When the road calls…

I am short of words. Few hours ago I attended a lecture by Chris Rehage. He walked 4600km across China, and counting. His story touched me on so many levels. I am unable to share what I am feeling right now. Throughout the days on the road, a mentor urged him to decide whether he’d rather keep his beard and walk or get a haircut and settle with his girlfriend. He couldn’t make the call until one day she broke up with him. There he is, on some 4000th kilometre, and he is dealing with a tough heartbreak. It brings him to question whether it all made any sense… Road looks the same they did back in Beijing, cities are the same, people appear the same, he feels… is it even him? On one hand he wants to get back together with her, on the other, the road is calling. Perhaps I am unable to word what he said, how he felt and how I felt as a member of the audience when he shared it with us. I just want to hug him, you know? I understood that for him being on the road meant knowing what he was doing. From my short 7 day walk to Santiago, I can relate. When you are on the road, the world somehow gets smaller. You wake up every day and the goal at hand is to walk until sunset. Easy. There are no doubts whether you should study this or work at that, whether to eat organic, whom to vote. It’s just you and the road. It’s beautiful. So I get it when he was reluctant to give up his beard. He said: I am my beard. Who am I without it? There is a strong sense of identity, on the road. Which brings up a question:
Why do we crave travelling? Is it because of this identity? Whilst on the road, a rhythm sets it – rhythm of random stuff going on. You lose yourself in this mysterious flow and it takes you to places visitors deem interesting and natives denounce as boring. And it gets addictive, sometimes it flows fast, oftentimes it’s slow and then it jumps over stones and tears apart some rocks. And afterwards you ask yourself: is it still me? Was I running away from something in the first place? The state of certain numbness and openness might be what we are searching for. Travel mode – ON. Everything sets into its place. Wheels begin to spin. Steams rolls out and in a rare instance, both randomness and volatility are accepted as fellow travellers. Is it a scapegoat? A distraction? Or an actual destination?

A friend of mine told me about a legendary Czech hitchhiker, Jiří Svoboda. Svoboda hitchhiked the world for several decades only to (allegedly) say: After you travel the world you realize that it all looks the same.

And with that, it’s time to put on some shoes and head out the door.

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About Petr Klíma