Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled . . . And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
With the many hardships of the pandemic still looming, I think I’d be right in saying a great many of us would like to escape our new normal. Would you agree?
I recently watched Into the Wild, which is based on a true story. I had never seen a preview or read the book, but fell in love with a few songs from the soundtrack, sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and I knew I had to watch the film. A Rolling Stone journalist wrote that the songs temper the romance of absolute freedom with an eerie foreboding. Such a perfect description.
The movie, written and directed by Sean Penn, documents the cross-country journey of a young Emory University graduate, Christopher McCandless, after having given up most of his savings, credit cards, and other worldly possessions. During his travels, his heart is flung wide open by beauty, freedom, and some of the colorful characters he meets. Spoiler alert – the movie does not have a happy ending. But if you have ever escaped, or longed to escape, what society considers normal, the spirit of the movie will move you.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage. – Anaïs Nin
Before I left my home in South Florida, I was lost and desperately wanting to escape. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but I knew it was something and somewhere else. I had lost the job that was my primary source of income. My 5-year romantic relationship had ended. My best friend (of over 15 years) and I had stopped talking, and other friendships seemed to have evaporated. My favorite (husband & wife) ministers were moving over a thousand miles away. I shared with a Buddhist Monk energy healer that I felt the cornerstones of my life had collapsed. He suggested that these painful changes were preparing me for a huge shift in my life’s trajectory. He couldn’t have been more accurate.
There is a universal, intelligent life force that exists within . . . as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing. We can access . . . (it) through our intuition, an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment. – Shakti Gawain
Because the idea of traveling had always appealed to me, (and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do) I decided to sell my home and almost everything I owned and hit the road. Once I made that decision, however, I was terrified. I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I knew in my heart that it was right, but I wrestled with fearful thoughts most days and nights until I left. Thankfully, once I embarked, a sense of freedom and happiness came over me almost immediately. The spirit of travel was revealed to me, and love began to ooze back into my life.
On this path let the heart be your guide
for the body is hesitant and full of fear. – Rumi
My first extended stay was in Taos, New Mexico. I had read about the wild beauty of Taos Mountain, sagebrush, buttes, and canyons, and I longed to see them for myself. Staying at a hostel, I met a group of people of various ages and backgrounds who felt like family after just a couple weeks. That group included a Vietnam Vet from New York who was a big Grateful Dead fan. There was a girl from Oregon who was taking a break from college. I met a middle-aged guy who lived in a tepee nearby and rode a bicycle everywhere. I shared a dorm room with a beautiful young lady from Texas who, like me, was taking a much-needed break from life in general. (I’m happy to say we are still friends today.) And, there was an Asian gal who had fled San Diego after learning her boyfriend had cheated & smashing his car windows. Like a family, we all shared food, rides, ideas, stories, and music. During the days, we explored Taos Ski Valley, the Rio Grande Gorge & the Mesa; drove the Turquoise Trail and visited Durango; and checked out art galleries, unique shops, & the farmers market. In the evenings, after sharing meals, we would sit around a fire pit, staring into the mesmerizing flames, smelling the sweet smoke, and listening to songs played on guitars. It was a soothing balm for my sad, weary soul.
For three years, I would continue my journey on the road, staying in community, with friends & family, in hostels, and in my tent. I drove great distances all over the country and hiked hundreds of miles. I fell in love with Nature and shot thousands of photos. I saw animals in their natural habitat, many of them up close. I learned to love the ascent of a mountain and appreciate geography and topography. I met lovely people. I learned to cook new foods. And when my big road trip was over, I felt wholly rehabilitated.
I resonate strongly with Christopher McCandless’ story. The beauty, education, hospitality, and healing I experienced from my extended travels permeated every aspect of my being and changed me for the better. Escaping the normal life I once had was the best decision I could have ever made.
Blessings for Escaping Normal,