Just before we went on our whirlwind trip to Colorado last year, we picked up a copy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it, even though we still haven’t finished it ourselves (I’ve been a little busy).
As we wound along endless back roads in our bright red rental Jeep, I read passages of this book out loud, in awe of the spectacular vistas surrounding us while contemplating the deep introspection casually scattered throughout the text. On our journey we identified with certain passages on a profound level- as though they were written specifically for us to read, or even somehow flowing from our own hearts. There were points where we would read just a few sentences and had to set the book down just to let those words fully soak in before discussing what they meant to us and how it applied to how we hope to live our lives: thorough observation, deep appreciation, exploring off the beaten path and creating real connections with people instead of letting life pass by as a series of “small-talk” interactions.
“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. ”
I don’t want to look back on life and wonder where all the time has gone. I am only 32 and already feel this way- I want to experience the rest of my life differently. I have had the “travel bug” for a long time and have seen more of the world than most of the people that I know have seen, but that is still such a tiny sliver of this planet and the communities that thrive upon it. I want to make meaningful connections, leave a place better than when I arrived, contribute what I can and receive perspective and experience. Road trips and traditional travel just won’t do it for me and never have.
“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
If you have ever ridden on a motorcycle, you know how true this is. You are truly experiencing your surroundings in a visceral way rather than just watching it pass by. I feel as though the trail will be an even more intense way to interact with my surroundings and the people who enter and pass through them, incorporating every fiber of my being into truly experiencing this journey.
“To arrive in the Rocky Mountains by plane would be to see them in one kind of context, as pretty scenery. But to arrive after days of hard travel across the prairies would be to see them in another way, as a goal, a promised land.”
It isn’t about getting to the northern terminus, the “promised land” of Manning Park, Canada- it is about the challenge, the struggle, the perspective gained from moving at the pace of a human being. All of the places between point A and point B and every living creature who enters my circle of observation along the way will impact my journey, however superficially. Every blister, every sunset, every cramp, every mountain vista, every mosquito, every snow-covered pass, every tripping rock, every squally night will shape that journey, delivering me, eventually, to Canada, although they will have already exceeded my goals and expectations regardless of that physical destination.
I am eager to get started on this journey, though I suppose that I had already begun the moment that I decided with certainty to do this trail. Perhaps I will find my own zen on top of a mountain, in the desert, or between each step along the way. Where’s yours?