||[Jan. 21st, 2008|11:57 am]
Ian departed last night and I am suddenly, calamitously lonely.
This is unusual. Many people have asked me how I can stand to be alone on the other side of the world for so long. I usally answer that I'm never really alone: there are people everywhere, and in fact I make a lot of friends on the road, mostly other travelers who are also in freefall out here in the big wide world. But as others have long since suspected of me, this isn't quite it.
The truth is that I'm one of those people who just like a lot of time alone. This makes me suited for solo travel, and for writing. Hooray for a path that fits my proclivities.
However, it turns out that I do need people. And not just "people". Those are everywhere. What I need are those deep connections. Friends, in other words. I have a lot of conversations out here, but not a lot of really good, soul-searching, world-reforming conversations. I maintain a certain amount of contact with the people I love (mostly, but not only, in San Francisco) yet nothing, it turns out, is quite the same as being there. Traveling with Ian, I was reminded how wonderful it is to have someone to reality check and discuss your experiences with; and while I can and do write home about the things I have seen, it is precisely the inability to get across "what it's actually like" that makes travel so rewarding.
"Did you see that?"
"What the hell?"
Those are the moments I'm talking about. And then we would both form theories about what the hell was going on there, discuss it, and eventually conclude correctly that we had no idea. If you've spent time outside of your native civilization then you know what I mean.
It's a valuable experience, but I'm having one of those moments where I'm wondering what I'm doing out here. I can't say that what I'm learning is always clear. I think it becomes clear later. I saw a little of this in long discussions with Ian and Slim. I realized that the worldview that I've been developing out here is already rather well articulated. I had stories and ideas and models and knew certain things. I had a perspective which they felt was valuable. Doubtless, I will understand this far better when I return home.
Which is what, exactly? I have a home culture where I am comfortable and reality appears to make sense: the industrialized West. I have a group of friends and people who love me in San Francisco. I have a community there. To a certain extent, I don't belong there any more. To a certain extent, I've never felt like I belong anywhere. I realize that this is a totally normal human experience, but I've chosen to see it as my gift. It's the thing that makes my lifestyle possible.
But the people who support me are also what make my lifestyle possible. If I appear not to need you, it's only because you are there for me. Thank you.
I miss you all terribly, but it's not quite time for me to return.