On June 29th, I left sunny San Francisco for a 7 week, 50 day journey that took me to the Atlantic and back again. I returned on August 18th to a city in a drought and covered in fog, and since then I’ve been doing some arriving and making sure my soul has caught up with my body.
Part of that has been reflecting on the journey. I took an entire day last week to read through all the gobbledegook that I’d written while I was traveling and come to some conclusions about what I’d learned and left along the way. It was exhausting, but I think I finally have some answers. This includes, quite possibly, the answer to the very meaning of life.
I present to you my findings in the easy-to-digest, easy-to-skim listicle form. Please enjoy these radical truths that I discovered about me, my country and the world around me while I was chasing after the wind.
1. You should bring an umbrella while you’re traveling. Or at least, if you don’t bring an umbrella, don’t buy one at Walgreens under the threat of impending thunderstorm. You’ll pay too much.
2. Giving yourself ample time to reflect on past experiences and current life situations can be incredibly useful. It can also be dangerous and make you dissatisfied with the status quo.
3. When hiking in the woods alone, you should know when bear hunting season is and dress appropriately.
4. Doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing, and being busy just to be busy is a waste of time.
5. The world and our society is not fair, but we can make it more fair. We can do something.
6. I am not quite as outgoing as I thought.
7. Relationships make everything worthwhile.
8. College was an incredible experience that will not come again. Instead of lamenting the fact it’s gone forever, I should be thankful for it.
9. The decisions I made in the past that seem stupid now did not seem stupid back then. Most of the time, I made the best decisions I could based on the information that I had about who I was and what the world was like.
10. Never miss the chance to use a public restroom.
11. Bring a pillow for the night bus.
12. Seeing that I do not know the future and have imperfect information on the present, it’s quite possible that the decisions I make now will lead to outcomes I cannot even begin to imagine. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
13. Just because a person is in a position of authority, has written a book, or spoken on a stage does not mean they are to be trusted. In fact, they should be scrutinized even more carefully. The ability to perform is entirely separate from actually having good advice or good things to say.
14. If I had been born looking different than I do, it is very likely my life would be completely different and that is messed up.
15. The virtual world melts away when you stop giving it your attention.
16. Routines serve the incredibly important role of keeping you from making too many decisions in one day. The need to choose a different coffee shop, different attraction, new park, etc. while I was traveling eventually became a burden that I kind of resented.
17. There are some things I can change about myself, and some that I cannot. I should not beat myself up over the ones that I cannot change.
18. Things in New York are expensive, and then even a little bit more expensive than that.
19. The madmen, the tinkerers, the outcasts, the diehards, the weirdos, the misfits – most often these are the ones that make it into the museums.
20. Rules are everywhere. The more people that exist in a city, the more rules there are to govern their interactions. Some you need to listen to, and some absolutely need to be broken.
21. Libraries are incredible havens of A/C and bathrooms.
22. Quiet moments of sudden beauty are the best, like when I stumbled on a garden next to an Episcopalian church or when I watched smoke drift into the evening in North Carolina or when I saw a bear or watched a curtain blow in the breeze next to the harbor in Boston and every time I was like “dang that’s beautiful.”
24. FOMO (fear of missing out) is for people who have no imagination.
25. Humans are incredibly creative and will surprise you always (like when I saw a dude playing a banjo in a tree in North Carolina.)
26. It’s good to spend time with people who aren’t like you (like when I spent a week scooping ice cream with Baptist retirees in North Carolina – a lot happened in North Carolina apparently.)
27. There is nothing quite as pleasant as sitting outside on a summer evening and drinking a cold beer.
28. Returning to one’s hometown can actually be a good experience. Growing up, it wasn’t cool to think that Edmond or Oklahoma City were interesting or worthwhile. I found that that’s not the case and there is much to see and do there.
29. It’s hard to keep what you saw at the mountaintop with you on the plains. In other words, I’m already forgetting a lot of what I learned and thought while traveling.
30. No baggage. No regrets. No BS. Amen.