a few years ago, I quit my job as a utility arborist and bought a van for $1500, along with my better half, Stevie. We drove and lived and laughed and fought for three months, and it was incredible. Her beautiful curls flitted in and out of her open window as we crossed borders, reading to me as I drove, enjoying the simple act of doing nothing but watching the landscape go by, and leaving little footprints all over the inside of the windshield.
Happiness is an open road.
Up until about three years ago, I’d been doing labor jobs–snag falling, wildfire fighting, working in the oil patch, etcetera–and although those jobs left me with plenty of time to travel, I was pretty much over seasonal work. I found that, although I enjoyed working with my hands, I was constantly looking toward the next trip, effectively destroying any chance I had of really enjoying what I was doing at any given time. And although the gig as a utility arborist cleared that up pretty quick (it’s hard not to be present and enjoying the moment when you’re 60 feet up a tree trying not to dump a limb onto a power line), I still just wanted to hit the road. Like, all the time. It didn’t even matter what I’d be hitting the road for–as long as I was going to be going somewhere, I was content.
I recently headed south for a two week stint in a tent in Mexico. Two of the friends I was with were on a months-long camper trip, while another was on a motorcycle powered soul-searching mission (I think). Lying in my tent at night, listening to the waves cracking on the cliffs to the north while the stars winked at me out of their inky black resting place, I came to the realization that I will probably never be happy if I’m well and trulysettled. I think that’s probably an affliction that many surfers suffer–or perhaps benefit–from. I’d wager that’s what attracts a lot of people to surfing in the first place: it’s wrapped in a shroud of wanderlust. The actual act of riding a wave is just a fraction of what makes surfing so great. Anyway, here are three good reasons why looking at what the rest of the world has to offer will make the rest of your life better:
1. Comfort zones are a terrible thing.
Being comfortable is one thing, but staying inside your comfort zone is a disaster. It’s really easy to do, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Find a few nice people, find a nice room, do some touristy things, then go home and say you’ve seen whatever it is you saw. But doing things that make you uncomfortable generally leads to something much better. Whether you succeed or fail, it’ll always lead to either an experience that might change the direction of your life or, at the very least, a way better story to tell when you get home. And the greatest thing about being uncomfortable? It’s road with no end. Once you get comfortable doing said uncomfortable thing, there’s always going to be something else that branches off it that makes you even more uncomfortable. You think the guys that surf the biggest waves in the world went from knee-high waves to 40-footers? Nope. That was from a lifetime of consistently pushing their limits.
2. Friends in passing is a beautiful part of life.I have this thing that I do sometimes. I imagine that every person I pass is walking around in a thin little bubble. Pretty much everyone on the planet thinks of themselves in personal terms. We all have our own little bubbles that we live inside, containing all of our day-to-day experiences. As we move through life, we bring those bubbles with us, collecting everything and everyone we meet. I like to think that, when you meet a person in passing, your bubbles mix together, leaving some of you in theirs and some of them in yours. Every person you pass on the street is bustling by with their bubble, and when you cross paths, they bring you with them when they move on, just as you do with them. On that trip to Mexico, I met a lot of people that I really liked. At the end, there was the obligatory exchange of numbers and Facebook information, although I think that most of us knew we probably wouldn’t be in touch. And there’s something nice about that: those people, whether I see them again or not, will be in my bubble for the rest of my life, as I’ll be in theirs. We’ll never have the chance to get sick of each other; instead, for the rest of our lives, we’ll continue to simply be great friends in Mexico.
3. Weathering a shit storm makes the rest of your life easier.Back home in Canada, we have a show called Trailer Park Boys. It is, without a doubt, the funniest show ever made. One of my favorite lines from it goes something like this: Going through tough things, while they might suck at the time, does a few things. One, it makes every other tough situation you’ll ever have seem a little bit easier. Two, it will probably prepare you for a similar situation that, unless you’re living on your couch, turning into a jiggling bag of mayonnaise, you will encounter. Being soft sucks. Dealing with situations makes you a better, more resilient person. And being soft is boring as fuck, anyway. If you find yourself in a sticky situation on the road (which always seems to happen, if you’re doing it right), bring your shit bat to the game and knock those shit balls out of the park.