Where is the journey taking you?
By CANSU ATLAY
Mais les vrais voyageurs sont ceux-là seuls qui partent
Pour partir; coeurs légers, semblables aux ballons,
De leur fatalité jamais ils ne s’écartent,
Et, sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!
From ‘Le Voyage’ by Charles Baudelaire
When I was really young an upcoming journey meant different things to different members of my family. Everybody used to get excited and spend the day before with a sort of lightness, knowing that they would soon leave the city behind and hopefully, their worries too. Amongst us, the most anxious was always my mother.
While I was busy jumping around with a tingle of excitement, she would be busy with her ‘things to do’ list. Each time the same ritual was repeated, her before-the-journey choreography had fundamental steps: Telling my father to take the luggage down from the cabinet; then yelling at my father who, at the time she told him to take the luggage down, was probably watching a football match; asking me if I prepared everything; yelling at me because I hadn’t prepared anything; thus preparing my luggage herself; replacing ten t-shirts with a toothbrush, hair dryer and medicine which I didn’t find as necessary as the t-shirts; running around in the house anxiously and yelling at everyone who seemed ignorant of the fact that we were about to go on a journey. No need to mention that this rush always started five days before the day of departure.
After we got in the car, we could never leave right away. Of the many reasons that stopped my father to turn the ignition, the most popular ones were:
‘I need to go to toilet!’
‘Did I turn off the gas?’
‘Did we unplug the TV/ toaster/ heater? ’ (In those days the electricity was unstable, so everybody used to unplug their electrical devices when they were leaving for more than a day.)
‘I can’t find my wallet!’
‘I thought you had the tickets!’
After a brief and peaceful (!) discussion between the inpatient driver (aka Dad) and the subject of the problem, which was followed by someone going back to the house after unlocking the two different locks on the door, we would have a silent beginning to our trip. For me, life always used to take another form as soon as I saw the road streaming away from my window. Back then, my best friend was my walkman. It was brought by my father from another country, possibly the US, which was the land where all good things come from for many kids. This was good news for the whole family, because before the walkman was introduced into our family, I used to have ‘road sickness’ and vomit each and every time we went on a journey. Finally, ‘a small man who plays music inside a metal box’ saved me and everyone else who had to be in the same car with me.
The feeling of going on a journey never changed after that. For people who are not afraid of the road, the journey is a passion. In those days, I used to think about more simple things than now, but still, I remember all those hours where my inner voice suddenly got very chatty. When I had music in my ears, watching outside world would become the greatest joy in life. Everything used to gain a whole new meaning, as if this was to be the most important journey ever, as if I was leaving everything behind and winding my way to a new life, where I would help many people and grab a slice of history with my success. I still do feel this sometimes, and when I do, I wish that the road never ends, so I can go on living in this floating, beautiful feeling, accompanied by the most beautiful journey songs.
A poet whom I love once said this: ‘Here I am, back on the road. Both alone and not alone.’
When you set foot on a bus or a train, you enter a different level of consciousness. For me, the oneness of the individual is incredibly peculiar during a journey. My ‘from’ and ‘to’ lose their meaning, and I alone enter a world of bittersweet blues. There are other people in my mind: people I left behind, whom I will miss; and people waiting for me, whom I will fill my longing with. Whatever my aim is, hitting the road has always given me a feeling of solitude. When I am travelling on a road, somewhere in between my origin and my destination, it feels like an intermission of life. Time stops, only the road and the music in my ears flow. Nowadays, thinking about my loyal sun-colored walkman, I press the button of my mp3 player and I take off.
Journey is a simulation of freedom. You can look outside with a fixed gaze, watch the mountains, plateaus, rivers for hours and hours and no one thinks that you are crazy. Nobody notices that you are travelling in yourself while the road goes on somewhere under your feet.
Journey is an opportunity to dream. You dream about yourself, maybe to try to better understand yourself. You imagine that you will discover a new side of yourself which will render you unique in this world.
Journey is a search for hope. Sometimes it is only the hope that a new city will convey a new way of living. You want to believe that happiness will break through your past sufferings, that everything you leave behind will be remembered as a remarkable experience and there are other lives somewhere, waiting to meet yours.
Amongst all the people you have never met and probably will never meet in a bus, you collapse into yourself. Thoughts rush into your brain like a meteor shower. As the rays of the sun appear and disappear in between the trees, the playful mind jumps from topic to topic, memory to memory.
Story says that, concerning a man, Socrates was asked why he didn’t change after his journey. He said simply: ‘He probably brought himself with him.’
From now on I wish all of you a wonderful journey with unforgettable moments. Keep Socrates’ advice and leave your exhaustive self behind each time you decide to hit the road. Your thoughts will come and find you, with the music from a device or simply the music in your mind, you will find yourself thinking, thinking, thinking… as the road goes on, enjoy the journey, while you watch the sun going down, somewhere in between your origin and your destination. As Jack Kerouac once said: ‘the road is life.’ It is.