When I was a kid, I dreamed of big adventures. I can remember literally lying in bed, planning my adventures. At the time, I had six dream travel destinations that were on my list. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to knock a few of them off the list.
Here’s the list as it stands today:
1. Freight trains across the U.S.
Am I even allowed to talk about this one? The quintessential American journey, Jack Kerouac-style, riding the rails across the U.S. Yes, it’s illegal. Yes, it’s dangerous. My favorite was eastbound up the Columbia River Gorge. In the middle of the night, the train turned south up the narrow Deschutes river canyon. The show from my sleeping bag was the canyon walls being lit by the light from the lead locomotive.
2. Sailing across an ocean
First thing I did when I graduated from college was buy a one-way ticket to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. From there I hopped a boat to Bermuda, and then a 32-foot sailboat across to the Azores. My favorite moment was in the middle of the night, standing watch on deck. I watched as the moon rose out of the sea, and it was enormous. Unbelievable.
3. Crossing a desert
Once, I almost did this, going all Lawrence of Arabia style, on foot from Wadi Rum to Aqaba. The pull of this dream is obvious. Don’t yet know if it’s foot, camel, or bike… I guess it depends how far you want to go. Once, when Jon and I watched the sun rise over the Sahara from the top of Merzouga in Morocco, all we wanted was to keep going.
Status: Not yet.
4. To the moon
Unfortunately, I don’t think this one’s going to happen for me. My son has the same dream. When I was young, and thought I could get there; that technology would change quickly enough. I wonder if it will in time for him.
Status: Not yet.
5. Crossing a border
I like to think about how nature doesn’t care about our constructs of political geography. This makes me want to walk the land, get in touch with the way it used to be, and defy the system. I once looked over into China from a snowy pass at 16,000 feet in Pakistan. I could have just walked down there, and no one would have been the wiser.
Status: Not yet.
6. Traveling a jungle on my own
When I was 20, in the middle of college, I took a year off to travel around the world alone. I had some serious ya-yas to get out. And at the end of my trip, I needed one last hurrah. So I set off into the jungle of Irian Jaya without a guide. Big knife, small bag, I just followed paths without a map, working my way from village to village into remote and unpenetrated terrain. People were kind enough to let me sleep in their windowless huts. Every once in a while, there would be a little squeak and a rat would scurry across my chest in the middle of the night.
Now, as a parent, I still have the taste for this kind of travel, but the consequences have changed.
“Daddy! You told me it was possible to ride a freight train!” No, son. I never said that... (Dammit! How in the world can he remember such a small slip of the tongue from when he was little more than 3 years old?)
Now, my dreams to travel the world involve my son.
Once in Panama, we made our way to a remote spot in the San Blas islands. The local people there sail dugout canoes. Washed up on shore were a bunch of materials from various shipwrecks, including masts, sails, and rigging. My dream is to go Robinson Crusoe style with my son, Jules, to combine these raw materials with an old wooden hull and just sail away.
For me, this is the best stuff there is.