How did we get here?

Why We Traded Life As Usual For Life On The Road

Why We Traded Life As Usual For Life On The Road

``Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there.'

'Where we going, man?’

'I don't know but we gotta go.``

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Last March, Kevin and I followed an impulse to put our stuff in storage and just—go. We left the security of our harborage in the California North Bay, and set out for the mysterious treasures of life, unmoored. Although living adrift has had its challenges, we are inspired by a shared dedication and animated by a focused desire. We are unmoored, but not unguided.

Moab, Utah, May 21, 2017

The seeds of this journey were planted over a decade ago, during our first road trip together. It was on that jaunt up the Pacific Coast Highway that we discovered our mutual love of getting lost and finding our way back. We like to follow our noses, to be in conversation with nature, and wildlife, and our own internal guidance systems.

Travel plugs us in and deepens our desire to explore. Especially slow travel. The more we discover, the further afield we want to go. Synchronicities tend to follow us when we’re in unfamiliar places. Our intuition becomes heightened. The world spins in miraculous circles when we’re plugged into that serendipity.

Sunset over Shadow Mountain Lake, Grand Lake, Colorado, November 1, 2017
Home on the Road

A place lives first in the province of imagination. It begins as an idea, an impression, a hope or fear. Our homes, communities, and workspaces; that destination you want to visit; your favorite park or corner coffee shop—these places are more than the spaces they occupy. They are co-creations and collusions. A starter brew made of the experiences of others, the spin of media, and the externalizing of our imaginations.

If we stay long enough, location can become a substantial personal identifier. We develop a feeling of pride in a community when we have a sense of belonging to it. An affinity. The spirit of that place emanates from us. It lingers in the fibers of our clothes like the smell of a campfire. We carry it. We project it. We broadcast it like a signal and draw its likeness to us. We wear the labels of our communities and places of origin like badges. Sometimes of pride, sometimes of shame.

A nomadic lifestyle dramatically reframes one’s sense of place.

My understanding of home as a place is continually evolving. We value each new port we drop our mythic anchor as an exploratory home.

In the last seven months, we’ve stayed in roadway lodges and hideaway cabins. In modern lofts, rustic casitas, and mid-century motels. In national parks and out of season “resorts.” On farms, and ranches and BLM land all over the American Southwest.

Like the shifting sands of her deserts we are in constant transition, and continual flux.

Life on the road is about being comfortable with uncertainty.

Toko pa says, “A place becomes yours only after you lose something precious there. The earth absorbs your grief and then, moist with suffering, new things begin to grow in your likeness. Separation makes you better at love. Weeping makes you easier to laugh. Dying makes you better at living.”

I struggled with the concept of death from an early age. The idea of eating a cute furry creature (and they are ALL cute furry creatures) is unnatural to me. When I was old enough to comprehend what was going on behind the scenes of the supermarket stage, I was horrified.

I refused to eat anything with a face.

The family doctor advised against it: "you'll stunt your growth, kid," but I became a vegetarian before I became a teenager, and a vegan as I grew a bit older. I wish I could see my choice to not consume animal products as a pure act of altruism, but I know better. This kindness people admire in me is driven by a fear of impermanence, a fear of abandonment, a fear of loss.

Hopi Reservation, on the way to Canyon de Chelly April 28, 2017
In the words of the inimitable Caroline Casey, “Certainty is a booby prize.”

It was Valentine's Day, 2015 when we moved to Cloverdale, and we were giddy with new potential. Blissfully unaware that two years later we would close the door hinged to those years of our lives for the final time.

We spent two years in our new home and never unpacked.

In that brief blink of time, three people were taken from me. Three touchstones removed.

Two of our dearest friends and longtime cohorts passed suddenly and tragically, in the prime of their lives. We moved to Cloverdale only days before Eric called to say the unspeakable: Brodie was gone. And we moved out six months after the horrific and heartbreaking discovery that Eric too had passed. I was gutted. In a matter of months, the two people who had made up the nucleus of my young adult life were lost. Vanished. Only a tangled mass of memories remained, with no one to unravel it but me. I still can't accept they won’t be coming back.

Life grew bleak behind the walls of that small house. We became cocooned in mourning for our dear friends, and my sweet Grandma. An amazing woman of enormous strength and character cherished by everyone she knew for her genuine kindness. We grieved for them all in that same house, on that same plot of land, in that same small, Northern California town.

Uncertainty was something we grew uncomfortably familiar with during those two years. It permeated our home. The bones of the house swelled with the stuff. It became a part of the place we lived. I can't say that I feel a sense of kinship, as Toko pa suggests. But I do sometimes wonder about the various forms of beauty that have grown there, from the compost of our grief.

We found that we were falling — so we decided to dive.

Those days were freighted with the pain and fear of loss, overcharged with remorse, and saddled with grief. I felt scorched, stripped raw, and weather-beaten, broken open and exposed like a desert playa. I began to lose my footing.

My world tilted dark.

Dizzy with disbelief, I became locked in fear for the safety of everyone I love. The increasing anxiety of every worrisome “what-if" became a crushing avalanche of doubt. We found ourselves deep in an underworld of emotions. A world that jeered and bared its fangs.

Everything felt vulnerable, unsteady, and in jeopardy. Our default settings had become trepidation and despondence.

