“There was nowhere to go but everywhere so just keep rolling under the stars.”
– Jack Kerouac
For my five day road trip across the country I armed myself with the necessities. Trader Joe’s chocolate covered espresso beans. Classic hits like Bruce, James Taylor, and Nicki Minaj. Tina Fey’s Bossypants on audiotape. And finally, a podcast that I had never listened to before (but downloaded per a friend’s excellent recommendation, thank you Emma) called “This American Life.”
“This American Life” is a wonderful radio broadcast that I have, apparently, been missing out on for years. I listened to hours and hours of stories on subjects ranging from America’s biggest party school to hilarious summer camp tales to a moving story about a radio freelance journalist who helped to free several Eritrean hostages back in 2011. These all helped to pass the time I spent in the car, but one of the most pertinent stories for me personally was that of Andrew Forsthoefel, a recent Middlebury college graduate who walked 4,000 miles across the United States two years ago. Having just walked across Spain along the Camino de Santiago and now driving across the United States, I felt like I understood on some level where he was coming from. I understood the restlessness, the feeling that maybe by walking we are writing some part of our own story. Of course I also felt a little inadequate, having walked only 500 miles compared to Andrew’s 4,000, but what can you do.
My walk along the camino with one of my best friends was an experience that I can’t quite put into words. All at once it was solitary and it was communal. It was beautiful (the landscapes, the people) and it was ugly (my feet). It was eye-opening looking at the world around us and it was also a time to turn inwards. For five weeks, Rosie and I carried home on our backs.
If you haven’t heard Andrew’s story, you should listen to it here, because it is truly inspiring. Along his walk, he asked the people he stayed with what kind of advice they would give to their 23-year-old self if they could go back in time, and at the end of his story he answers his own question:
“I would tell myself three things.
1) You know exactly what to do.
2) There’s no need to be afraid.
3) Keep walking.”
Since I haven’t come up with three pieces of advice quite as good as these I’m stealing them from Andrew for the time being and repeating them over and over like a mantra. When things get rocky or uncertain or I am afraid I will never find my cloud-watching-poetry-writing-nacho-eating dream job I will try to remember these three things.
We must tell ourselves they are true. Even when it feels like all of the pieces are falling apart and we want to lie in our dimly lit, low-ceilinged attic bedrooms, remember to keep walking
you know exactly what to do
so go do it and
there’s no need to be afraid.