"In long-range planning for a trip, I think there is a private conviction that it won’t happen. As the day approached, my warm bed and comfortable house grew increasingly desirable and my dear wife incalculably precious. To give these up for three months for the terrors of the uncomfortable and unknown seemed crazy. I didn’t want to go. Something had to happen to forbid my going, but it didn’t." — John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America
Six months ago, when I first committed to taking a cross-country scooter trip sometime in the distant future (May 2013, back then, felt like just that), I don't know if I ever really expected the trip to happen. At the time, frolicking about in the backcountry of the nation's most inhospitable wilderness seemed something of a fanciful notion—something I wanted to do, sure—but something that I'd probably end up kicking along like a rock down the road of life without ever really saddling up and hitting the road. But now, In just under 400 hours, I'm set to depart. And the truth is, it's really, really terrifying.
More than 10,000 miles of driving is scary enough, with all of the battling-against-awful-drivers-on-cell-phones-and-trying-not-to-get-run-over entailed, as is the whole backpacking-in-the-wilderness-and-doing-lots-of-intense-hikes-and-climbing-lots-of-tall-mountains. But perhaps what I find myself most anxious about is the simple act of not knowing: not really knowing where I'm going, or how to get there, or what I'm going to find if and when I do get there. Sure, I have an itinerary, and a super-fancy smartphone to navigate me from point to point, but I'm used to planning, researching, preparing, knowing my destination before I set off into new terrain, and based on the sheer magnitude of this trip, that's just not possible (though it certainly doesn't stop me from trying to, well, research the fear away anyway).
And so, as I check the final few boxes off my things-to-do-before-I-leave checklist, and accept the realization that in just two weeks I'll be leaving the comfort and security and familiarity of my friends, my community, and my home for the unforgiving lands of the great unknown, I have just one favor to ask to smooth that transition: playlists.
Yes, playlists. I'm going to be doing a lot of driving, walking, hiking, running, and if I don't have something to fill the silence every now and then, I'm afraid within a few weeks I might just go all Castaway on my helmet and begin treating it (and talking to it) like a dear friend. So please, send 'em over. I'm not picky—if it's good enough for you to recommend, it's good enough for me to give a listen to—and I'll take not just music, but killer podcasts and other forms of auditory entertainment as well. I'm on Spotify at jayaustn (preferred means of receiving stuff), but I'll also take emailed MP3s or just straight-up hey-you-should-check-out-this-band recommendations. My last few days will probably be a frantic scrambling to get things in order, so the sooner, the better.
While I'm on the subject of getting ready to leave, I should also note that I—hesitantly, begrudgingly—got a Twitter. Though I am something of a social media hermit who bristles at the thought of things like Facebook and Instagram and, yes, Twitter, something tells me the latter will come in handy on my journey: whether to share an occasional photograph of some beautiful landscape, to let folks know where I'm going before I disconnect and head into the backcountry of Utah, or to quickly get in touch with friends in cities I'll be soon entering. I'll definitely still be blogging here throughout the trip, but for more frequent updates, they'll be on Twitter.
All that said, I'll definitely be publishing a final post before departure (including a pack list), but until then: yes, please, playlists. The more, the merrier. Thanks, friend.
"I believe that nearly all our griefs are moments of suspense, which we experience as paralysis, because we can no longer hear our estranged feelings living. Because we are alone with that foreign thing, which has entered into us; because everything in which we have confidence and to which we are accustomed is for a moment taken away from us; because we are in the midst of a state of transition, in which we cannot remain. The grief, too, passes. The new thing in us, that which has been added to us, has entered into our heart and penetrated to its innermost chamber, and is no longer there even—it is already in our blood." — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet