Today is my birthday and I’m officially on the far side of thirty. It’s interesting what age does to you. There are so many good things about aging–worrying less about what people think of you, speaking up instead of sitting sidelined, wasting less time on the stuff you don’t care about, sleeping more. And there are things that we lose with age–perky boobs, unending energy, the ability to stay up past midnight, and, perhaps most important, invincibility.
When I was a teenager I remember hearing adults talk about how kids my age got into trouble because they believed they were invincible. They drove too fast, took too many risks, drank too much, smoked, had unprotected sex (or, if you were Catholic, sex at all), etc, etc. I got the idea that everyone was holding their breath until we all made it to the magical age where we discovered that we were not, in fact, invincible and then we’d finally be safe. That age for me seemed to be somewhere in my thirties, but it did happen.
So, everyone (read: grown-ups) sighs a collective sigh of relief about the same time that we start worrying about diabetes and skin cancer and high blood pressure (fuck you, life), and meanwhile I’m turning thirty-six and realizing how much I miss my invincibility.
Last week Brian and I were lying on the edge of Curlew Lake in far northeastern Washington in 102 degree heat discussing our plans for August. This camping trip was on the tails of the Bellingham decompression period post move and felt like the beginnings of the real adventure, embarking on places unfamiliar and new. As we lay there baking (wearing 50 SPF sunscreen, we are, after all, grown-ups now), we nearly simultaneously came to the realization that our carefully laid plans were beginning to pinch. Instead of providing security and lessening our anxiety as we’d hoped–after all, finding a place to lay one’s head in August in the PNW without a reservation is dodgy at best–it was feeling as though we were restricting ourselves. That constraint was what we have worked so hard to get away from in the last year–and here we were, creating a schedule, a timeline, a to-do list.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
As Brian so aptly said, he and I talk a big game when it come to flying by the seat of our pants. And our respective neuroses tend to amplify each others in this regard. But my worries about financial stability and Brian’s fear of the unknown occasionally create a pretty righteous brew of anxious casserole. I’m a cope-header, and don’t let him fool you, so is he. So, we created these elaborate plans and budgets and roadmaps and blah, blahdity, blah so we could prevent a financial meltdown and would always know where we were going.
And guess what? We were right exactly where we started. Just without jobs or a house.
So, we made a decision. We cancelled some plans, re-examined our route and ultimately threw out the playbook. We are still going to Missoula and Wisconsin and Central Oregon. But in between times, we’re going to just drive. Explore. See where we end up. The road trip with no destination.
There was a time, not to long ago in fact, that most of my trips were this sort of adventure. I went to Ireland alone, before the era of smartphones, during high tourist season without a single reservation and a thousand dollars to last me three weeks. And I didn’t blink an eye. When I needed to think, I’d get in the car and just drive. Sometimes in the middle of the night, once I drove several states away, just to go. They all went the same way, me in my little Honda (or the old Toyota), windows down, a couple hundred bucks in my pocket, a bunch of burned CD’s and a desperate need for a new perspective.
I’m not sure what happened that suddenly catapulted me out of my youthful invincibility, but on this birthday I am on the quest to recapture it. Some people in their mid-to-late thirties get boob jobs or face lifts, some buy faster, fancier cars. It’s probably all seeking the same invincibility on some level.
I think there are three types of travelers: those who never plan, those who plan every last second and Brian and I, who worry and disdain both. Some are looking for an adventure, others a vacation.
But this is not a vacation. A vacation is a trip in which you seek to worry about nothing, think about nothing and simply find a sense of peace and tranquility to revive you. A trip is something else: it is an excursion to find a something that you aren’t even certain you are looking for, a willingness to surrender to the unknown in hopes of finding something–internally or externally–that will change your life.
We can’t authentically go on this journey and plan it so much that we preclude the discovery. So we’re going to get lost.