I am not afraid of much, but one thing that does scare me is routine: falling into a seemingly endless cycle of daily chores and traditions. While one grows up, routine is tolerable, even comfortable, because it is balanced out by the ever-progressing, next-step-having stage of school. Kids do the same thing for a year, then they move on to the next grade, and the grade after that. Middle schoolers move on to high school, high schoolers move on to college. But once one is done with college, what is that next step? Work, eat, sleep, repeat until you die or retire, isn’t that the path? I don’t want that—at least, not right now—which is why I moved here after graduation. Even still, between punctuations of random side jobs and extreme activities, I’ve teetered near the edge of repetition. I’d find myself biking home from work thinking, “I did this yesterday. Exactly. And I will do it tomorrow. Again. What am I doing?” This fear of routine grew strong last Spring during several weeks of uninterrupted monotony. Then, some time last May, I believe, my buddy Ian called me up and changed everything.
Ian graduated from UC Berkeley a semester after I did and, like the rest of us, has not been receiving a million job offers. He, too, is finding some path in this wonderous post-Recession economy. Fortunately, Ian has a sense of adventure. He called to tell me about a grand idea: roadtripping around the continental United States for a whole summer. Ian’s route would start in the Bay Area, go up through the Pacific Northwest, snake up and down towards the Atlantic, thoroughly soak in the East Coast, and head back west through the South. It would hit every major city and many college towns. This trip, he informed me, would be low-cost, too. He’d couch-surf whenever possible, sleep in his car when it wasn’t, and eat cheaply and on the go.
The entire time I was listening to Ian’s idea, I was thinking, “He hasn’t asked me anything yet, he’s just telling me stuff.” That might have been normal were it some other friend, but Ian calls with a purpose. I knew what he was getting at, and I couldn’t wait for him to ask.
“So,” Ian continued, “considering the couch-surfing aspect, do you think it’d be better if one person traveled alone, or if there was someone else? Because somebody offering their couch to a stranger might be more hesitant if there were two, but on the other hand, it’d probably be safer if I wasn’t by myself.”
“Oh, definitely,” I said through grinning teeth, “It’d be much safer if there was someone else. I mean, not just for couch-surfing, but also just on the road. What if the car breaks down? Additionally, it’d always be nice to have someone to talk to. . . and to split the cost of gas.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Would you like to join me?”
I could have answered before he was done with the question. I could have answered before he began to ask. I could have answered as soon as he mentioned a roadtrip.
“Of course,” I replied. I had found my next step.
So now, I have something to look forward to, a finish line. Or, more appropriately, a checkpoint. Though the weeks aren’t blurring together as much as they did in the Spring, I don’t mind when they do. This routine, I now know, is temporary. I have a goal, and that is to save money the best I can until we embark on our roadtrip, which is slated for June 2011.
Of course, the start of this journey marks the end of another; I don’t plan on coming back to Hawai’i. By late May 2011, I will have been here twenty months, which is a good amount of time. No longer are my “next steps” entering the next school grade, but rather entering the next city. I want to pack up, move, and start all over again. My plan after the roadtrip is to move to Seattle. You all know how much I loved it there. Plus, I have family offering a place to stay until I find one of my own. Sound familiar?
Young Man Went North. Wait for it. . .