Here’s another piece I wrote for the Golden Pen Writers Guild. Our assignment was to write something on “Independence”.
There are many different kinds of “independence.” We have Independence Day every July 4th. There’s independent living, independent study, an independent press, and many others. But when I think independence I always envision hitting the open road.
One online dictionary defines independence as: “freedom from outside control or support: the state of being independent.” It also lists some synonyms: self–sufficiency, self-reliance, self-support. To me, there’s no better way to demonstrate those skills than by leaving everything behind, going to a strange place and living out of a suitcase.
…when I think independence, I always envision hitting the open road.
Looking back on my university days, I remember how fun it was to grab my bag, hop on a train—I was living in Europe at the time—and go see what I could find. All I needed was my ticket to ride and a vague idea of where I was going. I stayed incredibly cheaply in Youth Hostels or in new friends’ homes; I also wasn’t above spending the night in a train station if necessary. The things I experienced, the places I saw, the friends I made remain with me to this day. It was wonderful.
But then I came home: time to “grow up,” get a job, take out a mortgage, and get on with life. Each of those things removed a little more of my independence; each one slipped another chain around me, binding me to somewhere or something or someone I had to answer to. Travel became less spontaneous since now it had to be pre-planned, pre-paid and shoehorned into my meager allotment of pre-approved annual vacation days. All those “pre-“s stifled much of that sense of freedom and fun with which I’d once traveled.
I began to wonder: what was being chained down really doing to me and my life? Were all the so-called benefits worth it? I realized all that “normal, everyday life” and routine had weakened my skills in being spontaneous, flexible and mobile.
So I chucked it.
I began taking short trips to places I could enjoy exploring utilizing only public transit and my own two legs. I forewent more deluxe accommodations in favor of really cheap beds in hostel dormitories. I challenged myself to travel super-light, whittling down my baggage to only what would fit in a small daypack.
And I’ve never felt happier. No car to worry about. No mental gymnastics trying to fit everything in, seeing ALL the sights in a given location. No concern for hauling around a lot of stuff “just in case.”
While all of these exhilarating trips have been domestic—one drawback of chucking some of that “everyday life” stuff is smaller budgets—they almost feel exotic and foreign as I’ve taken the opportunity to go places I’ve never been before, or re-explore familiar places from a different perspective.
Getting out again under my own power, with minimal planning and a small bag over my shoulder has given me back my independence.
© 2014 Douglas P. Kendrick, all rights reserved.