When you travel alone, you can do anything you want. You can change your plans in a matter of seconds. You can stop for coffee five times a day. You can skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner… only to remember that you haven’t eaten at 11:30. You can walk into a temple – look at it for about 3 seconds – snap a pic – and walk out. No one is there to scold you for not giving more shits about a thousand year old building. I’m guilty of all of these. But who cares? I’m off the grid. It’s where I am, but I don’t know if it is a good or a bad thing. It seems these days that we are just too synced to our friends, family, and colleagues through our endless social media. Yet we still feel the need to connect and be connected. I’m totally guilty of this. The downside is that we watch everyone so much that we forget to watch ourselves.
This last week I dove head-first off the grid. I landed rock bottom on a concrete floor of my own insecurities, emotions, and unanswered questions. In Kyoto, I found myself alone. I got caught walking in the rain one afternoon. I walked clear across Kyoto under my raincoat. I was too stubborn to just get on a bus and spend $2.50. I knew that my mom wasn’t there to tell me I was being a cheap-ass again. I realized that afternoon that I alone was responsible for my own security. I went to Kobe and ate a steak at the first teppanyaki restaurant ever invented. I took a thousand pictures to post to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But no one was there to try this world famous meal with me. I felt alone. I felt like I had disappeared.
For the next few days I didn’t do anything. I stayed in my hostel, watching American T.V. on my computer. I went to Starbucks to watch more T.V. Originally, I wanted to surf the internet and connect to my friends… but free wifi is nonexistent in this high tech country of Japan. Go figure. I stopped taking pictures. I stopped attempting to get ahold of friends back home. I was truly alone watching a thousand people walk by me everyday. The only words I spoke for two days were “please/thank you/excuse me/toilet?/and tempura.” My mind became my enemy as I spiraled into a hell of sadness. I fought fear of failure with fear of solitude. Either way, I was afraid and wanted to come home. Everything I knew was on the other side of the world. So…a couple of panic attacks in train station bathrooms later, and I had a flight booked home for today.
I bought myself a calling card (some stone age shit), and stood outside of 7-11 on the pay phone to my mom. I told her I would be home in three days. I had failed. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got home, but I needed some security. She rejoiced and told me simply to “come home!” I went to bed that night feeling much more at peace that I would be home in three days. My homesickness had defeated me. I told myself that maybe I wasn’t cut out for a life on the road. Everything I thought about myself had fallen off the grid. What was I going to write to the people reading this?
I woke up the next day and knew I had two days to go back to Tokyo Narita airport. I felt relaxed, knowing I would be at home in two days. I had originally planned a 46 mile bike ride, so I told myself to just enjoy my last days before returning home. I packed up and went. That morning I had the best cup of coffee in three weeks. The weather was only swelteringly hot… instead of the usual Japanese fire air that makes me sweat worse than a fat alcoholic in hot minivan. The bicycle I rented wasn’t too small for me – a first in Japan. Ten miles into the ride, I was cycling with a very friendly Belgian couple I had met. We swayed along coastlines, passing beaches, lush foliage, and crossing several islands on some of the most magnificent bridges I’ve ever seen. Everything was right in the world again…. except…. WHAT WAS I DOING?!?!
After 25 miles, I had realized my mistake. I was living in the now again. I wasn’t fixated on the past or the future, but the present moment. I breathed in warm sea air. I cycled and listened to Coldplay’s entire collection on my IPod and loved it! Even the Viva la Vida garbage. I was alive, and fully aware of the blood flowing in my veins. I was living out my dreams. I realized I wasn’t broken and dying, but happy and alert. I was off the grid. And off the grid means that your emotions, whether good or bad, are off too. The highs were soaring where the lows had crashed just the day before.
Many know that I suffered from a deep depression for two years in college. I came out of it when I decided to stop fighting to be sane and embrace my craziness. I flipped the perspective one February day and decided I was one lucky duck for getting to experience the dark side of the moon. I made the decision to go off the grid of being sane and seek the beauty of my diseased mind. I gained security in my newly discovered crazy self, and that security gave me control. I controlled my mind once more and got exponentially better.
But relapse is a fear, and fear compromises our ability to comprehend what we know to be true. I am once more off the grid. I changed my plans again in a matter of seconds. I got back to my calling card and cancelled my flight. Frankly, I’m a little pissed at my mom for being so damn supportive of me no matter what… actually I love her for that. I’m not coming home yet, people. I am going to see some more of this world and go further off the grid. I learned to stop thinking about what others are doing back home and what I am missing. I have started watching what I’m doing instead. I am living for myself. I need to keep challenging myself everyday. I need to remind myself of my own security. I need to throw away my fears. I need to be mad to travel. Maybe I’ll become an outlaw…. *I look at the ceiling very pensively and then look back at my pen*….. maybe not that far off the grid.
Everybody thinks that
Everybody knows about
No body knows anything about
They’re all worried about
-from the only good Jack Johnson song (good Jack Johnson song… oxymoron?)