Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dreams of the Road

“There we discovered that our vocation,
 our true vocation,
was to roam the highways and waterways of the world forever.”
Che Guavera, The Motorcycle Diaries

“The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.”
Alexander Supertramp, Into the Wild

There’s a question that each one of us inevitably comes across at some point in our lives or the other. The more social ones are asked by a friend maybe, and people like me, by themselves:

If you didn’t have to worry about earning a living, if you were free of all obligations, what’d you spend your life doing?

I ask this to myself, and I don’t bite the half-baked answers like “just chill out”, “create a business empire”, “work for world peace”. I keep thinking. I keep reading, observing myself. And bit by bit I discover: reading writing, sketching people, places and possessions in my notebook.


Strangely, money doesn’t feature per se in my dreams. I mean yes, I see myself in 5-star hotels as easily as in roadside motels, I imagine a convertible car, good food and wine and all the charms of the cities of the world. But I don’t imagine myself earning my way through all this…and I laugh – hell, dreams don’t cost nothing.

Travelling. New cities. Towns. Villages.

Roads coming down mountains, trees both sides. Sandy beaches.

New people. The storekeeper you’d buy your groceries from, or the farmer. The man under the tree by the highway.

The chai-walla, an artist past his prime, a beggar, a street dancer, the pompous aristocrat.

 Travelling. Not just visiting cities and seeing their tourist attractions, but actually living in them, for months, or years, absorbing their cultures as we’ve absorbed ours, and getting absorbed by them, working, knowing and learning. Becoming a part of them.

Writing. Writing about whole countries and their nooks and crannies, writing about all those people I met, their stories and their lives and their sorrows and their joys as I would about mine, about culture, history and folklore. Getting out, out of myself first and then houses, cities and mindsets. Shunning limitations.

People. Not being afraid, not being embarrassed of the poor or obsequious of the powerful, just being yourself, being open, being honest. Not letting your feelings, your thoughts, your words depend upon others’ opinion of you. Making acquaintances across the world, simple and straightforward, but only a few friends who matter, who’ll anchor your heart but not your feet. Knowing what trust means, understanding what the human spirit is.

But suddenly reality begins to peep in and my reverie is broken. The basic premise was hypothetical – dreams don’t cost anything – dreams don’t cost anything, goals do. There are two ways of travelling the way I want to: either get insanely rich by some brilliant venture early in my career, or go the way Guavera went: journeying on foot, second-hand bikes or hitch-hiking, begging, doing odd jobs, for years, going without food, leaving behind family, social status and education. For what? For a whim.

And again, I slowly begin to understand. Run-of-the-mill lives don’t mix with adventure. Perhaps it’s like a cosmic law of balance or something: when you want something, you must give up something. Perhaps the bigger your goal, the bigger is the sacrifice required. If you want adventure, maybe you’ll have to give up some other things.

I re-think… and realize that so many things that I might have spent on might actually be extraneous, dispensable. Like smartphones, television, expensive watches, deodorants, a fancy car… branded underwear. And it works the other way round too. Not only does giving up on un-necessities saves money, a Spartan lifestyle also keeps you in touch with your basic goals. Struggle breaks down pretensions, assumptions and helps you find yourself. It’s the man who’s not afraid to lose it all for the sake of his goal, who’ll ultimately win.

Of course, most of us don’t know what we want. But what if you do?

Can you give up the comfort of the air-conditioner? The indulgence of Facebook? The luxury of procrastination? The assurance of knowing where your next meal is coming from?

If you have a dream, how much can you give up?