THE ROAD IS LIFE: Everything I Own Fits Inside This Backpack

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By Claire D'hooghe | June 5, 2016

Narrative Experiment Part 1

Perceptions of events are shaped by the people around you. It’s like the day of your birthday; without being congratulated on surviving another year and receiving gifts you might not know that the number associated with your age has ticked over. Every day of your life you’re ageing; the feeling is no different than any other day.

In one way preparing for a long-term trip was like this for me; it felt natural until someone started asking questions and trying to sow doubt into my impressionable mind. Without the constant support and persuasion of Ben I may not be on this journey through exotic countries and psyches.

I did my best to quell the worries of my family as well as my own and focus on the present; directing my energy into selling our stuff, gathering together what we might need overseas and learning Japanese. I tried to keep mindful of the reality of life on the road; the inevitability of things going wrong, of feeling lonely, of wanting to quit and turn back. Furthermore, the exhilarating, unavoidable openness and creativity new sights and sounds would bring, the accumulating experiences I will learn and grow stronger from. Roots not fixed to a stationary life grow not into the ground but stronger and deeper into themselves. Looking for oneself in the twisted corridors of the inner life.

The original packing, in retrospect, was an exercise in holding on. Every situation was accounted for; every comfort added in (some turned out more practical than others); every last shred of our parred down belongings analysed and organised into take and leave behind. “Wow, you guys have a lot of bags,” was the first comment made on our baggage and gave me a complex that was difficult to shake – the rest of my trip was spent unhealthily sizing up other backpacks.

These bags were going to be Our Life for the next year, or so our dreamer-minds conjured. They represented the months of preparation and the months of adventure ahead. Saying goodbye to friends and extended family was easy – I had already left in my mind and I trusted in the tangled universal cyberspace to keep us connected. Being ripped from my family, in their minds, meant I would be gone forever – not true – but of all the people in the world who care about actually seeing me, it was them. Wounded but better off for all wounds heal, I walked through customs and into the unknown. Breath still catching in moments of vivid dubiety released simply by looking over at Ben’s reassuring smile.

Boarding the plane labelled with a familiar destination: NRT, Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan. Thoughts of how our individual lives had twisted and turned to fall into this place were quickly replaced with a hesitant, excitement for the future to come. As the wheels lifted from the runway, I knew that now, the road was life.

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.Jack Kerouac

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