Thursday, May 28, 2009

"And walked off to look for America..."

Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Santa Maria CA California Photography
Tomorrow I leave for over a month on a 10,000 mile driving extravaganza to the four corners of the continental U.S. (and parts of Canada). It is an adventure I have planned for almost a year now, though in truth it has been about fourteen years in the making.

This is the kind of trip that one can't be completely prepared for, and I like that. Who knows, any series of unlikely scenarios could befall me. Some of the ideas that have been floated by myself and others are:
a) getting arrested in the deep South in a drunken haze
b) finding God on some extended sleep deprived leg of the drive
c) fathering some illegitimate scion in an orgiastic free-for-all in Appalachia
d) being involved in a horrific fiery interstate pile-up or
e) simply changing my name and never returning
Only a few of those sound interesting enough for me to spend any amount of time pondering, but in truth I can't foresee even the opportunity for most of them to happen. Dang it.

It is impossible to fully describe the emotions I'm feeling about this grand undertaking. Sure, I'm excited and anxious, yet have also been far too busy with the concerns and responsibilities of the normal life I am leaving behind. Mostly though I am overcome with a feeling of total readiness. Not a readiness to leave, though there is a lot of that, but a sense that I can handle pretty much anything that might happen to me on this adventure, and I welcome it. For the next month I will be in a constant state of having to be everything I have ever been, a concept I have referenced often in these blogs and one which I thoroughly enjoy.

Examples of this include, but are not limited to:
-putting strangers at ease enough to pose for photos that must look and feel intimate while in strange, new environments
-be diplomatic with personality types in roles of authority that I would otherwise choose to steer clear from
-remain humble and gracious at my most pissy and flippant moments and
-be confident and professional while at my most weak and vulnerable state

Don't forget that I will be rushed under a traveling deadline when all I'll want to do is relax and quietly explore my new surroundings. Most importantly, however, I'll be forced to retain my focus and productivity under the most exhausting and uncomfortable circumstances. Yes, this is how I define a vacation.

When discussing the ramifications of what I may or may not learn about myself or anything else along this trip, a friend recently stated to my enjoyment, "If you come back the same person that you left, that's going to be a waste of a trip." I wholeheartedly agreed.

It is no surprise that I love a challenge, being pushed to my limits and forced to doubt myself and everything I am capable of, getting to a point where I'm wanting to quit, turn tail and slink home. I laugh at myself often. Maybe all this makes me an extreme weirdo, and I think it might, but I'm never satisfied with what I think I can handle. I constantly want to be made a believer again, have my faith reaffirmed in myself and my fellow countrymen, be shown something that I'm afraid to see and be forced not only to handle it, but to thrive.

I guess the only real way to comprehend the contradictory calm yet ready-to-pounce feelings that have overwhelmed me the last several days is through music. Do me a favor, take a second, close your eyes and nod your head knowingly to the almost seven minute version of Shiela E's "Love Bizarre", circa 1985. It has the necessary undercurrent of sexiness, excited positivity, and a consistent, unrelenting beat that makes you want to groove on to the next chapter of life. If that isn't your cup of tea, maybe a more apt track would be a more traditional one. Join me by putting on Simon and Garfunkel's classic "America".

Sit and listen to it on repeat as I plan on doing tomorrow afternoon for as long as you need to. Then, at some undetermined moment, I'll stand up, lock the door and leave my everyday world behind for destinations unknown, trying desperately not to look back.

Yeah, that's some good stuff. Will let you know how it goes.


  1. Where in Canada are you planning to come? Any chance you're swinging through Toronto?

    - Ryan

  2. Mark I love you! I'm so excited to read about your adventures and see the photos that come of this journey. I wish I could sneak into your back seat and go along!

  3. Good luck on your road trip, I recently took a road trip across the country, but it pales in comparison to yours. I look forward to your photos. Safe travels!

  4. Loved this wanderlust post, and then I saw the nipples. Icing on the cake.