The Flatirons are gray today. Clouds of fog hang low over the streets, and freezing rain is coming down hard. The cafes are packed. I’m at a wooden table near a window, notebook open to a fresh sheet, ceramic mug sending up curls of steam towards the fogged glass. The rain is turning to snow as I write this.
Whenever I go a long time without writing a blog, I start to feel paralyzed by my own silence. Silence is dangerous that way. When words are flowing, it’s easier to keep them coming, but breaking a silence gets harder and harder as it grows. Do I just write something about wherever I am, whatever I’m feeling? Or do I need to fill in the holes, make this a continuous story?
Things went well for me this summer. It felt like everything I’d been learning and practicing for the last two years finally came together. I left Boulder in early July with my pack, guitar, twenty bucks, and a vague intention of hitchhiking towards Yellowstone and the Tetons. Instead I ended up catching rides down to Crestone, out through Salt Lake City and northern Utah, across Idaho and Oregon, out to Portland, down the west coast into Northern California, and then across the Sierra Nevada and the desert back to Boulder. I met awesome people and found beautiful places. Everything I needed came to me. I felt incredibly connected to the universe. It was sublime and surreal and I was grateful.
But something was lacking. I never stopped learning, but now in some ways it began to feel like I was learning the same lessons over and over again. There was also the growing intensity of my unmet needs. I also began to hear more and more often, “I wish I could do something like what you’re doing, but I can’t because….” It felt increasingly important to find some way to actually do some good, help people or give back or just do something significant for someone other than myself. I was actually living out my principles with some measure of success, which was incredible, and in a sense it felt as if my lifestyle itself was an act of service. But I wanted to share it, I wanted to do more than just be free, I needed to find a way to set other people free. I began to wonder if the radical nature of my lifestyle, which was the very thing that often provoked intense conversations with strangers, also at the same time alienated people—it was so radical that many people felt they couldn’t really relate to me, what I was doing didn’t really seem relevant to them. I also began to recognize that there is a lot more for me to do than travel endlessly. I want to be a writer. I want to write books. I want to be a revolutionary and an activist. I want to build community. Start a family one day, become a teacher, a professor, touch lives….I could write an essay on my dreams. And this experience on the road has become the bedrock of all that I will build. But it’s time to start building.
So I decided to return to society for a while.
I want to write seriously about my experience on the road and my time with Occupy. I want to learn how to cook over a stove, not just a campfire. I miss having my own space so much. It’s exhausting. It was exhausting after the first month, and seeking a way for travel to be a gaining of energy rather than a depletion quickly became one early theme of the journey. Yet now, after two years, the exhaustion runs deeper. I haven’t had a space of my own in so long. I want to take a hot bubble bath and pour myself a glass of wine, walk around a house naked and cook in my own kitchen, sit in a room at my desk surrounded by books and notebooks, curl into soft clean sheets. It’s not the comfort that I crave. I’m comfortable enough in a tent or a sleeping bag under the stars, and maybe even happier there, those spontaneous moments on hillsides overlooking city lights with new friends and food sizzling over the fire, utter simplicity, the truest needs of life standing out in sharp relief. Those moments of clarity were beautiful at the time, and with time and reflection they may easily become quintessential moments of perspective for the rest of my life. It’s not the comfort that I’m doing this for, it’s because setting up those pieces of stability around myself might allow me to do greater work than simply providing for myself without money. I have traveled some sixty thousand miles, back and forth across the continent ten times, to Alaska and Canada and Haiti, to the coast and the plains and the deserts and badlands. But it’s time for more. I want more. I’m hungry. I sense that I am capable of more. And I think the beginning is a shift.
I spent a while meditating on where to go. It was easy. It’s a place I keep returning, a place I like, somewhere with conscious people, sacred mountains, and good friends, a strong support system: Boulder, Colorado. I decided to go there in autumn, and to stay at least through winter, to feel the seasons changing, to become part of the rhythms of the place, get to know it more intimately than I could simply passing through, to see same people more than once for a few hours and to actually be a part of their lives, have them a part of mine. Ground myself. Slow down. Create a space. Write.
At the end of summer I returned to DC and to New York City for the one year anniversary of Occupy. Then I packed my sister’s old car with books and notebooks and some gear and drove across the country one last time. I arrived at the end of September.
I do not know what will become of this blog. I’m sad to write this. This blog has carried me through the journey. You have carried me through. I want to keep writing about footloose wanderin’, freedom and human generosity, beauty and exploration. I’ve got enough untold stories that I could still spend months writing them down and posting them here. But I can’t do that. This blog has always been about grounding myself in that which I am currently experiencing. But can I really keep a blog about my reintegration into society, the challenges of traveler learning to live inside and work and be normal in some way or another? Do I really want to write about that, and would anybody want to read about that? But I’m trying to let go. So I will make no decisions about this right now.
Thank you for your continued support through these last two meandering years.
I don’t know how long I’ll be here in Boulder. I don’t know if this is a temporary refuge, an interlude for me to prepare for the next chapter of the journey, or if this is an ending and a culmination, or even if this will be merely a brief punctuation that I decide I can’t see through. I’m trying not to focus on what this will become; I’m trying to just be with it where it is at each moment.