When you travel for a long time, and I mean really TRAVEL, not visit, not be a tourist or a beach bum, but hard core traveling, sometimes, you are confronted with the idea you have of yourself. Suddenly you have to take a hard look at what you thought you would be. At what you profess you are. And it never happens during grand actions and spectacular views. It’s never while walking barefoot on a beautiful beach. It’s not even when you reflect on yourself and your life (because let’s say it, that happens a lot when traveling). It’s more of a sudden confrontation with yourself, happening for a tiny shitty reason. For me it was during my time working in an hemp farm in Canada. I usually had a room in my boss’s house, but they were going away for the week end and I had no way of getting back there after work. It was decided that I would then sleep on the farm, in that old van they had there. My boss’s wife showed me how to get the “kitchen” out of the trunk, how to tie a bag of water to a tree to have a shower, where the “toilets” were. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no princess. Life on the road taught me to be tough, and suck it up. But it was kind of cold, the van was really bare, and I was miles away from any kind of civilization. Well, except from that caravan down the road, where the worker for the field next to mine lived. Now, these were my options :
-staying in my van for the week-end. Working the fields, eating some hard core farmer soup in my hairy ugly bear sweat-shirt and plastic boots, talking to no one and seeing no one, being tough and lonesome.
-Or I could grab my six pack of beers and head down the road. Knock on the caravan door of that stranger and be like : hey, I got beers, we both are in the middle of nowhere, you want to share a meal ? Connect, for better or worse, with another human being. Make a friend for life, have another story to tell or meet another douchebag.
Here’s the thing. I always thought of myself as highly un-sociable. I mean, of course I like some people. I have friends. But let’s face it, those friends are usually the ones no one talks to. That dude by himself in the corner at the party ? now that’s my guy. But human kind in general ? People ? Ugh, people, of course I didn’t like people ! People fundamentally suck. I was not social.
But here I was. Confronted with that fascinating choice. Stay by myself, and I always enjoyed being by myself. Time to think. To process stuff. Or go and meet someone. Someone who, for all I knew, would be terrible company.
And I took my sick pack and my plastic boots, and I headed down that road. Knocked on the door and met Rosa. And it was wonderful. We had beers and she cooked diner for me. I knew her for 20 minutes and she was telling me her whole life story. She made me so comfortable, and we laughed and we shared and we became fast friends. She refused to let me sleep in that bare empty van and I stayed over at her place. We had breakfast together and the next day we went for a walk after work (with beers) in the forest. To this day she still emails me with the glorious details of her life and I love her for it. I am sure we will meet again.
And of course I don’t regret for a second my decision. But I have to face the consequence. I’m not talking about a beautiful friendship. I’m talking about what it means in terms of who I am. Not who I thought I was, or who I claim I was. But who I truly am. I am a social person after all. I like interacting with other people. I mean of course that doesn’t change the fact that I can be gloriously rude to people I don’t like. Or that if I am not interested I cannot bring myself to give a damn. I can still give the dead stare, be dismissive with assholes and have no patience. But I guess I am less of the lone wolf I thought I was. And, just maybe, that’s not such a terrible thing after all.