“But the most pleasant of all outward pastimes is … to make a petty progress, a merry journey now and then with some good companions, to visit friends, see cities, castles, towns”
The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton, 1621
What I have been in the pursuit of the most during 2020 was definitely the sensation of travelling, not to a particular destination, nor for a particular event, for example, a Valentine gig in Berlin that would shred my heart into pieces… [last journey pre-pandemic].
Absolutely not: I sought sea-sick ferry nights, sleepless bus rides, strangers reaching out my sight, trying to catch a conversation, almost like a ‘Before Sunrise’ hopelessly romantic scene, filling those moments of road trip gaps of loud-silence with captivating observations of a world we could just watch pass by: infinitely mutable landscapes of a French Van Gogh-ian golden-ochre countryside, a patchy blanket of sunflowers, delineated by endless streams of sapphire-like rivers, rocky crossing paths shaping a distinctive and unrepeatable trajectory between those tired tyres. As Whitman would recite as a eulogy to his ‘body electric’:
“I tramp a perpetual journey,
My signs are a rain-proof coat and good shoes and staff, cut from the woods;
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair nor church nor philosophy;
I lead no man to a dinner-table or library or exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left-hand hooks you around the waist,
My right hands points to landscape….”
I endlessly hunted for a cherishing space in time, where I was just following that sensation of motion, a connection with a natural order, without the feeling of being left behind. There is no behind, indeed, only forward: the rusty vehicle speeds up as you feel its conductor, while your feet would touch just floating air and have no control of their direction…
Nothing is still, capturable, you are like a spectator of Nothingness, fresh breeze for your Ego; immersed in Totalness, a vague flashback re-emerges to when you were falling asleep in your parents’ van while they were driving for an escaping vacation from adulthood, cradled by those mechanical sounds, metallic shifting and your nana’s gentle strokes, and part of your eyes are glued to your window and you just observe mesmerised the mutating landscapes.
Looking for a no place, but a time capsule, described eloquently by Gertrude Stein, an intellectual heart split between Paris and New York, with this affirmation “whenever you get there, there is no there there.” An abrupt stream of consciousness: Every breath of existence stands out from that imposed frame of a neoliberalist society, where labels, categorisation, divisions between individuals, competition, bullet points of identity, are continuously enforce, institute, pin. As Jack Kerouac also would suggest: “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
We all urge a time of getting out, running away, switching off from that; breaking free from those chains that keep our feet deeply dug into a quicksand spot. Travelling (light) offers that. Losing temporarily your perception of time in the middle of fairly-known English green hills offers that. Walking miles away from the City with headphones on offers that. Catching a night bus after a mediocre date offers that. Taking a flight for a new out-of-comfort-zone destination offers that. This is how you should experience your most intimate and reflective minutes of existence: with no existential questioning, no moving straight forward, no plans, just be there in the ‘no there’.
As Maya Angelou remarkably affirms “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”