Yesterday, (Monday, May 12)the fiftieth day of my trip, halfway home, a trip the purpose of which was to rapidly dislocate myself from the comfort of home, a place I know, to someplace faraway, foreign, unfamiliar, and make my way slowly back, was appropriately spent in four buses and two taxis for twelve hours getting from one place to another.
Fifty days ago I landed at 9pm in San Jose, Costa Rica. Fifty days from now I should be pulling into Penn Station on Amtrak sometime in the evening.
My itinerary is in tatters, literally, and figuratively.
I extended my stay in Costa Rica, and subtracted that from Guatemala. A few extra days in Nicaragua meant fewer days in Honduras. This was a trip planned in terms of days, with the distance something that had to be fit into that framework. I have no idea how far I’ve come, and no idea how far I still have to go.
When I left I was anxious, unsure of myself, about what was to come, and, fifty days later, I’m only slightly less so. No amount of past success can alleviate a spectacular failure in the future.
When I look ahead to fifty more days, it seems like forever till I’ll be back. When I look back at fifty days, it seems like just a couple weeks ago that I was hiking in Corcovado. The days drag and the months fly. That isn’t correct. The days taken at a time go quickly, it’s when I look at them stacked on top of each other, stretching ahead, that they drag, in anticipation.
There is a push and a pull. I don’t want it to end, because then it is back to a job, the same routine every day. But I want it to be over, to be back to the people and places that I love and miss. The only thing to do is to be in the moment, but I have the head of an owl, turning 360 degrees, looking forwards and backwards.
There are moments, there are nothing but moments. But moments existed back in New York. I didn’t need to come all this way to find them, and only occasionally am I aware of them, here or there. To be in the moment requires an attention I can only sometimes will forth. Nothing teaches you anything. You’re constantly changing, wherever you are, but change is hard, and stasis, at least the illusion of it, is easy.
Travel is a way of forcing change, becoming aware of the constancy of it, but only if you set limits, like 100 days. Aimless travel is it’s own kind of illusory stasis, as freedom without limits is only an illusion of freedom. If you don’t want to move, you don’t have to. I’d rather not move. Even if I don’t particularly like a place, it’s easier to stay than to leave, to go from what’s familiar back into the unfamiliar. But staying in one place is no longer travel, and knowing that I only have these 100 days forces me into making conscious choices. It makes me aware that I’m making them anyways, because not choosing is a choice in itself.
Life is the same way. It has a limit, most of us just don’t like to think about it. The idea that it will one day be over is just too much to bear. That makes it easy to put off making choices, to just stay where you are.
I don’t have that luxury now. The end is set. I can see it coming. It’s like being in a boat on a river, taken by the current. There is no paddling backwards and there is no standing still. Change is inevitable. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, two paths diverge in a forest, Emily Dickinson’s horses, to see the world in a grain of sand, and so on. The only way is forward, whether I like it or not.
“What came is gone forever, every time/that’s good, it leaves it open for no regrets”
-Kaddish, Allen Ginsberg