The word ‘travel’ is a broad concept. When someone says to you, “I’m going traveling in Europe this summer for a month,” what are you supposed to visualize? Sure, you know that the guy’s going to Europe, and that he’ll be staying for a month. But what will he be doing for those thirty days in Europe? Will he be a pious traveler and visit all the major cathedrals and churches, including the Vatican? Or is he going to stay with locals for weeks at a time, immersing himself into the place’s social and cultural palette? There’s always the chance that he’s gonna buy the EuroRail pass and will zoom from city to city, taking in museums, monuments, and gimmicky touristy stuff like the ‘IAmsterdam‘ sign.
Or… maybe the dude likes beer, knows that there’s no better place than Europe to drink beer, and plans to chug mug after mug of local brews at beer gardens in Prague and Munich (sorta like my traveling partner, Kevin).
So when I say “I’m going traveling for about ten weeks this summer, on a road trip across America,” that ain’t nearly enough information for y’all. Take off your shoes, step into mine, and check out my definition of ‘travel’ for this road trip… This summer, my version of ‘travel’ boils down to three things: immersion in nature, books, and deprivation.
We packed with us sleeping bags, a tent, campfire cooking supplies, and hiking shoes. Our list of destinations is 90% National Parks and natural attractions. The ‘immersion in nature’ part is as obvious as the demise of the Kobe Bryant era.
From my personal experience, reading books is the best thing about traveling. While waiting on the chili to heat up on the campfire, lying under the lantern light hanging from the tent’s ceiling, or leaning back in the car en route to the next National Park– I plan to read and read and read. I have nine books ready, including The Pillars of the Earth (Kevin begged me to read this– if it sucks I’m gonna burn it in a campfire in his face), The Stand (Stephen King’s best work, I hear), The Man in Full, and- most fitting- Walden.
A good friend of mine once said that traveling is the ‘only time you feel like you’re doing a lot, while essentially doing nothing.’ I agree—and books are a big reason for that.
And finally, deprivation. Oh yes, deprivation. From technology, mostly.
Deprivation comes naturally while backpacking abroad because of economic reasons: international pager access tends to charge extra so we go without; the cost of good food tends to exceed budgets so peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are eaten; hostels are cheaper than hotels so we endure their springy mattresses and unclean shared bathrooms.
For this trip, Kevin and I have banned ourselves from bringing our pagers (Scott brought his, to use when he continues his road trip after Kevin and I leave in August… but rest assured we’ll be on him like white on rice if he touches it). The laptop on which we’ll be writing our blog posts will be used for that reason only. There’ll be other deprivations—weeks without showers! Entire days without eating meat! (unless we fashion a bow and slay squirrels and rabbits with flint-tipped arrows…) and I’ll miss the news of the Vikings training camp, which probably will be the hardest of all.
Bottom line: deprivation will make us MEN. It will chisel us until we are nature-loving, technology-resistant, smelly men.
So now when I say “I’m going traveling for about ten weeks this summer, on a road trip across America,” you know exactly what I mean.