Saturday, December 10, 2005

An Entry For Me

December 9 – Nahuel Huapi National Park
This is an entry for me about how I feel about the trip. Maybe those who have followed along with the year will find it interesting too, maybe not.

To define the trip, to define what it means to me, I try to think about how my thoughts have changed: my thoughts about myself, my future, the trip, the time after my trip.

The easiest thing to put my finger on now is the “thoughts about the time after my trip” category, because it is in the process of transitioning from the future to the present. What has changed recently is it seems less grand now. I envisioned my return—in the vague way you envision something that’s unlikely to happen—as a victory parade, a launching into a new exciting phase in my life, or perhaps a colossal disaster. Those dramatic outcomes seem increasingly unlikely as Arrival Day approaches. In the end—travelers like to point out—no one back home really cares about your trip, and a week after returning you’re no longer the cool guy traveling around the world. You’re just a guy with a full passport and an empty checking account who is eventually compelled to get a job like everyone else.

How have my feelings about the beginning of the trip changed? I know how I felt then: excited, nervous, challenged, high. When I look at the photos from that first day I look young. Maybe physically young, maybe otherwise. Maybe because you’re most often excited/nervous/challenged/high when you’re young. Naïveté and optimism are characteristics of the youthful so maybe that’s why.

There was a sense of endless possibility then. I started three movies and two books. It seemed publishing an article in a magazine or newspaper was as simple as carving a little time away from the film and book endeavors. I think a part of that was a carryover from my old pace of life. I’ve learned to slow down quite a bit; I still need to work to feel good, but not as much as I used to.

I think traveling is like a drug. You never get as high as you do at first but you do still get high and you remember what it was like at the beginning and it hurts to stop. So I look back fondly and enviously at those early times when the simple pleasures of backpacking were as fresh as your first line of coke. (It must be more uncomfortable to make these metaphors if you’ve done drugs but since I never have I don’t mind invoking cocaine. But don’t do it kids, okay?)

But eventually you have to slap yourself hard across the face and resolve to break the habit. I know that. I’ve reminded myself of that all year but now I’m shivering in the corner saying something like, “I can quit anytime I want. I just don’t want to now.” Am I ready to come home? Yes. Am I ready to stay home? I don’t think so.

What’s mollified the backpacking emotions—loneliness and uselessness chief among them—is the work on the movie. And since this is an entry for me I’ll remind myself of something that is true but will certainly change with time: The movie is good but not great or bad. Eventually I’ll become convinced by others of its greatness or awfulness but its success shouldn’t validate me any more than its failure discredits me. You are free to remind me of this when the time comes. And I am free (this being an entry for me) to end by quoting Ani:

“They can call me crazy if I fail, all the chance that I need
Is one in a million and they can call me brilliant, if I succeed.
Gravity means nothing to me, moving at the speed of sound
I’m just gonna get my feet wet, until I drown.”


At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Canadian Kate said...

I second that quote from Ani.

I have 4 months left in my travels and your entries are already making me nostalgic of my backpacking days and they aren't even over.

Enjoy the trek home to NYC,
---> Kate


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