Sunrise in India, Charlie Grosso

It’s 1pm here and most likely 36ºC with 90% humidity. The power cuts in and out. There is no way to escape the heat, be able to work and get fresh light all at the same time. So I sit on our little private balcony and suffer through the heat. I figure, everything goes right through me already so why not sweat the rest out in the heat. Anything is preferable to the fetal position inducing sharp cramps of yesterday.

Questions. I have lots and lots of questions. It feels like I am always in search of answers. I would find an answer, it would satisfy for a short while, and then I would be on the hunt again. Sometimes I would forget I’ve already found an answer to that question, stumble upon that same answer months later, try it on to see if it still fits. When it does, I feel dumb for having forgotten about it in the first place. Wanting to short-circuit this never-ending search, I keep post-it notes everywhere, answers dotted through every notebook.

The question today, why am I on the road? The obvious answer is that I signed up for another adventure and found a cohort. But we both know that I am looking for an answer that is deeper, more profound than the obvious. Self-indulgent. That word has been plaguing me ever since he asked me over dinner that night. A bunch of first-world privileged wanderlust-filled souls running amok in someone else’s county in a tuk tuk is purely self-indulgent. “Hello Kettle!” is my answer to him. I hate how his words stick with me, even if he is no more self-indulgent than I. His worst offense being that he does not see his actions as self-indulgent. Sherry says being self-indulgent is a privilege we have. We don’t have children or husbands to consider, why wouldn’t we live for ourselves? There are no brownie points in being a martyr and I don’t aspire for sainthood.

I chew on the complex and nuanced idea of self-indulgence and I am reminded of Tim Hetherington’s interview from Outside Magazine,

“I don’t buy the whole altruism thing. I think at the heart of altruism is a selfish deed. You know, and that’s fine. . . I want to reach people. Can’t it come out of a place of personal curiosity? A desire to locate myself in the world and also have some utility?” —Tim Hetherington

…Desire to locate myself in the world…

I resist the concept of “finding” myself. In the dualistic nature of English language (it limits us greatly) it implies one is lost when we consider finding. Except lost is the wrong word. Even when I was making my way through Mexico on a bus, purposely untethered from the world, I never felt lost.

It felt like shedding and unleashing into something truer, closer to the core.

Pico Iyer talks about multiple belongings. Another author, can’t remember who right now, talks about how both identity and reality are always under construction, ever shifting. If so then the continual quest for answers to the same questions makes sense. I am not the same me. You are not the same you. As I evolve up the spiral, its time to ask the question again. The same answers might be ill fitted now. There is no knowing without asking.

There is something about being on the road that makes you more honest with yourself. The hard uncomfortable questions are easier to answer. I see it in Sherry. She answers hard questions with a little bit more candor and ease than she does when we are stateside. What is it about the road? Or what is it about the place we call home (and we use that word loosely here) that conceals our truth? Our identity is fixed and not permeable, as home requires specificity of us, and those in our orbit depends on our fixed identity to structure their own. Home is a delicate house of cards and we all have our assigned roles to play. That is not to say evolution is not possible at home, but it is subject to a greater degree of friction and discord. The road is a far better suited stage to try on a new self, to unravel and discover. Return home not with cheap souvenirs but with a truer sense of you.

Maybe that is why we have walk-about and pilgrimages. Maybe that is why the hero must leave home in order to become.