Destination Unknown

The travel-bug has infected me as the snow-drifts melt around the house.  Ryan calls it Spring-fever; I call it unemployment, but it amounts to same thing.  Technically, the disease is a perennial one — for me at least — like hemophilia or guys born with three nipples; my whole lifestyle, a pastiche of half-finished novels, video games, comics, manga, and Lego castles, stems from this unquenchable need to explore, to vacate, to drive child-stuffed vans across state borders.

Yet this whole . . . condition does seem to strike more violently in March.  Mostly it’s the anticipation of travel, the need to get away from these four walls for a while.  Spring for all its pleasantness offers little in the way of excitement in Baltimore.  I mean, the leaves return if you’re into that.  Birds chirp; flowers bloom; bees freak me out by dive-bombing my ears.  And the weather . . . of course, the weather’s nice, providing a time and place to which to travel.  School, college and homework crucify any and all travel plans.

Thus, my fingers reach more eagerly for the National Geographics at the bookstore and the latest techno-fantasy video game from Japan (depending upon release date and how zealously the walls of my bedroom strives to purge the air from my lungs).  By April it’s nearly an instinct, uncontrollable like the gaze of a death-row inmate through bar-shrouded windows.  Or the ready curse of a twelve-year-old  on a game forum.

Stumbling around the internet earlier, I came a potential solution, ‘Travel the World for Free:’ ten tips for backpacking across the globe for as little as twelve hundred dollars a month.  Never minding the obvious monetary conundrum (free ≠ $1200 per month), the article offers ten tips in case you’re eager to set out with sleeping bag, soap and toothbrush (and little else) to play quasi-hobo for a year.

Finally a way out!  An interstate hike.  Perhaps camping along the Appalachian trail.  Georgia to New York to Maine, as far as my legs carry me.  I own plenty of backpacks, a stylish hiking hat, and a several boxes of Nature Valley bars.  I could leave now.  Walk out the front door and just walk.  Down the road, past the gas station, through the light without the crosswalk.

And why stop there?  If I can hike several lines of longitude, why not attempt Europe or Asia?  Consider, good reader, the ample bounty of stories with which to return to Baltimore.  Of European hostels and Bohemian pubs, of hairy Swedish women and Himalayan yetis.  Of sherpas.  How cool would it be to say “Yes, I talked with a sherpa.  We climbed the steps of the Holiday Inn together.  Then drank yak milk.”  By Genesh’s trunk, you had me at yak milk.

And then, donning my hat, I made the mistake of thinking about it.

With the exception of a few odd ex-girlfriends and the contents of this blog, I’ve always considered myself a sensible individual, a man of reason and logic; thus, I cannot help to wonder at my sudden aversion to backpacking.  I mean at one point in time it was advised that all young men should travel around the world, join the navy or army, before returning home to partake of the family business (I read a lot of 18th century French fiction).  Wisdom and experience gained, wild oats sown, the young noble returned to the family estate to bank, sell wool, or wear lace and eat moldy cheese.  To take up their responsibilities, become an adult.  In American this coming-of-age typically involves stocks, insurance, and possibly Sunday football.  At least that’s the traditional model.

Frankly, I don’t consider myself an adult until I’m paying for or earning my own health insurance.  I lost that privilege years ago, while off searching for something which I’m not sure I’ve found yet.

However, if this Congressional Health Care bill is passed,  what will become of our rite of passage?  How will I know that I have attained adulthood?  Marriage?  Buying your first house?  Killing a Kodiak bear with my bare fists?  Kickboxing kangaroos?

Judging from the list provided in the article, I realized that I am not suited at all for hitchhiking (or kickboxing which is a whole other issue).  Points 5 and 6 suggest trusting others and offering skills in exchange for food and shower.  Solitary travelers + silent disposition + no marketable skills (except for the French lit stuff) = truck-stop homicide one mile into Virginia.

Mostly I don’t do well with the whole “trusting others”  part of the author’s travel plan.  I don’t really trust many Americans well, and we at least share the same language.  How long could I last in Europe?  Especially in France which I hear tell is rife with thieves and rats.  Rats that thieve and confer plague with a nip of the toes.  Surely, I could just steer clear of the entire nation but with the whole French lit stuff, I’m sure it’s the one nation with which I could engage in polite conversation.  That leaves just Canada and well . . . what’s the point?

Point #8 seems worth following at any rate: Find a Job that Entails Travel.  If only . . . if only.  I often wonder about the lives of National Geographic journalists.  Now that, my friends, is an interesting lifestyle: lonely perhaps but rarely boring.  Mayhaps one day NG will unearth a new nation, populated by Dumas-enthusiasts and harbor no rats or plague.  If you know of such a miraculous place, drop me a line then.  I’ll unlace my boots just in case.

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