the end of the trip
Up until I got to Louisiana, it seemed that the whole resounding purpose of this trip was to free myself of the baggage of a common life- I shed my possessions, my home, my job, my social circles, my favorite coffee shops. I dove into a brand new world- 6 hours a day was nothing but pavement stretching in front of me and scenery whipping by, the muffled sound of an 80mph wind in my ears (tamed somewhat by earplugs), and the dull yet satisfying task of holding onto my handlebars and trying not to die. Mostly my mind was empty- a constant input of new colors and shapes and sounds is enough to keep the brain from relapsing into its old ruminations- "oh darn i have work tomorrow" "shit I was supposed to call mom" "where did I leave my wallet?" "I'd rather put off sending these 5 emails so i'll go grab coffee instead." Usually there was some random song playing endlessly through my head, which drove me slightly bonkers sometimes, but wasn't the worse thing in the world. Mostly it was sun, a stiff breeze, and trying vigilantly not to fall off the bike. It was a 3 week meditation. I was happier than I had ever been.
What does this say about happiness? Well, for one, everything depends on your mental state. Happiness, sadness, and everything in between is all in your head. Money, luxuries, personal accomplishments, even friends, are not reliable ingredients for happiness. I found that when I was stripped of all of these, I was happier than ever. Happiness is not an external thing. Existing entirely in the moment is the key to happiness. Not worrying about what I did yesterday or thinking (too much) about what I'm going to do tomorrow; being entirely immersed in the excitement of each moment- this was the magical world I discovered.
Then something happened I did not intend- I met someone who captivated me, and I quickly fell for her. I was more vulnerable than ever to the throes of the crush- the kind of stomach-swooping starry-eyed love you get when you meet someone who seems both perfect and tantalizingly inexplicable. So I broke the one rule of my trip, I lapsed into the one vice I had sought to escape more than any other: attachment. My motorcycle now had a hitchhiker. No matter what I did, there was this one thing sticking with me, this one thing that I couldn't get off my mind.
So what's better, a mind that is completely free and unattached, or a mind that is riding the thrilling roller coaster of love? This is a tricky question, because I think being in love is great, and most of us do. But some schools of thought, Buddhism for one, would maintain that the completely unattached mind is happiest. And I would also agree with that. So I guess you should just ride free until you can't anymore.
I don't have the answer, but I suppose I do have some advice: if you're going to travel across the country, wait to fall in love until the trip is over.
I made it home safe, almost 5,000 miles later. What a trip. Shoutout to everybody, thanks for all the amazing experiences. I'm heading to Brooklyn now, to see if I can make a musician outta me.
thanks for the photo Olivia