Jack Kerouac was my hero long before I read On the Road. My favorite song (and the only one I attempt at karaoke) is Me and Bobbie McGee by Janis Joplin. Loreena McKinnet had me wistfully transfixed at her concert when she described the scene of inspiration for her Ancient Muse CD: riding on a camel caravan through the desert on a cool night with the full moon and stars guiding their way. Inspired, I bought a full length velvet coat from a retired belly dancer who bought in Turkmenistan because it made me feel like I was there on the starlit desert sands. Eddie Vedder lyrics and yearning voice on Gone from the Into the Wild soundtrack helps me truly get absorbed into this desire to be on the move.
I get my wanderlust from my dad, Bobby. The story goes that when I was two and my sister one, he used to pace the house saying he felt like a caged tiger and pleaded with my mother to hit the road with him. She, who had lost her mother a month before I was born, desperately needed to feel comfort and security and asked, bewildered, how they would find milk for the babies. Dad claimed he would chop wood, but please let’s get out of here! She refused, so in the middle of the night, he left.
I romanticized about being able to travel with him. We would have followed The Dead. I would have sold grilled cheese sandwiches and learned how to play the guitar or the harmonica, at least the tambourine. I inherited a picture of him taken in August 1970 in Lake Shasta. (I was 2½, at home with my mom and sister, living with my grandpa and aunt.) He’s sitting under the bright sun, on a rock by a river, shirtless with long blond hair, a beard and beautiful blue eyes. Yep, exactly how I pictured the scene – only I would have been there, too.
Andrew McCarthy (of Pretty In Pink fame) is now a travel writer. He wrote that visiting new places, meeting people and getting to know their customs helps him experience an ever expanding sense of self and the world. I couldn’t agree more. When you are out of your comfort zone, you find out who lay beneath the mask. For me, I find in pushing myself like this, I get to be more than I thought possible and the horizons I explore are not only those of land, but mind and soul.