Lessons from the road - Kerouac's ghost muse.
Before you read this post, check out tips and stories from my road trip!
I return home to an open couch, a visit from my mom, and stories to tell. A book I've read, Vagabonding by Rolf Potts guides me in this journey, but my experience serves as the foundation for these confusing emotions to rest. Before my trip, I feel anxious, I feel sheltered, I feel resentful of the surroundings which so ruthlessly keep my thoughts in check, unchanging to new stimuli, routine stifling the creativity rather than serving as a sound structure from which to spring into leadership and adventure.
I needed a change this summer. I needed a change last summer. I needed change.
The birth of Chocolate Chip Cookie Joe was my claim to my own path. My ability to create my own way in the world. The start of my future, self-built. Self-sought. Soon I found I was using this journey as a way to stay stagnant, or rather the journey took me out of my comfort zone. Out of who I thought I was. In escaping that, I figured what better way to forget "myself" and launch into a student of the road than to change my blog into our blog. To change Chocolate Chip Cookie Joe into Project Unchained.
I formed a team to help me with the site, and grew impatient. The wanderer in me wanted to soar, and didn't want to be held back, so I bid my designers goodbye and stayed in touch, looking to mentors to fulfill my need for help and community in business development and content writing.
And I planned a breakout trip to put these skills to use. These skills of planning, these skills of writing, this hunger for expansion, change, excitement.
I researched ways to save money, to plan, to deal with contingencies on the road. I looked at my finances, my desires to travel, and my options and I planned a 3-week trip around much of the Eastern US, visiting and making new friends along the way and getting into shenanigans. I won't tell you why but I received a black eye during one of my stays the last week. It'll be my secret.
In unchaining myself from conventional lifestyle choices, I open myself up to the freedom of choosing to follow the path not yet followed by others. A path I choose for myself. However in deciding to go the opposite direction of others, I still stifled myself. Which brings me to Lesson #1.
Being a Non-Conformist can seem like unchaining yourself, but is, in fact, chaining yourself to react to the norm while tricking yourself into thinking that you are free from it.
In doing what others don't, in doing what you're not supposed to do, you give yourself a little freedom from being a "follower." From being a "sheep." However, the good feeling of independence from the norm, and the high of being "unique," can keep you stuck, and even more "sheep-like" as you believe you are free, but in reality are reacting to society's expectations just as much as the next guy.
After a while, this creeping feeling that you are being a follower will come up, and may confuse you. To stay stuck, you mention to yourself "I'm not doing what everybody else is doing, therefore I am free. Quiet, internal guide, I'm doing fine." But it keeps on bugging you.
Then you realize after rebelling long enough that you don't have to react to society's expectations. You can react to your internal needs. You begin to feel in touch with your internal direction, unconnected to what society wants from you. If you want to take a break from college and go on a road trip, go ahead! If you want to quit and start a garage business making personal computers while everyone laughs at you, go ahead! You can face the consequences yourself and learn to let the haters hate while you follow your dreams.
The greatest asset of an adventurer, an entrepreneur, or anyone else who seeks to unchain themselves is an unwavering trust in the moment and their abilities.
There were times where I could have reacted by going back home. Where I could have called up someone to send me more money (I did once, and promptly paid him back when I had the chance,) but I decided to wait it out and trust that things would fall into place. My battery died an hour away from New Orleans after I stopped for a nap. I brought my portable jumper into a gas station and charged it for an hour at 5 in the morning. That didn't work, so I stuck it out, stayed calm and got a fellow driver to comfort me.
My gas money ran out, and I left my wallet at my cousin's house, so I humbled myself by asking for a transfer from my dad, using Android Pay on my phone to get by for a week. I paid my cousin back for overnight shipping, and my dad for sending me some cash, and went on my way.
I lost my keys at a friends' place in Nashville, and proceeded to use my spare key I had brought for emergencies, copying my house key when I returned home.
These are only some of the problems I ran into on the road these past few weeks, but through all of them, I learned to keep a calm resolve, and trust that the solutions will come. Either from myself, and creating the solution, or from coincidence. I overcame all these obstacles because I stayed calm, thought through the solutions, and acted on them.
You will lose friends when you seek to unchain yourself. This is necessary to grow.
When you make a choice to follow your own path, you'll find others react to that decision in various ways. In my case, I found much "I respect you highly for making the decision to explore your own path, but I resent you for doing this." This one comes mostly from friends, with some embodying the first part, and freely appreciating your resolve. These are the keepers.
I found much "I'm scared for you, and want you to stay for your and my stability." This one comes mostly from family.
And some "I feel so trapped in my own life that I am jealous of your ability to free yourself, whether it be circumstantial or purposeful." This one comes from all around.
I was playfully told by a good friend of mine that "If you were part of my family, I would personally beat you up." And cited his nationality for a reference. That wonderful girl I was dating I told you about back in March? Emily? One of the main frictions in our relationship was my need to explore, and her need for stability and careful planning. Your decision to follow in your own footsteps, and nobody else's will rock your relationships to the core and break the weaker ones beyond repair.
You will be faced with your own insecurities about abandonment when you return, that you may get into arguments with friends and break friendships out of anticipation and fear. I lost a couple friendships out of mutual fear either of us would change and our relationship would be different when I returned.
And you will face yourself. As Rolf Potts so eloquently states in his own words which I paraphrase here, traveling is the fastest way to self-discovery, since you have nothing to hide behind and must face yourself head on. No routine, friendship, familiar vices will be around for you to hide from your insecurities. In long road trips in the car, your fears and frustrations will come out into the open and bite you like rabid dogs. You must either create resolve and serenity, or become devoured in your search to cover up the feelings.
"A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out." - Mark Manson
He's right. Success is reliant, not directly on what work you are willing to put in, but what pain you are willing to endure to achieve those goals.