When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. —Proverbs 11:2
In 2019 I traveled more than I’ve traveled in my entire life.
I saw both coasts.
I walked along the steep, soggy streets of San Francisco. My hiking boots were dusty red in the foothills of Arizona. I fought vertigo while gripping the chains of Angel’s Landing in Utah. I stood outside Hemingway’s writing room in Key West. What did I learn about myself from all this traveling? I learned that I have the ironclad spine of a jellyfish and the intestinal fortitude of a newborn puppy. I’m a pantywaist when it comes to traveling—a wimp, a crybaby, a chicken liver.
Traveling is hard. Most of us would rather sit nestled in the comfort of a warm couch and a glowing television. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like uncertainty. I don’t like new surroundings——yet I force myself to travel.
“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”
——Jack Kerouac, On The Road
If I’m being honest with myself—I owe all this traveling to my wife. She is the true wanderlust in our relationship and if it weren’t for her continuous push, I would probably never leave the house. Since we met in 2005, Ashley has been instrumental in the development of my travel spirit (in spite of its reluctance). She is my Dean Moriarty and I, the timid introspective Sal Paradise—riding shotgun with pad and pen. Ashley may not be as fast talking and reckless as Mr. Cassidy, but she’s got just enough gumption and wit to grab ahold of my hand and go.
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” —Jack Kerouac, On The Road
Traveling is inherently uncomfortable. It’s dirty. It smells. It’s risky. Just take flying for example. While I stare out the airplane window and imagine myself exploding in the sky like a giant fireball—I’m simultaneously encapsulated in a sort of “fart cloud”. Thank you dozens of nameless passengers who thought it a great idea to board a 4 hour flight after eating airport McDonalds. “Would you please be so kind as to place your neck pillow below your ass——to halt the smell?” On one flight, Ashley literally covered her face aggressively while staring at a man who was farting with reckless abandon. As if it were imperative. As if the exhaust from the plane was being redirected through the guy’s butthole. Some savages know no boundaries—and there are no shortages of these gaseous individuals on every flight.
“You should view each new travel frustration—sickness, fear, loneliness, boredom, conflict—as just another curious facet in the vagabonding adventure.” —Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Traveling is a sort of a voluntary poverty (thanks Eric Kim). As much as we prepare, it’s inevitable that we will find ourselves at a disadvantage—needing something (or thinking we need something). As much as our technology can prepare us mentally, we really don’t know anything until our feet hit the ground. We’re in unexplored territory, we’re afraid, we’re vulnerable, we’re fools.
“I don’t know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference.” —Jack Kerouac, On The Road
This past year also brought a another profound realization. While listening to a podcast by psychologist Jordan Peterson—I was introduced to the concept that “The Fool Is The Hero”. According to Peterson, (who borrowed the idea from Carl Jung):
“The willingness to be a fool is the precursor to transformation. You’re a fool when you start something new and if you aren’t willing to start something new then you won’t develop. As you stumble forward, you illuminate yourself.”
Think about the implications behind this. We all go through life trying to look cool, smart, without imperfection. We’re protecting our egos. Our egos like selfish bulldogs vying for attention—shouldering and bucking their way to the forefront of our conscience. If you think you know everything, what’s the point in reading a new book? If you’re afraid of looking stupid—don’t travel—ever. The fool is the character at the beginning of every hero’s journey, deciding in spite of all he/she is lacking—to confront the dragon, the wicked witch, to venture into the dark unknown.
“The ironic comedian, the fool is the precursor to the savior.” —Carl Jung
I have adopted this trope as my new identity—the fool. I don’t want to go through the rest of my life living up to other people’s expectations. I don’t want avoid looking stupid at the expense of growing as an individual. It’s not worth it. After all, the role of the artist is to dissolve the ego in order to embrace one’s true self. This self is manifested in the form of great art. If making great art requires that I become vulnerable or look stupid—then so be it.
“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.” —Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
I want to do a swan dive into a toilet bowl. I want to give a wedgie to a saint and a high-five to a leper. I want to be like a dog let loose upon the neighborhood—sniffing and squatting everywhere. I want to dream the dreams of Ernst, Breton, & Duchamp—wake up stark raving mad with a notebook by my bed. I wish to be forever the underdog—a martyr for the absurd. These are the nightmares of the dead, the regrets of the undead—a life not fully lived. Because if we are living our lives in accordance to the expectations of others—we are not living.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” —Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
From here on out, “you’re being an idiot” will no longer be an insult but rather an affirmation. If you see me doing something stupid—good, I’m doing something. Every hero was at one point a fool, and if he’s smart—he’ll stay a fool. I hope this inspires you to go out and do something stupid too. Not something dangerous like jumping in front of a car or smoking meth—but something silly, something weird. Write a poem and tape it to your toilet. Call a friend and have a thumb war over the phone. Fart on an airplane. Read a book that you haven’t read. Take a blurry photo. Talk to strangers. This is the only life we have—live it atypically, experiment, become a fool.
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” —Neil Gaiman
Thank you for reading.