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Going West

Back in July or so, I met with my good friends P and R for a nice Mexican lunch in Oakland California and then P and I went for coffee. It was this wonderful time to just sit and remember, talk about leaving one place and just going on. I remember a few priceless things from the conversations. P told me this story about hitchhiking in his younger days. He had no idea where he was bound so he held up a sign that simply said,

Going West

This stuck with me when he told me the story and the following wonderful events that happened as he went West. It is this idea of no destination that has stuck with me after. So often we travel or we are tourists and we have this idea about destinations. Perhaps they are the golden mean when people travel or tourist. It is the getting there that matters most. I don’t think so. Getting there is not the thing. The real thing has always been even as Robert Louis Stevenson pointed out the going. We have to go to get there.

Prior to coming back the last time to the US, I felt that Hanoi and Vietnam embodied this for me. Just the going. The vagabonding. Cities and towns. Railroads and cars. Jet planes and ferry boats. Buses that would take me the hours from Saigon to Can Tho. The one time riding for 30 hours from Hanoi to Saigon.

When I was in the US, I did the movement with no purpose I feel with the train travels. The USA RailPass was a wondrous thing that I reached 8 out of 10 segments on. When I booked the last segment from Albuquerque to Flagstaff I told the Amtrak agent how well I had done. She agreed that reaching 8 was good. I did meet Mr. Amtrak in Reno though. Mr. Amtrak was a wondrous character who lived to travel on Amtrak. A retired gentleman, he would just go and like he told me,

not to arrive but just to go

A common thread? Going west and going to just go? I think so.

Now its today

Today marks two months being in Puerto Vallarta. I’ve approached Mexico much like all the other places. It is not the last place nor is it meant to be. Merida comes next. Some people will always want to know what’s next. That question is a destination type question too. It assumes we must have a destination to go. In fact, we never do. I traveled around Asia for years and changed plans as often as I did them.

So I remember P’s going west. How a sign can be held to just go. We don’t need to be responsible for the finale because we have not reached the finale yet. I wandered an alley in Hanoi and a Vietnamese lady told me dead end once. I continued and she laughed. She sat in front of a wondrous hair salon and further down older men laughed and waved and told me

Xin Chao

I waved back and smiled. I knew the Hem would end but not really end. Because the moments of the Hem and perhaps even a photo or two stuck with me.

So going west is not a mile marker. It is not a destination. Destinations are ends. Finales. Hoboing around is not and I think P got that and so did Mr. Amtrak. Both know ending up is not the going. Thanks P and Mr. Amtrak. I would love to see both of you again. I hope P makes it to Panama or Costa Rica next year and we share that coffee again. Mr. Amtrak may your trains almost always arrive on time. But that’s another destination thing. We want it all. On time. I think Mr. Amtrak would say

who cares

And I don’t either. Because moments and memories and experiences and time don’t agree.

So let’s all go west. Build our own territory and world. Just find a sign and hold it up. You can do it.

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