I wish you could see my iTunes playlist this evening. I’m not really sure how I ended up with the 80’s flashbacks stuck on repeat in my head, but pretty certain it had something to do with one of our fellow volunteers, whom we call DJ Wayne, having Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” cycle through the rotation on his phone. It came at the end of another blazingly hot day of building an Earthship Geodome school in Sihanoukville (Cambodia), just as we were about to eat our daily rice and morning glory and share a toast to the departure of one of our rocks – an amazing human from the Basque country in Spain, named Bernat.
By rock, I’m sure you realize that I am referring to him as a piece of the concrete that has held our beautiful group of volunteers together for the past several weeks. Without him our long days would have been much longer and dryer, and frankly just not as fun. So it appears that my playlist, which currently is at the beginning of Europe’s “Carrie”, is dedicated to the bittersweet symphony that is traveling: You meet the most authentic people, at the most authentic moments of your mutual lives, share some real heart space for days, weeks, and then just like a blink of your eye they disappear, off to the next calling in their trek.
Not a day goes by on the road that doesn’t bring the journeyer through the rainbow of emotional colors.
“Maybe we’ll meet again”, the song in my headphones is playing as I begin this paragraph. So goes the life of travelers; you meet at an unknown and universally preordained moment in time to share, learn, grow, and then it’s over in a flash of tropical lightning. There’s something about this type of “community” that does the heart good in ways that the mind doesn’t want to appreciate. Yet, it’s the ultimate perfection that many-a-traveler seeks, that most visceral of time capsules which will remain in our hearts long beyond our capability to remember with our waning memory centers.
Not a day goes by on the road that doesn’t bring the journeyer through the rainbow of emotional colors. Every second of every day away from what we once knew as “home” overflows with the entire spectrum of feelings that a human has within immediate recall, and then some. How vividly we experience life, us vagabonds that comb the nooks and crannies of the planet for that hidden treasure that we are so certain we’ll find before we pass into corpse-dom. What do we want? The same as anyone else: Happiness…fun.
Did anyone happen to see my mostly-eroded treasure map, anyway?
Lou Gramm, “Midnight Blue”. “Things could be different, that’d be a shame…” Yep, it would be a shame to have things any differently. Okay, so the Foreigner frontman isn’t talking about traveling, and neither was Europe, but it’s not so much the stories they’re telling that stand out to me in these cheesiest of tunes from my hormonal adolescent days. This nostalgic collection of my teen years has really brought me alive since just prior to our departure from the homeland. My rotation tonight is really connecting me to the travel bug unlike any day until now. It’s true, Mr. Gramm: if things were any different it would be a real shame.
Have fun. That’s the message from today…this past week, really. It is our last week on the job here since the rainy season is about to paralyze the ability to construct the entire school grounds for these kids, and so the project is going on hiatus until October 1st, seeing the departure of Bernat and so many others we’ve shared the past few enlightening weeks with. We will be joining them in the exodus soon enough as we’ve got to see the rest of this quite intriguing country before we make our way to Spain and begin the longest walk of our lives, el Camino de Santiago. And only recently have we somewhat formulated this plan as a way of honoring ourselves and our families, which means that we have plenty of serious on our plates.
This means we require balance, as all living things do, since so much of our lives – to include our travels of the past few months – has been plenty serious. It seems that, given a choice, we more often than not have chosen to tackle the situations we’ve faced with rollercoaster death-grips. So it’s very timely that this week, before deciding we should write about having fun, we downloaded Anchorman and Office Space. Ahhhh yessss…..some good side-busting laughs to remind us to not take things so intensely!
Nothing like Steve Carell sharing “I love lamp”, or some of Jennifer Aniston’s flair, to really bring it all back to center. Not that we’ve white-knuckled our entire way until now, mind you. There was that time on Thailand’s Koh Phayam, for instance, where Allison tried to buck me off the scooter by taking a downhill section of the sidewalk that is their road system far too fast (it was her first time driving a moto, if I didn’t mention that), only to hit the 3-foot ramp to the bridge over the creek – which awaited us menacingly at the bottom – at full throttle. As my buttocks left the seat, and probably from somewhere around half a foot above the moto – which was moving away from me by now – I yelled something like “For fuck’s sake, monkey!”, hoping desperately to return to earth on the back of the foam seat and not on the 45-degree angled concrete up-ramp.
Monkey, my name for Allison and the motivation for our moniker, then laughed so hard she couldn’t see…while still throttling us across this 3’-wide slab of rock, with a bike coming towards us. We weren’t quite out of the woods with this fubar, and the situation was still a bit frantic. Having cleared that bridge I finally coerced her to actually apply the brakes and allow me to let my mind and my body reconnect. To this day we still buckle at the waist in hysterics at the mere mention of the words “fuck”, “sake”, and “monkey”.
There was also the time when we, as we are prone to do in a gesture of animalistic romance, butted heads…on a bus if I recall correctly. If you don’t know SE Asian busses, they don’t have what we understand as a shock system. Every bump in the road adds to your recently missing ab routine, which means every pebble of the highway system keeps you on your toes…nonstop. It seemed like a perfect moment to express our love monkey style, when we collided heads in a near double knock-out which would make the UFC proud. Oh yes, we have had our monumentally fun moments, for sure.
In fact, as I’m writing this it occurs to me that we’ve truly been alive since we sailed away, course set openly for the virgin sea. “Onboard I’m the Captain, so climb aboard. We’ll search for tomorrow, on every shore.” Thanks for this reminder, Styx, of why we are on the seas of hope. We both have had our individual dreams, and they have perhaps not surprisingly been quite aligned with where our compasses have brought us today. Is there anything in life more worth being around for, chasing one’s dreams?
We find so many little bread crumbs every day as we venture further away from the sight of familiar lands. All roads lead to Rome, I truly believe that. It makes little difference, I suspect, if we were to have our wanderlust filled in our visions while holding down a home and careers that we love: Happiness, joy, exotic adventures, fun…these all could very well be possible if we had felt the call to remain at the helm of our indefinitely ported ship, I have no doubt. But there is something so invigorating and in your face about taking the journey out of reach of the comfortable.
At the end of each day we get to say “Wow, we endured another one. What will tomorrow bring?” It’s a pretty incredible place to be. And the best part? Even when we feel like we’re losing our grip, we find that we value each other – and ourselves – just a smidgen more, which makes tomorrow that much more exciting. I guess in the end, we are really honoring the need to have fun, even when we haven’t a clue that’s what we were doing in the moment. La vida e bella.