Oregon Trail 2012 (a manifesto)

I. My Itinerary:
On the 18th of April 2012, I set sail on the “open road” toward the setting sun to the Pacific Northwest. This is the preliminary itinerary for the first part of my journey.

COLORADO (week 1):
April 18 – the Road
April 19 – Ft. Collins
April 20-21 – Boulder & Rocky Mountains NP
April 22-23 – Denver
April 24 – Breckenridge
April 25 – Dinosaur
UTAH & ARIZONA (week 2-4):
April 26-May 9 – Utah Krishna Temple (& Salt Lake City)
May 10-12 – Arches NP & Moab
May 13-14 – Canyonlands NP
May 15 – Navajo Nation
May 16 – Sedona & Flagstaff
May 17-19 – Grand Canyon NP
May 20-21 – Page, Pariah Canyon, & Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
May 23-24 – Zion NP
May 25-26 – Bryce Canyon NP
May 27 – State Parks & Lake Mead
May 28-29 – Las Vegas
May 30 – Death Valley NP (and more)
May 31 – June 3 – Yosemite NP
June 4-6 – SF Bay Area
June 7 – Napa Valley & California SR1 / US 101
June 8-9 – Arcata & Redwoods NP
June 10 – Sanctuary One
… to be continued …

II. Context Sensitive
Since I was a pre-adolescent I wanted to live amongst the lush green forests on the other side of the Rockies, sandwiched between sea and mountain. The wet, temperate climate, alternative culture, and radical politics appealed to my biophilic sensibilities. It was a long ways away form the arrogance, greed, and consumerism of the affluent north shore of Chicago. No doubt, the Pacific Northwest was the romanticized other–the opposite of everything I disliked about the domesticity of the suburbs.

I was a divided soul. Someone who loved “nature” more than humans, but who actively identified with machines. From youth until my college years I had praised emotional restraint, analytic objectivity, and functionalism over emotional expression, lived experience, and aesthetics. These are the values of the master mindset, the will to knowledge, certainty, control, and power. I learned these values from my father, but had never questioned their origins and justification. They were absolute. And they were daily validated in our misogynistic culture that assigned value to masculinity over and against the feminine. I believe these values subconsciously took such force because they constituted my assigned identity as male, and they had to be performed if I were to sustain what I felt was expected of me as a male. Yet, my desire for wildness was an excess that could not be repressed.

Although I wanted to go on outdoor adventures on rivers and through the woods, I felt isolated and took no initiative to do much beyond video games, Legos, writing, basketball, and homework. I spent my childhood pent up at home, unambitious and sheltered. My family had no interest in the more-than-human world with the exception of my grandfather who kept a hobby garden. My parents had no hobbies outside of their jobs, no love for art, sports, and recreation. Leisure time was devoted to observing new places, attending a constructed space for entertainment, or–what I disliked the most–shopping. These were all meaningless to me. I wanted adventure and wonder.

Years later, I can now recognize and appreciate the wild beauty as well as connect with people on social, moral and political levels in my own (sub)urban “backyard.” However, I’ve spent so long making compromises over what I want to do, where I want to live, with who and how I want to be intimate. After the abysmal Fall of 2011, I needed a moving horizon, I needed a future to go on living, to crawl out of the gravitational pull of Nothing. Pursuing one of my life interests–an outdoor adventure to my new home–is saying yes to myself, yes to a future I want, yes to life.

III. Counter-objections
The very idea of this journey has collected a number of objections. Here I am addressing these common concerns and criticisms not out of a need to justify myself, but to explain why they miss the point.

1. Now is not the time! (you are too old for this)
To this I must ask: when is the right time? How long must I procrastinate on what I really want. When will I not be either too old or too young? I want to live in the present.

2. Get a job! (your priority is to settle on a career and nail a job)
I’ve lived a rather stoic existence for someone from my means. Until the last few years I have drank little alcohol and had not experimented with any drugs. You can save a lot of money simply by not being an addict to drugs and alcohol, but you can waste a lot of time being overly-calculative. So I’ve been able to save some cash over the years, but at a cost to my flourishing and lived experience. No more!

I’m no longer going to feel guilty about spending money, storing away what I have to spend at some later time. The money I’m using on this trip is money I’ve earned since graduating from college. I may not be employed at the moment, but that’s all the more reason I should be doing something incredible. It’s no longer crystal clear what career I want to pursue. Rather than stagnate in a “secure” living situation, I’m seeking inspiration from adventure and experience, letting spontaneity be my guide (more or less).

3. Stop procrastinating! (you’re fleeing from responsibility because you don’t know what you want)
This is the whole point of the trip! I’m finally going to stop procrastinating and second-guessing what I want in favor of security and social expectations. This is what I want and is a better means at discovering myself and my country than slow, armchair contemplation. The adventure is not only an end in itself, but also a means to an incalculable end.

4. Don‘t go alone! (you need help and companionship to be safe and have fun)
When I was a child, I was anxious being with people. I preferred solitude. Since my first love, I’ve become anxious being alone. One thing I learned (again) over the last year is the insecurity of emotional dependency. I need to be able to define and value myself on my own terms without the expectation or constancy of support from friends. After the Fall of 2012, I realize a need to become more self-reliant, more confident in my ability, and more free in my being.

Yes, I’ve thought about how having a companion on my trip could make it all the more amazing. Having someone to share experiences with is validating and can make the experience even more meaningful especially in the future when reminiscing. Having someone along would also bring greater security as if anything bad happened we could work together and protect one another. On the other hand, being alone makes temporal space for more reading, introspection, observation of the more-than-human, and conversations with strangers.

In no way is this trip extreme. Ambitious yes, but Into the Wild no. I’m not Chris McCandless. I’m not seeking to free myself from people or to prove my vitality. Really, what I’m doing is rather tame, just large in scale. I have every intention of preparing myself and I don’t plan on doing anything “stupid,” I’m just not going to cower from life and the risks it presents. The journey is less about self-mastery than it is a course on vulnerability. Vulnerability is a condition we must all accept if we do not want to suffer. By placing myself into a situation where I may be killed and eating, I’m un-sheltering myself from the illusion of mastery and control technology creates. (see “The Uncanny Goodness of Being Edible to Bears“)

IV. Rules of Thumb
A list of rules I plan on keeping more often than breaking to make my adventure a bite more campy.

1. No self-denial!
2. No regret!
3. Focus on the Beautiful, not the Bad!
4. Attune to the present with all my senses
5. Meditate every morning
6. Write every evening

7. Leave No Trace Behind
8. Learn about a stranger each day
9. Take at least one person for a ride
10. Alternate between local radio & podcasts
11. Read the history of each place I visit
12. Avoid traveling the same route twice

Food & Shelter
13. Avoid sleeping in the same place twice
14. Sleep in a tent or on a couch (avoid hostels and motels)
15. Eat whole foods (avoid eating out)
16. Forage something from the wild in each state
17. Drink one local beer in each city
18. Eat at one (or more) veg*n (friendly) restaurants in each city

Categories: Oregon Trail 2012 | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Oregon Trail 2012 (a manifesto)

  1. This sounds incredible. Please write about it and let us know how it goes and what you discover- John

  2. Sal Paradise would be proud.

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