This is my second try. Over the past few weeks I wrote a nice long post on our comings and goings during our first three weeks on the road. Over the last five years, Word has crashed on me once, in the midst of writing a philosophy paper in first year. This was the second time it crashed on me. Last time I was distraught. This time, I took it as a sign that writing a play by play wasn’t the way to go.
So here is take two.
I’d like to talk about two things: friends and the magic of openness.
Two of our big stops so far were Montreal and Philadelphia, in both of which good friends reside. We pull into Montreal on a Friday afternoon with the plan to spend a week at most. We’re enthusiastically greeted by Chris and Savanna, and instantly I knew we’d be there longer than a week. A late fall breeze wrapped itself around the city for the 10 days we ended up staying, but it did not deter us from enjoying it to the fullest. Moriah graciously hosted us for our extended stay, her home offering a peaceful respite from the cold van. There, we enjoyed many suppers among friends, momentarily forgetting the outside world. Sam and Coline entertained us and took us out, giving us a taste of Montreal’s vibrant rave scene and always providing great chats and laughs.
I could go on for many paragraphs about the people we spent our time with in Montreal. In fact, I did in my first draft. The truth is, you can’t accurately describe how much your family means to you. The small quiet moments shared, the laughs, nights out… Think of those who mean most to you, that is what I feel towards these people. The above five are those who set aside large amounts of time to entertain and host us; for that I am infinitely grateful. Everyone else, even if we just spent a few moments together I’m very happy to have seen you – and am excited to catch up when I’m back home. Those who I missed: see you soon, you weren’t forgotten.
Philadelphia was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t know much about the city. Joe and the Neukrug family welcomed us into their beautiful home in West Philly. Joe, native to Philly, unabashedly played host to us for three days, showing us his favourite areas of the city. We had the chance to meet up with Alex Lakacz, an old friend, for drinks and to marvel at the fact that we’re somehow adults (though I must say, the three of us having quit our jobs and living in a van certainly don’t feel like adults). Joe and Eli took us Frisbee golfing, we ate Philly cheesesteaks in a big park, and spend evenings chatting on the Neukrug’s porch (those who know Joe, may have, like me, tried to imagine Joe sitting on his porch with a glass of whiskey in the evenings – if you imagined a majestic man, sitting in a rocking chair, overlooking a street where he knows every passerby, you’re bang on).
In this section, I’d also like to give a big thank you to Alex Matson, Joel Pelletier, and Émilie Thériault in Edmunston. Giving us a place to stay, an awesome gym climbing experience, and physiotherapy and yoga advice. Your warmth started our trip on a great foot.
The magic of openness
When traveling, it is naturally easier to view the world with new eyes. We have this open curiosity, which keeps us attentive and often patient. It is in this openness that we find magic. It suddenly feels as though the world is falling into place for us.
The thing is, humans are habituating machines. Everything, even the amazing, eventually becomes normal. The first three slices of the world’s best apple pie are delicious, whereas for most, by the fifth or six (for others perhaps the eighth or ninth) it starts losing its thrill. But it appears, to me at least, that we can learn to keep seeing the world with these new eyes – it just takes practice. The thing is, living in a van is no exception. Though there are many moments which blow my mind and force me into this mindset, eventually, we habituate even the amazing.
What I’ve found this trip, is that it is in the moments when life seems the least interesting that it is the most important to become curious. When looking for a place to sleep in Quebec City, it would have been easy to allow ourselves to go into autopilot, but we were curious to find an interesting spot – we ended up urban camping on the St-Laurent River minutes from Old Quebec.
In Philadelphia, our openness and lack of plans led us to meet a group of slackliners in a park who invited us to highline (ultimately rain prevented this). In Virginia, we found ourselves swimming in natural hot springs on the side of a country road. Later, we found ourselves many kilometers into a national forest, camping over the hidden-away lake Moomaw with millions of stars overhead. Each occasion was spontaneous and a result of patience and curiosity, specifically when nothing interesting seemed to be happening. When we allow ourselves to watch the world without expectation, we’re constantly surprised by the outcome. However, it takes openness to the unexpected and lots of patience; the universe doesn’t care that you feel like you’ve been waiting a while.
So, this is the first post I suppose. Friends mean everything and when we don’t expect anything but are patient and curious, we’re treated to happenstances that feel magical.
We’re currently heading through Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and into Colorado – if you have friends in these parts or any recommendations it would be very appreciated! Here are some photos, and soon I will be posting more regularly on my Instagram @catnarson if you’d like to follow our flight south.