I’ve been thinking about John Steinbeck’s book – Travels With Charley. It was never my intention to duplicate his trip or his goals. His main goal was to discover America. He had written about life in America and felt maybe he needed to get a fresh new look at America. He’d written Grapes of Wrath. Perhaps he had a new book in mind or maybe he just wanted to see if things had changed. Even though we had completely different reasons for our adventures, I think we both discovered much about ourselves.
From what I read in his book, as John prepared for his trip he was full of hope and expectations. He was excited and did his best to be prepared. As he launched out, he was very happy and comfortable with things. He stumbled upon opportunities to get to know America by getting to know it’s people. He was surprised by its new temporary-ness, as “trailer parks” were popping up all over the country. He shared a meal with such a family and learned how much it meant to them to have such things as a dishwasher and all the comforts of home, yet be able to take it with them should the husband need to relocate for his work. Sometimes John came upon situations that bested him and other times he bested the situation. I was with him. I felt like I was on that adventure with him as I read his book. I loved his enthusiasm as he traveled.
During his journey he didn’t have to be concerned with laptops and internet or WiFi, cell phones or gps. Though I had struggles with the trailer a little, my most frequent difficulties were with technology. I’m curious what John Steinbeck struggled with? He seemed to discover, by happy accident, how to wash his clothes. What other things came up? If its true that he did spend most of his time holed up in the camper rather than out and about, what prompted that? Maybe we have something in common. I had such great intentions when I hit the road. I was going to talk with people more, getting a little out of my introverted comfort zone. I did, too. In fact, I think it was one of my greatest successes. I tried new things. Yes. I did. I’d have done the zip line at Fremont Street in Las Vegas if ANY of my companions had been willing. I had Sushi twice. I did many new things. I always felt I wasn’t doing enough of what I’d intended to do. I didn’t go for enough walks or bike rides. I didn’t lose as much weight as I planned (from all those walks). I was going to read books and do tons of art work. I was going to finish the first Ren Girl book. I was going to go to National Parks. Didn’t hit a single one. Perhaps I set my expectations a tad too high for this first trip. I have to admit that I was a little worried that it would be my only trip. I wanted to squeeze everything into it, just in case. I did spend a large amount of time here in the trailer and I loved it. It felt good in this little space. It felt safe and secure. It felt cozy most of the time. Well, some times. Evenings were the best. All things done. All things met. Time to do whatever I wanted. Did John Steinbeck have any such times?
As he began to head home, however, he had less to tell. I couldn’t tell if he was just “done” with the thing or if he was in a hurry or what. Now I find myself in the last days of my adventure. I may take other trips, but none will be like this one; this first one. As I approach the end of the journey, I am full of reflection. Did I accomplish my goals? Was it worth while? Am I changed by it? Has it changed my tomorrows? What did I learn? Did John Steinbeck think such thoughts as he found his trip nearing its end? I experienced many of the same emotions of excitement and anticipation as I prepared. I found many similar unexpected surprises along the way. I went into some situations expecting one thing and found another thing entirely. I had to figure my way out of some dilemmas just as John did. Now, I wonder, if perhaps I’m not experiencing some of the same sadness that he may have felt. Do I really want to go home now? Am I ready to return to all the busy-ness and “stuff” that I have learned is so un-needed, so unnecessary? Did I come to treasure my time on my own, with Einstein and Emma to the point that its overwhelming to fall back into the old world, the old life? How will all this reflect on my future?
I will save all that and it’s answers for another day. Today…just drive.