The Whole Adventure

When they ask him, later, what he got out of the whole adventure, he’ll have to take a moment to think. He’ll have to run a very brief mental calculation wholly inadequate to distill and sort and summarize the varieties of experience of the past year into something that can be singularly and concisely communicated. And during that moment, the things that will flash by:

He’ll remember the initial unknowing vastness of the impossibility of having to organize long-term travel, simultaneous with a recollection of the feeling that it was possible to be anywhere and everywhere;

He’ll remember sleeping in a car in the woods or on the side of the road, or in a dorm-room shared with upwards of a dozen other people, or in a musty shack on a bed slanting with the entire termite-rotted floor at an angle downward, and in every case wishing that he didn’t have to sleep at all in order to avoid these places while having no problem finally dropping off to sleep;

He’ll remember that dinner every other night was the kind of instant ramen that you’d boil in its own cup, the way those dehydrated vegetables would always form a canopy floating at the top of the cloudy hot water, and the feeling afterward that the noodles did not actually exist beyond some chemical illusion to trick your stomach into feeling full on the digesting foam of the noodles plus a few calories;

He’ll remember sitting on a beach, staring at the stillness of the far pale horizon and feeling that time was no longer progressing onward. He’ll remember this as a slowly-dawning dread because, despite the beauty of the landscape, its persistence signified his long-term isolation there;

Likewise, he’ll remember the comforting stillness of the soft, damp grass in a small park space in the middle of a teeming metropolis and the ways in which it made him miss parks back home in the early summer and the eventual sad longing when these parks became the only place he had to get away from the sheer human density the city;

He’ll recall, in general, the unexpected ways that new moments and places only drug fourth sentimental memories of those first experiences of freedom;

How he somehow longed for memories of a simpler life defined by lack of opportunity;

The ways it made him regret having spent those early years of adulthood in school;

The anticipation of the kind of reckless partying he never got into in school;

The nightmare of physical nausea brought on by the kind of things long-term travellers drink;

The subsequent realization that drinking too much is the same experience anywhere in the world;

The recurring ironies of living in a different country to escape a perceived obsession with materialism only to be terrified of not having enough money the entire time;

The sad desire to meet and share experiences with other travelers and so gain some insight into the illuminating wisdom of living outside of a comfortable established life path, but being unable to work up the courage;

The feeling of sitting alone in a packed dining room, reading a book amidst the babble of conversations in a half-dozen languages, sadly resigned to the fact that he had nothing in common with these other wanderers at the dawn of adulthood united by their carefree detachment from worry and consequence, and the feeling of being resentful of how easily it seemed that they had it;

The final ironic resignation to wanting to spend all of his time on this life-changing journey by disappearing into a book, thus avoiding the mental preoccupation and worry and doubt and bitter self-effacement;

And he’ll remember finally having enough time to sit down and think about the possibilities of life, and that sudden yearning to learn many and new things, finally getting into a habit of spending time writing, being able to shut out distraction, being able to disregard easy satisfaction and gratification, finally knowing for certain how he’d like to write for the rest of his life and finally being able to frame his thoughts in a constructive fashion.

All of this will overlap and intersect and intermingle in the brief moments that he considers what these experiences – this adventure – was all “about”. Maybe he’ll try to explain the fact that there is no inherent meaning behind anything, no linear existential narrative. He’ll be unable to conjure any single phrase, any single sentiment, which explains the range of feelings and experiences that’ve transpired. He’ll find himself having to worry about fulfilling the expectations of what his friends imagine an adventure is all about without sounding ungrateful or unappreciative while admitting to himself that overt cheerfulness will betray the inherent multi-faceted complexity of the whole thing. So in the end he might not have any answer at all, because the difficulties and the joys and the unexpected pleasures and realizations all work on some unconscious level as impossible to describe as the essences that make up a person to begin with.