During my time in Walla Walla, I had access to my dear friend’s amazing personal library and stumbled upon Anatomy of Restlessness, by Bruce Chatwin. Many of his passages resonated with me at a time that I needed the words of a wandering writer. I came to this passage and knew I had found the voice I needed;
“Those of us who presume to write books fall in to one of two categories; the ones who ‘dig in’ and the ones who move. There are writers who can only function at ‘home’ , with the right chair, shelves of dictionaries and encyclopedias and now perhaps word processors. and there are those, like myself, who are paralyzed by ‘home’, for whom home is synonymous with the proverbial writer’s block, who believe naively that all would be well if only they were somewhere else.”
Chatwin nailed it. That’s me. Completely. And not necessarily as a writer, but as a photographer and creative being in general. Creativity, for me, is harbored in the unknown. When I travel, all the details and burdens of my “sedentary” life just melt away. I am completely in the here and now. I choose to travel by train for a reason, as I stare out the window, my internal creative gnomes crawl out of their hibernation caves and spring to life with ideas, adventures, plans and ponderings about the people’s lives I’m privy to while staring out the window. I often find myself wanting the train ride to continue on past my destination. To just keep moving, and staring out the window.
I return to this passage now, because I find myself at a crossroads of sorts. And I have a feeling many of us in today’s world are at a similar crossroads- just different road signs. I am faced with a decision, and while I know the answers, I am going to flesh them out here- just in case someone else is standing at that crossroads and unsure of the right path to choose.
I’ve consciously made a decision to not to return to the “normal- in the box lifestyle.” I’ve jokingly been making this threat to myself for years, but I think this walkabout has finally solidified that which I’ve known for a long time. There is a different way of living. Obvious statement, yes, but how often do we provide ourselves with the opportunity to step back and actually make a conscious decision to live our lives differently. And I don’t mean different in the “let’s paint our house a different color than the neighbors and vacation in a more exotic location than everyone else.” I mean different in a “let’s not buy a house with a foundation first, let’s get a home with two axles that hitches up to my bumper,” way.
Now, this way of living isn’t for everyone. I have many very dear friends and family who love what they do and fit in well in their worlds. But, I’m sensing that a multitude of my fellow Gen Xer’s and beyond are actively seeking a different way of living. A different definition of home. There’s a reason this year’s Super Bowl ads were littered with unhappy 30-something men justifying their submissions to the suburban-consumption lifestyle with fast cars, beers and flat screen TVs. Madison Avenue was speaking to a large demographic that has trapped themselves in unhappy lives and does not know how to change it- buy a shiny car- that will fix things.
I chose a different route a long time ago, but I periodically drift back into the “normal” world. But, I believe that is coming to an end. A home, that for a duration of time, provides the opportunity for perpetual motion, is what I am seeking. If I am of the same Chatwin cloth- and I know that moving is what keeps me sane- then the logical decision would be to choose a lifestyle of perpetual motion. For a time- and see where such a life would take me.
I’ve spent the last month or so with many “old-timers” who have chosen a different way of living as well. Now, they made this decision after adhering to the social norms- and in many cases- establishing the social norms that my generation is now playing out in real time. I look around this traveling community and I don’t see any of my generation or the possibility that my generation would ever choose this life- at any age.
Why wait until the best years are past us to embrace this different world. How many of us would unlock that creative gnome that lives dormant inside waiting for the moments of travel, motion and the loss of normalcy to surface? What would the world look like if more people stepped away from the rat race, even just for a few months, and took a glimpse into another world? Would they find that inner child who was silenced when they hit puberty and were told that you had to get a degree and climb the corporate ladder to reach the golden ring at the end? Would they find that playing in the garden was more fulfilling than a multitude of board meetings and executive lunches? Would they then take that playful exuberance and turn it into a trade, business or profession that allowed the inner child to run free and play in the garden?
At the time that Chatwin wrote this, traveling was rugged and raw. People departed on long journeys into the wild or unknown cultures seeking something they could not explain, but knew they had to experience. No guidebooks, no tour guides, no marked trails. Months or years to roam and find the thing that eluded them, haunted them and drew them out into the world. And some of the greatest literature of each generation was written by that wandering soul. By that person who sought to find that which he could not name, but knew he must seek.
What will happen when we stop seeking that which we can not name? What will the world become if people insulate themselves with fear rather than face the unknown or embrace the abnormal path? What would your inner creative gnome become if he was unleashed onto the world, if you chose to move- to seek- and in doing so found something you never knew existed?
I believe my inner creative gnome has spoken, and it loves the desert! It loves this nomadic lifestyle, and I believe I will have to find my balance of motion, of home and of the unknown. I came to the conclusion this week that my immediate future holds an Airstream, outfitted with a mobile photographic studio and inhabited by my dog and myself. I believe that throwing myself into the world and everything the open road has to offer is going to be the journey that I’ve been restlessly seeking all these years. And I want to share this world with those who read this blog. In fact, the writing of this blog is a motivating factor of this decision- and I think the nomadic and alternative living themes are becoming the dominant voice here at the Storyteller.
After coming to this conclusion, I’ve had two dear friends make a similar conclusion. One of them jokingly told me tonight that it looks like I’ll have a company on my adventures. How exciting! He is struggling to find work in the academic world- and he is rather brilliant, holding a PHD and several years as a professor under his belt- but has been bitten by the Airstream bug. I believe he is opening his eyes to the possibilities, though he is intelligent enough to know they exist without anyone pointing out the obvious, and he’s starting to warm up to the creative energy that exists within this lifestyle. He’s a writer who needs motion- so the possibility of some amazing literature spurting out of his creative gnome is rather exciting.
And I know there are a few other folks out there staring down similar crossroads. I know I’m not standing there by my lonesome, and I know my PHD friend isn’t either. The real question is not that we are standing there making these decisions, its what decision will we make? What decision will you make? When you stand at your crossroads, is your view obstructed by all the what ifs and if onlys or can you stare down your roads and see beyond those arbitrary questions to the journey that suits you- not your family or your friends- but is best for you?