My idea of ultimate fun is to pack a backpack with whatever I need for my immediate survival and hit the road. No fixed plans, though a destination, however temporary, is useful because otherwise it’s hard to get going. It’s not about where I’m going. It’s not about what I’ll do when I get there. It’s is literally only and solely about hitting the road/path/whateverthehell, and seeing where it takes me. That’s the whole point of it.
I have no illusions whatsoever as to the fact that “reasonable” or even “sane” people don’t do that kind of thing. Maybe they’re not even tempted to do that kind of thing, I don’t know; they sure don’t talk about it. Maybe the risk/reward ratio just doesn’t stack up for them. For me, though, it does. And yes, I am fully aware of the risks. Every time I’ve hit the road I’ve known that there was a chance I would not come back, or I’d come back dented. But I’ve found nothing else that comes even close to making me feel that good.
I could try and explain how it feels, but I don’t really have the words for it. I feel my blood singing. I feel every concern and care and niggle evaporate, and one clear, overarching purpose take over. I feel every part of me is working at full efficiency, to the point that I don’t have to think or feel – to the point that whatever I think of as “I” disappears – because I’m in the right place at the right time doing what I’m meant to be doing. Conscious decisions are no longer required of me. Identity is no longer required of me. I’m doing the one thing I’m made for. My fangs come out, and they are happy.
And if any of the above makes any sense to you, good luck.
I also know the drawbacks. It’s tiring. It’s grimy. It’s increasingly difficult to do safely, in this time and place, because our idea of safety is about banning every damn thing that could cause anyone a boo boo, instead of making people more capable of dealing. It’s heinously dangerous. It’s not my drug of choice – it’s not the drug I would have chosen, had I been given a choice. There’s got to be a better way to feel alive; a way that is less likely to make you dead. But I’ve not found it yet.
Because I’m cowardly/sensible (take your pick), I’ve always modulated my impulses. In the olden days, before I put a yoke around my neck, I used to play the game with two basic rules: have enough money on me that, if everything went totally wrong, I could get home; don’t go further than the aforementioned money would take me. Those were my safety lines, or my tethers – I’ve never been good enough at hair-splitting to be able to tell the difference. I was fully aware that having a home to retreat to and the means to get there meant that I was cheating. I was pretending to live that life. I was a goddamn tourist. But those parameters allowed me to shut up that part of my mind that is endlessly reciting unassailable wisdom long enough for me to get a foot on the road. Three steps in, the rush would hit and I couldn’t even pretend to give a damn.
That was all in the past. For the last decade and a half, I’ve had dependants of various species. I’m not going to drag my dogs into that kind of caper. I don’t give myself that right. I’m also not going to take that level of risk with myself when I have human dependants. When I am part of something, the risks I take don’t stop with me. By putting myself at risk, I’m putting the whole at risk; and while I know that I’m fully replaceable, I have no intention of playing that kind of game with the lives of anyone I care about.
So, for the last 15 goddamn years, I’ve scaled everything down. I hit the road at previously-arranged times carefully carved out of my otherwise suffocating schedule (any schedule that keeps me from hitting the road when the fever comes upon me being intrinsically suffocating). Instead of hoofing it, I go in a vehicle. That makes the entire endeavour infinitely more comfortable and much safer, as it gives me a little portable home with a roof and locks and stuff. But it’s methadone. It takes the edge off my urge, but it’s just not the same. It’s good enough, just, but it’s not good.
Most people in my life have agreed with that assessment: it’s not good. But they don’t think it’s good for completely different reasons. They don’t think it’s good that I can’t see how ridiculous it all is, how intensely unnecessary. That I choose to be sleeping illegally in a van with only dogs for heating when I could be in a campsite, or a hotel. That I can’t see that if I organised my excursions I could see and do a lot more. Worse of all, they don’t think it’s good that I’m not growing out of it.
It was supposed to be a phase. Kids take a year out, go backpacking, then come home having realised how much better “normal” life is and knuckle under. They don’t carry on for the rest of their lives intermittently gazing out the window at the open road, listening to its whispers, and refusing to look at it because it just hurts too damn much. They don’t hate themselves for forcing themselves to live a normal, safe, sane life when all they want to do is drop it all, drop the entire unholy pretence, and go off where they can breathe and feel and be. They don’t look at their lives’ achievements and loathe them for the mockeries they are.
It kind of sucks when the people you love and who love you treat a major part of you as something you’ll eventually get out of your system.
It sucks even more when you do it to yourself.
I realised this only recently. All my life, I’ve treated the one thing that makes me feel the most alive as an unfortunate defect to be worked around and hopefully eventually overcome. Instead of trying to structure my life so I could facilitate my proclivities within safe boundaries, I’ve deliberately engineered situations to prevent myself from making that leap. I’ve not shown myself any trust, respect, or consideration for my feelings. I’ve treated myself like a problem, or at least like a problem child. When anyone else does that, it infuriates me. But I’ve done it to myself, and told myself that it was for my own good.
The road fever thing is just an extreme example of a phenomenon. I don’t know how deeply this attitude runs, how pervasive it has been. I ‘m willing to bet that I’ve done the same exact thing towards other aspects of myself. My plan, as it stands, is to work out where it lingers, and to kill it with fire.