I wanted to show off. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to entertain my audience of friends and family.
Strangely enough, that is what I regret the most about the email journal I kept of my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005-2006.
That yearlong odyssey was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I only wrote home about the fun stuff, and therefore, I wasn’t being fully honest.
I never wrote about the loneliness. Those long stretches of desolation only came out in hints here and there that only the very perceptive picked up on.
I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.
Isolation has a relentless quality.
From what I remember of that trip, there were many chunks of time when I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.
After the excitement of the first weeks wore off, and as summer gave way to autumn, the other travelers had gone home. That’s when I realized that in the “us vs. them” mentality of most Alaskan small towns, I was one of “them.”
Even though at that time in my life, I had lived in Juneau/Douglas for enough years that I had earned my Alaskan spurs, I was not an integral part of the places I passed through in the Interior
I sold books pretty consistently. Since I had several hundred books in the back of the Beast, I was always “ON.”
Alaskans are very big on community. Contributing to the village is a core value of this state in a way that is lacking in many others.
Travelers and vagabonds don’t invest themselves in the communities they visit. We’re there for our own experience. If we’re cool and awesome about that, we come and go without impact, and are always welcome to come back.
Travelers are there for their own experience.
The locals were very nice. People talked to me readily at the bar or the coffee house, and seemed curious about this journey I was on. But nobody invited me home for any dinner, nor to any potlucks that happen as the darkness comes and the summer goes.
I could hardly blame them. Even in my chats with people, I couldn’t connect with them any more than they could connect with me. The locals were settled and on home ground, while I was on the road.
Constant motion does something to a person.
A few months later, when I would be in Colorado, a college friend told me that I seemed very ungrounded. She was right. It was impossible to stay grounded when all I had to do was pack up the Beast and move on, and that created a here-today-gone-tomorrow mentality.
I remember when the switch flipped in my mind. It was around the 3-month mark.
After that, the only people I could relate to were other travelers looking for the next place to live. Although they were filled with excitement and a sense of adventure (which for me, was like cool water while dying of thirst in the desert), they were as unsettled as I was.
I learned to make the most of every genuine connection, however brief. Every chat and every conversation gave me the nourishment I needed to stay somewhat tethered to humanity, and kept the relentless grayness at bay, and for that sliver of time, I felt relief.
I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.
And then something would shift. The next adventure would begin, and I was off on another limb of this odyssey. I would be so excited I would forget the loneliness. All I could think was:
“I can’t believe this is my life that I’m living. I am so blessed.”
PS: This post is from memory, written now about the DIY booktour/roadtrip I was on for a year during 2005-2006. To see the previous post, Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens, click here.