Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled . . . And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
With many hardships of the pandemic still looming, I think 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 “Society” & a couple other songs from the soundtrack, sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and knew I had to see the film. A Rolling Stone journalist wrote that the songs temper the romance of absolute freedom with an eerie foreboding. 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, simple living, 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 years ago, I desperately wanted to escape. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be; I did know that 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 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 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
After a few months of depressed isolation and subsisting on Merlot & Häagen-Dazs, I had an epiphany: the Universe MUST have a better plan for me. That insight opened my heart and inspired my determination. 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 all my possessions 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 leaving. Thankfully, once I embarked, a feeling of tranquility came over me almost immediately. The spirit of travel was revealed to me, and a ubiquitous sense of gratitude swelled inside me.
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 listened to a lot of Grateful Dead. There was a gal from Oregon who was taking a break from college. I met a 30-something guy who lived in a teepee nearby and got around on bicycle. I shared a dorm room with a Texas lady who was fleeing a life that had spiraled out of control. (I’m happy to say we are still friends today.) And, there was a young girl 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 day, we explored Taos Ski Valley, the Rio Grande Gorge & the Mesa; drove the Turquoise Trail & visited Durango; and checked out art galleries, unique shops, & the farmers market. In the evening, after sharing meals, we would sit around a fire pit, stare into the mesmerizing flames & savor the sweet smell of the smoke, while one or more of us played guitar. It was a soothing balm for my sense of brokenness.
For three years, I would continue my journey on the road, staying in hostels, with friends & family, in community, and in my tent. I wintered in northern Florida, and during warmer months, visited California, Washington, Maine and most states between. I hiked hundreds of miles, experienced the love and healing power of Nature, and shot thousands of photos. I explored spectacular mountain ranges, witnessed extraordinary trees, discovered vast fields of wildflowers & breathtaking waters, and often found myself close to wildlife. I learned to love the ascent of a mountain and appreciate geography and topography in general. I met friendly strangers from many countries and 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, kindness, and healing I experienced while traveling permeated every aspect of my being, changing me forever. Escaping the normal life I once had was the best decision I ever made.
Blessings for the Unorthodox,
The original version of this post was first shared in May of 2020. Thanks for (re)reading!
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.