Day 19: Some places have the power to make even the most die-hard agnostic reconsider their position. Have you ever been in a place where you felt more alive or more connected to nature, the universe, or a higher power than anywhere else?
Mount Komagatake, Japan. It’s not a particularly tall or majestic mountain (especially since old Fuji-san is right there), and you can get better views from planes, and I was only up there an hour, but to paraphrase Tycho, if you can go up there, and look down at the lake and the foothills beyond, above the world but not entirely separate from it, “and then crack some f___ing jokes, then something other human blood animates you.”
I’m a cynical old grouch, and I’m often annoyed when people go on and on about the Beauty and Wonder of the natural world, because for me reverential awe of Nature is always coupled with the depressing notion that we may have irreparably screwed it up. I often think about taking my hypothetical children up to, say, the Rockies, and having to say to them, “You know, when I was your age, these mountains had snow on them, all year round! Can you imagine that?” What made Mount Komagatake special was that, up there, in the face of the sheer majesty before me, those concerns simply…fell away. For the first time in forever, I was at peace, and it was just me and the most glorious view I had ever seen in my life.
And I started to cry.
[Sorry you had to see that.]
Day 20: Just as the cuisine of a place reveals clues about its culture and history, so does its signature local drink. What’s the best drink you had on the road, and did the drink have any connection to the place where you drank it or the people you drank with?
Not applicable. I don’t drink. [Still don’t.]
Day 21: When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling.
I know people who have, but I never did, probably because entering a relationship is not a high-priority thing for me. But that’s not to say I never fell in love with something. [Big giant tangent ahoy!]
Summer 2002. We were going down to South Carolina in the middle of the night. I had fallen asleep in the back seat, and I woke up while we were going through the Baltimore/DC area. And I looked out the window and I saw all the houses and the cars and the office towers going by, and when you’re eleven years old and you think the ten hours between you and The Beach is mile after mile of boring gray tree-flanked macadam with nothing to look at, realizing that once every so often you might pass someplace interesting is a nigh-revelatory experience. (So this is was travel was like before the Interstates went in…)
This was also the point at which I fell in love with the journey. Speaking of… [The next Q’s about the journey. Can’t you tell?]