Posted by: George | June 30, 2010

The Urge to be Someplace Else

June 30, 2010

In the first chapter of Travels with Charley, Steinbeck writes about his “urge to be someplace else.” Steinbeck believed all Americans have this urge. After all, most of our ancestors made a decision to leave a settled place and come to this country—to enter the wilderness, the frontier. My father’s people are Danish, and they might be a little more restless than most. My friend Jim calls me a Berserker, and he likes to remind me that my ancestors pillaged their way through most of Europe.

Tomorrow morning, this Berserker will head out, vaguely toward Mesa Verde National Park, but my major goal for the first day will be to get to some other place as quickly as possible. It almost sounds like I am running from something. I don’t think so. I do, however, feel the trip will not really start until I am in unfamiliar territory.

That someplace else is getting closer. Friends have been asking me if I am excited about the trip. I don’t think “excited” is the right word. About a month ago, I started to dread the trip and actually thought about backing out. Steinbeck went through a similar period. He wrote, “As the day approached, my warm bed and comfortable house grew increasingly desirable . . .To give these up for three months for the terrors of the uncomfortable and unknown seemed crazy. I didn’t want to go.” I don’t think I was dreading the heat or the bugs or the hours in the car. Managing the trip, pulling together the equipment, getting someone to stay at my house, making sure everything will get done at work, seemed too much. It would have been easier to stay home.

Since Christmas, I’ve been preparing. That’s when I bought a good case for my acoustic guitar. For the last two weeks, I’ve been working on the final stage of packing. I’ve taken a theme approach with each theme in a different area of my house. All of my fishing equipment is in a pile in my bedroom. My clothes are a building mass in corner of my closet. The camping equipment is in a box in the study. The cooking equipment is in a plastic tub off the kitchen. Miscellaneous items have been thrown in my car.

Somehow, it has come together. I am almost ready. Still, I haven’t been sleeping well. I lay awake in bed, images of the trip flashing through my mind.

I am not excited. I’m anxious. I want it to begin.

After I leave work today, I will go home, put the luggage rack on top of my car (now named “Charley”), load up all the piles of equipment, and get some sleep (I hope). Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, I head west.



  1. Bon Voyage, friend. May the sunset find you closer to the West, and perhaps your true north.


  2. Have fun dad call me when you get there..


  3. “Beginning My Studies”
    BEGINNING my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,/ The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,/ The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,/ The first step I say awed me and pleas’d me so much,/ I have hardly gone and and hardly wish’d to go any farther, But stop and loiter all the time to sing in ecstatic songs.”
    -Walt Whitman


  4. Good luck!


  5. Happy (and safe) travels, George!


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