2 - 'Why?' and 'Where to?'
Nowhere but everywhere. Everywhere and nowhere. Somewhere, somehow, something. Confused? So was I.
by The Nostomaniac
I WANTED TO GO. JUST GO. OUT THERE. Somewhere. Anywhere. “Nowhere to go but everywhere.” I didn’t know where to start. Or for how long. Or where it would end. I just wanted to go and keep going until something told me to stop. No end date. No final destination. Find a beginning and move toward an end. What end? Didn’t know then. Don’t know now.
I wanted to experience freedom, whatever the fuck that means. Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? There was only one way to find out. Go. See what happens. So I did, and this blog is what happened, and maybe what continues to happen…or doesn’t.
On every prior journey I had a problem. Not enough time. Not enough money. Things would start clicking just as I was about to leave. If only I had a few more days, I thought. If only this or If only that. There was the Canadian cargo pilot stationed in Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo) that offered to let me tag along on flights all over East Africa and guide me on a hike up an active volcano.
Couldn’t. Had to get back to work in Baghdad.
How about the beautiful Colombian woman who wanted to show me around Bogotá? The attraction. The animal attraction.
Sorry, had to get back so I could ship off to basic training.
Spend weeks or months living with a tribe in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea?
Ain’t got time for that shit. Back to school in Sydney.
Only a week in Madagascar?
Too bad, so sad. Another year of law school to digest.
You get the picture. I sold my soul as a contractor in Baghdad for two-and-a-half years. Paid off my school debt. Saved over a $100,000. Living in a war zone for any length of time can weigh you down. And let me assure you, the situation was fucked for myriad reasons. I can’t say I’m proud of my time there, but I can’t say I’m ashamed either. They paid me lots of money to do very little. I sat behind a desk and stared at a screen. Frankly, my impact was minimal. My rationalization? The experience. The money didn't hurt, but it was ancillary to my need to see firsthand what, until then, I had only seen on TV. I couldn't resist even when I knew complicity might darken my soul. That episode of my life deserves its own space, so I’ll skip it for now…for now.
A hundred grand. No itinerary. No schedule. No plan. Where to? I had to decide. Sometimes I’m not so good with decisions. South America? Asia? Africa? Europe? South Pacific? I couldn’t decide, so I let coincidence be my compass. I had a friend mention Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. She was sure I would enjoy the book. Elizabeth likes to travel. I like to travel. She thought it would strike a chord. I gave it little import but not two days after this conversation another friend going through a bag of books passed on by an aunt pulled out that very one and let me borrow it.
So, I read. The verdict? No chords struck. No psychic resonation. Ms. Gilbert is an excellent writer. No, I’m not just saying that out of polite deference. She’s good. Much better than me, but the story didn’t pickle my cucumber. I had a hard time empathizing, especially in the beginning. Sure, her life disintegrated when she realized she didn’t want to marry a jackass and bear him beautiful children. But she was already an accomplished writer. She was an attractive, talented, and intriguing woman. She had the means, and with jackass out the way, she had the time. She got to find herself and do cool shit. Ate her balls off in Italy. Stilled her mind in India. Met Yoda and had sexy time with a steamy Brazilian chunk of love in Bali. I couldn’t manage enough ‘hoo’ to go with my ‘boo’. From my underachieving, apathetic perch, her life was ideal. Or had the potential to be thus long before the journey of a lifetime. But I digress.
Bali, I thought. Indonesia? Volcanoes? Dragons? Yoda? Seemed like as good a place as any to begin my exile. If I didn’t like it, I could always move on. East to Pacific island nations, northwest to Asia, south to New Zealand. So, like that I bought a Lonely Planet, made a reservation, and prepared for my escape. I’m gonna eat, pray, and go fuck myself, I thought…One dickhead’s search for anything.
How do you pack for an open-ended fandango? Answer: Very carefully. One carry-on bag. That’s it. I’d be living out of one bag. Along the way, I’d add and subtract accordingly. The goal was to never check my luggage. Never. But should I be coerced, I’d have a small daypack to keep the essentials close. Computer, camera, documents, underwear, toothbrush, twelve inch Kong Dong dildo. I would look upon this occurrence as an abject failure. Never submit. Never surrender!
My itinerary? Orlando – San Francisco – Inchon – Singapore – Bali. Just a hop, skip, and forty-hour jump. And I was off…