This week I consider the importance road trips have had on my life, on what I think and believe. What I have written in the earlier essays has often been the result of such a trip. Here I am not talking about a particular time or place, but the undertaking that led to those times and places . . . the trip itself and not the destination.
So what is it about a road trip that keeps me heading down the highways and byways? Part of it is just being underway, finding a path, taking an occasional left or a right at the fork in the road. Robert Frost, in "The Road Not Taken" writes:
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverge in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Spanish poet Antonio Machado cautions the traveler that there is no road; one makes the road as one wanders. The German poet Rainier Maria Rilke suggests something similar but in a different way in his Duino Elegies; the traveler should beware for the road is also wandering. Regardless, they all point to the trip itself - the route chosen to make one’s approach - taking priority over the eventual destination, if any. William Least Heat-Moon sums it up pretty well; "to go out not quite knowing why is the very reason for going out at all, out to discover the why is the most promising and potentially fulfilling of outcomes."
NEXT WEEK: The Road to Joe