Thursday, June 12, 2008

Next week I'm leaving on a cross country road trip. My traveling companion and myself have been planning this trip for just over a year, so I have to say I'm really ready to hit the road and see where it takes us. In order to sustain my excitement for the road trip I started reading cross country travel books- stuff like On the Road, even though I didn't read that particular book. I did read and enjoy Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins a non-fiction book about Jenkins' walk from Alfred, NY to Mobile, AL accompanied by his dog in the 1970's. It takes him over a year to walk that distance while stopping to work along the way. He first walks to D.C. where he talks to National Geographic about his trip. They give him a camera and ask him to photograph and write about his experiences en route and submit the results for possible publication in the magazine. This book made me want to get up and go, leave tomorrow, no planning-nothing just see who I would meet and where I would go. Jenkins met some very interesting people along the way, all local American folk, but each with a lot of character.
Next I read William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways. Very different from Walk Across America, but with a few similarities, this trip takes us to different parts of the country and talks about his search for long lost dead relatives ( now buried under a reservoir). He travels from town to town on only the little back roads and choosing towns based on names like, Nowhere, TN. "Life doesn't happen along the interstates. It's against the law." This has been a bit of an inspiration for us, confirming our decision to keep to the 2 lane roads and avoid any sort of chain store or restaurant. By keeping our travels confined to local and rural America we have a better chance of meeting a diverse group of people.
I also re-read one of my favorite books the Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. This book has been an inspiration to me since my high school days. It has always affirmed my belief that living unconventionally is OK and though it requires hard work it spawns true adventure. Set in the 1920's, Larry is expected to marry Marr, settle down and work at a law firm or brokerage. But having witnessed death up close in the last war Larry is inclined to "loaf" which isn't as easy as it sounds. He is always striving to educate himself, reading classics in their native language. In some ways his travels are a search for god, or at least a higher understanding of the universe. He goes to India and studies under a guru until he reaches enlightenment and then gives up his small fortune to drive cabs in New York. I think in some ways I search for the spirit of this book in my own travels, that sense that anything is possible even when frowned upon.
See you in a few months!

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