Sometimes life can seem to oppress us. Our jobs, our routines, the places we live and the people that surround us; through the passage of time and the mechanics of routine even the most begin support system can come to feel like a prison cell. Most people feel this way at one point or another. A voice resounds within us, a voice that says, “Fuck it. I’m tired of this shit. I’m going to throw it all away and go do what I want for a change.”
But what if someone was dumb enough to actually follow through on that?
In 2016 I decided to find out. At the time I was working as a manager in a retail food environment, a job that provided a steady paycheck but was also a substantial tax on my time, emotions, and creative energy. My life was stuck in a rut. I yearned for something more, or at least something different. When I finally decided that enough was enough I moved back in with my parents and implemented a personal austerity budget that would allow me to save enough money to weather the storm once I finally quit my job. It took more than a year for my plans to come to fruition but last, here I am.
Being unemployed is scary, but under the right circumstances it can be a tremendous opportunity. In that spirit I decided that before I found my next source of taxable income I was going to fulfill a longtime dream of mine: a self-indulgent road trip across the country. I’ve always loved traveling by car. The open highway, the vast landscapes, the quirky gas stations with obscene messages scrawled inside the toilet stalls; it collectively enthralls me like nothing else can. In my opinion long-distance road travel is the only way to properly experience the majesty of these United States. I know I’m probably coming across like another pretentious Jack Kerouac-wannabe, but I don’t care. It truly is a unique experience, and a long as that experience exists people are going enjoy it, and people are going to write about it.
Thus the Ghost on the Highway Tour was conceived. As a free-spirit, as a self-made vagabond who voluntarily ended his own life as a member of working class, I intend to roam the highways and byways of America, haunting dozens of cafes, burger shacks, movie theaters, pubs, museums, national parks, and whatever frivolous tourist oddities catch my fancy. I’ll be traveling from my home in south-central Wisconsin North to Minnesota, through the rocky mountains to Seattle, down the West Coast to L.A., through the Southwest and into the Old Confederacy, East to the Atlantic Seaboard and finally back home.
(All of this of course, assuming that I don’t die, suffer a catastrophic auto failure, or find a job/living situation in one of the cities I visit that’s so perfect I decide not to come back. All three of these strike me as quite legitimate possibilities).
To state the obvious, the emphasis will be on cheap thrills. I’ll be frequenting many coffee shops, pubs and parks but probably not any opera houses. Greasy spoon diners will be preferable to five-star restaurants, although frankly I’ll probably spend more nights eating tuna straight out of the can. As for lodging, my head will rest on a desultory combination of friends’ couches, blowup mattresses in Airbnb listings, and the back seat of my car.
But more important than the cities I go, the people I meet, and the places I sleep are the thoughts I shall reap. I know from past experience the liberating effect that this kind of travel can have on the mind. It opens you up, brings subconscious feeling into focus and long-held ideas into question. Done right a trip like this can make you a different person (if only for a brief period). That’s the real reason I’m doing this. I want to record how these experiences make me feel, and how those feelings in turn alter my perspective at this transitional period of my life.
“Oh wow, a masturbatory journey of self-discovery. How original, you white-privileged piece of shit!”
Okay, maybe you’re right. But I’m doing this anyway. It could be fun, it could be frightening, it could inspire laughter, it could inspire awe. But whatever happens, you’ll be able to follow me. So happy reading, lovely friends!
(If nothing else, there’ll be lots of pretty pictures)