Seven days later, well here we are. While I was reflecting on the week gone by of insomnia sweats and cigarettes, a constant made itself apparent to me about the memories I treasure and hold close from years gone by. A recurring memory that hasn’t changed throughout the years as I have.
The road itself has always had a magnanimous appeal to me, it soon became apparent that when I was on my globetrotting ways that I would look for the cheapest route possible to extend the journey for as long as it could. Travelling by train was usually expensive and my natural discomfort with security screenings and lack of ash trays made air travel a rarity. Buses, for some inexplicable reason, were the mode of transport that ignited excitement of a new destination, a new chapter of a journey.
What began as a simple and cheap method of traversing the continents soon became an essential experience. A portable purgatory where one has hours or even days to reflect on the Previous, and marvel at the pure potential of the Next.
I even began to enjoy the stops along the way, watching the cycles of people depart and collect their bags from beneath, embracing loved ones and old friends. Four feet away there are tears from people saying goodbye, embraces that would outlast the rapture. Stopping in the centre of No and Where at the truck stops and eateries bred for the road-trippers and breathing a different kind of air each time. I could see every slice of existence across the borders, where language wasn’t needed.
There’s good trips and bad trips.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself on a cramped bus with an asshole in front of you who unceremoniously crushes your knees with a snorer next to you. Other times you’ll have an empty bus with a smoker for a driver who makes extra stops and loans you a pack from his supply.
Sometimes you’ll be sweating and cursing under your breath as the U.S Border Patrol calls you off a bus to question your motives for an hour as to why you were found on a Mandarin Niagara Falls Tour. Other times you’ll be arriving at a small town in Spain and seeing two friends through the window waving and jumping with excitement and the first hug you share with them as you take your first step off the bus.
Sometimes you’ll be waiting for your 4th transfer in a 5th city at a carpark at 3am, in the middle of a 42 hour journey from Indianapolis to California surrounded by probable cause as you silently hope not to be robbed. Other times you’ll be flying by the seat of your pants into New York City and marvelling at the buildings stretching taller than your imagination could’ve allowed.
Sometimes you’ll be stuck on a rusted machine with a window that won’t close, blowing snow out of your mouth every so often as you travel through a blizzard. Other times you’ll be sitting in an anonymous town square— awaiting a pick-up with kind locals and cold beer.
Sometimes you’ll be seated next to an overflowing bathroom on a bumpy road in Ohio. Other times you’ll be seated next to friends all passed out from an impromptu birthday trip to Bristol with a head full of (REDACTED).
Sometimes you’ll wake up in a bus depot, unaware that everyone including the driver has disembarked for several hours. Other times you’ll wake up in the middle of the night with someone you love sleeping on your shoulder as you drive through Hungary with a clear and starry sky above you.
There’s good and bad found in every righteous and horrendous story we’ve gone through. This one is no exception. Embrace the notion that eventually they always end. This strange and twisted journey will end and we will resume our identities outside our own four walls.
While the world may not be the same as it was once this is over, I find solace in knowing the journey will be. There’s no changing the priceless sensation of collapsing on a bus seat with a set of headphones, a one way ticket, a mixture of currencies rattling in your pocket and your face pressed against the cool glass—with all the time in the world to wonder on what’s next.
I hope everyone is coping well with the state of things. We’ll all be on a new adventure soon enough, that much is certain. The destination is, thankfully, uncertain.
I think Red said it best at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, his head in the breeze as he rides a bus to a new chapter;
“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey—whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
Keep your heads up friends of mine. Look out the window more often.
Until next time.