When you’re crossing European country borders on buses, it means extremely. long. rides.
It also means a lot of reading, which I’m more than okay with. I use my iPad for books; although Rachel and I keep saying how much we miss holding physical books, the iPad is so convenient because it’s light, small and thin, and holds all of the books I buy. You can even just download a “sample” – about 40 pages of a book for free – so that by the end of the sample you can decide if you like it enough to buy it.
My favorite book that I’ve read on this trip so far is Heroes of the Frontier, by Dave Eggers. I recognized Eggers’ name from The Circle, which my old boss lent me saying he thought I’d like it. I LOVED it. I also knew Eggers from an organization my uncle introduced me to that Eggers founded: 826 Valencia, an nonprofit center in California dedicated to helping teens passionate about writing with their writing and editing skills.
Heroes is about a middle aged woman, Josie, and her two children Ana and Paul. After separating from her children’s flighty father, Carl, Josie decides on a whim to take her children to Alaska in an RV. She leaves everything behind – her successful dental practice, family, friends, her familiar life in small-town Ohio – and starts fresh.
Nothing about their massive move is easy. The three encounter serious obstacles along the way, from forest fires to bizarre individuals to estranged family members to terrifying storms, and Josie throughout goes back and forth on whether she did the right thing in taking herself and her kids away from everything that was stable in their lives. Without having Josie narrate the novel and instead using third person perspective, Eggers does an unbelievable job of getting the reader totally inside Josie’s head, feeling her angst and simultaneously her triumphs.
This passage stood out to me the most through the entire novel:
Josie allowed herself a moment of doubt.
There was a possibility, she admitted, that she and her children should not have come to this state on fire. But the doubt did not last. Instead, at this moment, she thought she was right about everything.
That we can leave.
That we have a right to leave.
That very often we must leave.
That only having left could she and her children achieve something like sublimity, that without movement there is no struggle, and without struggle there is no purpose, and without purpose there is nothing at all. She wanted to tell every mother, every father: There is meaning in motion.
We see Josie acknowledging her doubt that was present in her decision, yet at the same time being, finally, extremely proud of her decision. Even when we make the right decisions for ourselves, there’s always at least a little doubt present; if there wasn’t, every choice in our lives would be unbearably easy, and where’s the intrigue in that?
I loved those three statements on leaving as well; I felt all three planning this trip. I was worried what people would think of my decision to travel long-term, I was scared about taking an unconventional path, afraid at not knowing anything about my future after this trip ends. But sometimes, you have to leave. And you’re allowed to leave. And you don’t have to feel guilty about any of it.
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
There is meaning in motion, and I am constantly in transit: hustling to the next bus, looking out the window of a train at trees flying by, walking through alleyways in cities I’ve never been, running through trails, swimming in rivers, chasing the last few hours of daylight. Everything feels unpredictable, and everything feels right. And that’s all that matters right now.