In the spring of 1992 I packed up my Volkswagen camper van with my camping gear, my fishing gear and my dog for a summer-long exploration of Alaska. I called back to my place in Park City, Utah, and heard my roommate’s voice on the answering machine: “…and if you’re looking for Luke, he’s off searching for the meaning of life in Alaska.”
In reality, I wasn’t searching for the meaning of life. Like a lot of 20-something-year-old boys, I was following a woman. She was the first real love of my life — at least from MY perspective it was love — and my journals on the trip reflect the too-cliche teenage angst of what was clearly a one-sided devotion. (Yes, I was in my 20s but it was still teen aged: I was, and remain, very immature for my age. I prefer to think of myself as a late bloomer.) I knew it was over before I even started driving and when she finally lowered the boom in Anchorage — using the line I’d always used: “I’m just not ready for a relationship” — it still hit like a ton of bricks. Despite the fact I’d seen the bricks falling from several stories up, they still crushed my soul and buried me completely. For a time.
You’d think I’d have seen the signs earlier on: principally, the abjectly lousy sex, at a time in my life when what passed as good sex (to a 20-something male) was the very definition of “relationship.”
The irony is that I still had an amazing trip. A life-altering journey. I saw places I’d read about, thought about, dreamed about. And they were REAL. No, Buck and John Thornton weren’t around, but that sense of a young world permeated even the all-too-modern city of Anchorage. And that exploration of a different world ended up guiding my life from then on.
As it turns out, my roommate might have been right because I found the meaning of MY life. That journey set in motion the vagabonding that has been at the heart of the intervening quarter-century. In recent years I’ve slowed down, settling into careers and home ownership and (supposed) upward mobility. But sooner or later I’ve always found my way back out onto the hard edge.
And so I find myself now about to head back out there on lead. Don’t call it a “midlife crisis.” There’s no crisis at all. Quite the contrary: I’m ending the crisis that has been poisoning me from the inside for some time now. And I am assuredly well past the midpoint of my life so that part’s wrong too. Instead, call it a return to innocence. Not that true innocence is ever able to be recaptured, but there is still a semblance of that pure self hiding in all of us. I’ve been blessed that I’ve been able to scratch the surface and find him hiding under just a bit of dust. A shake, a sneeze and a big stretch, and he’s back in the saddle. Or at the helm. Or driver’s seat. Or on the trail. Or…you get the picture.
So now I get me hence. Over time, I’ll recap what has brought me to this current situation, what led me to this most recent — and hopefully final, for-the-rest-of-my-life — departure, but it will likely be all too familiar and thus, all too boring. But then again maybe it won’t. Some of it may even be pretty humorous. Wait and see.
I was nervous yesterday but I’m not now.