I was talking with a young man yesterday about the importance of travel. In the midst of loud music and sips (or in my case, gulps and stutters) of our drinks, I advised him to leave the country, see different sites. I remember a conversation like this years ago; an older man who I looked to for guidance had implored me to see the world. I liked this guy; he was always in a good mood and loved people. He had a sense of gravitas that I always admired and wanted. I would sometimes look at him, the way he interacted with people, how he carried himself, and thought “I want to be like that.”
Whenever I would see him, come into his restaurant, and grab some food, the man made time for me. We would laugh and talk about everything. One day, the man told me, “Travel is the best investment you can make in yourself.” I thought about that. I had done some traveling before – Europe, Central and South America, but not in depth. When the man advised me of this, I had been going through a rough time. I lost my job, girlfriend, and was drinking too much. I was lost and trying to find my way, so I decided to through everything in the air and backpack throughout Central America, by myself for seven weeks. Yeah, it was a bit rash (a little), but I felt I needed to “shake things up” and get back to who I was.
Being on “The Road” for that long made me strong, more independent, and focused. It was a time that I would never forget. Being on the road, I met some amazing people, immersed myself into some very awesome cultures, and got a chance to be free. Being on the road made me realize that television, pop culture, gossip, and other silly things are not pertinent to everyday life. Being on the road has impacted who I am today.
Having that conversation with the young man yesterday, I thought about the road and backpacking. How life was so simple. Several years ago, I heard an interview with Sebastian Junger. He was talking about his documentaries Restrepo and Korengal he made with Tim Hetherington (RIP). Junger described the solider’s lives at “Man Utopia,” not having to worry about bills, a job, or anything else. The only responsibility is to “Stay Alive.” I thought that was so profound, so powerful. I think about it and relate it to my backpacking jaunt. The only thing I needed to do was to keep moving. However, at this stage in my life I am different person. I am more settled, my writing is becoming more respected, I am in a great and stable long term relationship, I have a good foothold in my career, and I am making strides as an artist and speaker. My good friend Jason Tezlaff told me one day, “Make new memories” and move forward. Still, the tug of the road is powerful. I think about hitting it again; strapping on my backpack and exploring for weeks, months, maybe longer. The great thing about the road is the experience; seeing different things and being one with yourself. The not so great thing is when you come back, your life has been put on hold while everyone else’s life has been going and going. It is a give and take. Is it worth it? As a 40 year old man, I am leaning towards no. Still, the tug hasn’t left me.
RIP Anh Ho. You are missed so much,