There is a tendency to guardedness in times of great transition, a drawing in, a constricting. Many, feeling their own unsteadiness, will seek security on the well-worn path of orthodoxy. For us, the fear of falling into that trap was far more significant than facing the dim foreboding that had drawn its cape around our lives.

We knew that we needed a way out—and the only way out was to go deeper in.

We both felt it—a tug at our sleeves from a lighthearted part of ourselves. A yearning to metabolize our grief into a deeper dedication to life.

We were not only grieving the loss of our loved ones but of our own lost innocence as well. We missed us too.

We needed to laugh again, to play again, to be guided by the intelligence of our child-hearts. We wanted to fly free again, to cook it all back to the original impulse. To cook it back to love, to the first kiss.

Mesa Creek, Gunnison, Colorado June 30, 2017
"There was nothing to talk about anymore. The only thing to do was go.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Life is an adventure. We are here to explore, experience and experiment. To embrace the beauty of mystery. To offer up a bottomless cup to the wellspring of life. We are here for the joy of it—and we are not alone.

Our joy, our buzzing elation, our willingness to play is a sacrament to our ancestors—and they’ve got our backs. We are all in this together. It is our honor, and our playful dedication to embody that collective desire for a more benevolent, frisky world.

Gateway, Colorado, May 28, 2017

This adventure is a "defiant act of joy" and a "dedicated act of beauty." This is an invitation for the jaunty spirit of our ancestors to saunter back into the world.

We have a responsibility to be joyful. We are the storytellers and the story. We are the way in which the grand yarn of creation is weaving this modern myth. There are as many worlds as there are perspectives, and we hold their seeds within our imaginations.

“The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” —Muriel Rukeyser

Everything is speaking its story. Life weaves its mythology through form and sound and the intimacy of experience. Every place has a story, and travel rouses the storyteller in us all. It invites magic and mystery and synchrony. It offers novelty around every corner.

We have been in the deserts of the American Southwest for over three months now; voyaging deep into ancestral mystery and geological wonder. Each new landscape we see awakens more curiosity. Oceans of petrified dune fields, wind-etched mounds of Navajo Sandstone painted pink and orange with iron oxides. Cracked desert playas, searing white and sprawling. Cayenne butte spires rising from burnt sienna siltstone plains. Smooth marbled waves of sweeping slick rock canyon walls flushed vermilion in the Arizona heat. Red rock mesas towering over expansive green fields. Shimmering garnet cliffs stretching up to sapphire skies.

Over and over the desert fuels us with beauty, and guides us with contrast.

"The human mind always makes progress, but it is a progress in spirals." —Madame de Stael

The Desert speaks in spirals.

Time seems to stand still in these ancient landscapes, but each desert is living and animate. A trickster, and a consummate escape artist. Playful but never sentimental. The desert is an embodiment of the Dao. A dynamic individuality of complementary opposites, obliterating and recreating herself in perpetuity. She is a deft artist, using the intense and conflicting forces of nature to create endless self-portraits.

Bryce Canyon National Park May 14, 2017

We have allowed her to guide us, and she has shown us a what nature does to calm conflicting forces—it creates a spiral.

We’re learning that If we’re not comfortable with uncertainty, we might miss the best parts of life. We're learning that wonder opens the door to revelation. We're learning to allow the contrast in life to do what it does best: enrich the image.

We’re learning to spiral.

We are the authors of this story.

Each moment we pen this modern myth with the stories we choose to keep, and the stories we choose to animate.

I conjure a home in each new place we stay. I imagine us, ten years from now, growing our own food on a dusty farm beneath the towering red rock mesas of Paradox Valley, Colorado. We give ourselves to mystery in Sedona and spend years romping among the crimson cliffs of our ancestors. In Utah, we wake to sweeping dune-scapes of pink and orange tinged Navajo sandstone and play among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. We look for the feeling of home in each place. We have come to love them all, but we have found the greatest sense of home in each other.

We have our hands on the tiller of this ship, and we have no plans to settle.

We are enjoying the thrill of following our noses, and the challenge of finding our sea legs. We have hoisted our mythic sails to the uncertainty of the unknown and opened our arms wide to the mystery.

We’re not sure where we're headed or what the next chapter will bring, but one thing’s for sure—it’s bound to be an adventure!

Great Sand Dunes National Park, June 25, 2017
  • Blake Barnes

    I love your blog !!! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures !!

    November 26, 2017 at 6:20 am
  • What a beautiful poem to liviing an untethered life. Spiral forth a spin more magic!

    November 28, 2017 at 7:13 am
  • Darrel Ross

    I have always thought that life is a grand adventure and you two are really living yours. So happy for you. Loved reading your blog and envious as all hell! Love you and miss you.

    November 29, 2017 at 9:35 pm


    December 4, 2017 at 1:40 pm
  • Tim T

    Just remember, no matter where you go, there you are…!

    December 14, 2017 at 1:02 pm
  • Twin Star - KiKi and LaLa :)

    Twin Star...tell your story. The story never ended just because the writing stopped. And, you can still be authentic and inspired in the messy parts in an honorable, poetic and loving way. Weave your yarn...tell your story...anyone who is human knows that their is beauty to be found in both joy and pain. Share them both. Don't stop writing because your heart is sometimes heavy. YOU are FREE from judgement. YOU are FREE to LOVE! And, just so we are clear...the LOVE never runs out. Never.

    October 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

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