During my days as a broker in the heart of the city of London I felt marginalized from life. Disconnected. Trapped behind a computer screen. Caught in a world created for me, by others. Then everything changed. I stumbled across the epic movie ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ and felt a glimmer of hope surge through my soul. I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. Che Guevara’s trip across a bleak midcentury Latin America consumed my spirit with a sweet song of opportunity; An opportunity to reverse course and sail into a life of passion, adventure and above all connection. For the first time, I felt hope. Hope that a soul crushing existence tethered to my old way of life was not eternal.
It was time to connect with the wider world. To shed myself of my personal demons. To dust myself off and embrace life. To do this, I devised what I thought was a rather brilliant plan. I would travel from Times Square to the Hollywood sign connecting with strangers. I would force myself to keep this spirit of connection alive by travelling with a pittance. I knew this would force me to connect. To come out of my shell. To experience the world. To experience myself. To live.
This was my plan. And on many levels it worked. I find myself living a life far removed from sitting behind my slab of wood (my desk). But with everything good comes struggle and pitfalls. Yes, I have found a way to travel and make a career out of it, but when you have no money people look at you funny! They also tend to ignore you. Reject you. Shun you. Often you become invisible.
So the proverbial yellow brick road towards enlightenment I was seeking, was in fact paved with potholes. Potholes that brought me face to face with the things I was trying desperately to flee. Disconnection. Fear. Rejection. Abandonment.
This is my story of how I found myself facing my worst fears on my trip across America. And how I overcame them.
The world we live in is in many ways the most connected it has ever been. I-phones. Wi-Fi. Facebook. Twitter. The list goes on. We live in an age of technological wonderment. Yet on some levels we are still supremely disconnected from each other. Ultimately, the sad truth is that we are disconnected from ourselves. We are unable to communicate from that unique human place: The heart.
We know how to ‘communicate’ via email. We know how to talk via Skype. We know how to friend someone on Facebook. But do we know how to talk and connect one on one. To understand. To empathize. To have compassion for each other. It seems that the language of the heart is being left by the wayside.
As a broker I experienced first hand the frenetic life that the Internet and all our gadgets have given us. As a traveller relying on the kindness of others I have seen how a simple smile between two people can shift a persons day. Bringing people closer together.
The most excruciating part of my trip across America was when I was faced with rejection. I put myself out there. I opened up my soul. Only to be crushed by rejection. Of course no one owed me anything, but putting myself in harms way emotionally meant that constant rejection was difficult to deal with. Inevitable, yes. But still a challenge. There were times I definitely wanted to give up. My mind tired. My soul weak. My self pity high.
Didn’t I do this to connect with people? Didn’t I do this to build bridges with the rest of humanity? What’s the point I whined? The point was simple it turned out. It was to find my way through this murky and dark place of disconnection and pain. It was about using the open road as a lesson in life. A schoolyard of sorts. I needed to face my fears of disconnection by putting myself into situations that would force me to connect.
Travel is so much more than an external journey. It is primarily an internal one. A journey to the center of our souls. A journey that is at times inspiring and at times depressing. A journey. Often we set off on that journey with one expectation and return with a totally new set of experiences. Experiences that shift our perception of the world.
My journey was supposed to teach me the joys of connection. In many ways the disconnection and rejection I experienced brought me closer to the magic I was seeking. For it was those moments of disconnection that magnified the magic when I did bond with others. A magic that in this fast paced world of ours, where no one has time to sit down and chat face to face is all the more important to embrace. A magic that you can find on the open road.
But beware what you ask for. It’s not all plain sailing out there…