weddings, and funerals of people you’ve never met. You will hear new musics.

You will reach the end of your journey welcoming the unsuspected, treasuring the unfamiliar. The strange will be as commonplace as those things that kept you in that apartment/condo/house all this time. You will eventually have to return, maybe tired, maybe a little sad – not wanting to leave the new world that you’ve learned to love and now call home.

Written by on Aug 18,2009 in: |

1 Comment »

  • Rocío says:

    Todo lo que dice el artículo es cierto… Nunca lo leí hasta ahora pero todas las situaciones que viví y las peripecias que pasé durante mi viaje las recordé con cada palabra escrita por el autor.
    Estoy convencida de que TODOS debemos PERDERNOS viajando por lo menos una vez en la vida. Escoger un lugar del mapa, agarrar tu maleta y SIN planificar mucho salir a la aventura.
    Y estoy TOTALMENTE de acuerdo: No es lo mismo salir de vacaciones que salir a, digamos, mochilear… Cuando sales de vacaciones sabes que DEBES regresar… Cuando sales a recorrer el mundo, este te pertenece, no tienes horarios y aunque la cultura de “los otros” sea diferente a la tuya llega un momento en que simplemente empiezas a ser “uno más”…

    Un beso enorme Jota!,

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