All of the sudden two people popped out of nowhere and were like, ‘Hey – we could hear you. Could you hear us?”
“Oh my god!”
I was like a game show winner I was so excited. It was the worst me. The me I never thought I would be. The me that thought I was going to die but was saved. I was overcome with relief.
The couple had come up from San Diego and were moseying along when they came upon me. They were so kind and calm.
“Are you okay to walk with us for a while?”
I followed them back out of the park.
In my ‘normal life’ if someone was supposed to meet me for coffee at 9:00 and they hadn’t shown up by 9:15 I would text them to make sure everything was okay. One of the purposes of traveling was to leave all that behind. I had become accustomed to patterns of movement – lunch and coffee dates. But I always yearned for travel and the outdoors because I don’t like when things are that predictable. I needed to leave all that behind to feel confident and relevant. I didn’t know any other way than throwing myself into the wild. When you are lost in the wilderness you really find out who you are.
We forget what it's like to live in open space. To not see anyone for an entire day, but people sometimes distract us from a deeper sense of ourselves. When I was in The Badlands National Park I travelled on my own for four days, I didn’t speak to a single person. One day there was a giant buffalo blocking my way. You don't tell a buffalo what to do, but I did speak softly to the buffalo and it was a special moment for me. For the rest of the week I didn’t speak to anybody but when I eventually did run into somebody I realized I could be softer. If I could talk softly to a 1,400 pound buffalo there's no reason to shout or interrupt when I’m speaking with a person. There’s no reason you can't find out the name of the lady behind the counter at the laundromat. There’s no reason you can’t let the other person go in front of you.
Throughout the trip, every person I engaged while at a bar eating, or waiting in line someplace, when I told them I was taking a gap year they said, “I want to do that!”
The first few times it happened I was gung-ho telling them to go for it. After five months of hearing this I responded with a silence then simply said, “You can.”
And you really can – our necessity as employees or cogs in the wheel is far less than we think. There are ways to make anything happen. Most people have a tough time letting go and I used to be one of those people. But you can make your dreams come true and the world will continue spinning and everyone will still love you.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“What advice would you give to someone looking to take a gap year?”
“Get a good tent and a couple of maps. Also, a fishing rod – it’s free dinner. Then as you travel just talk to people and ask them what places are safe and beautiful to travel to. Guide books have their own ideas, but people know what to really do. Everything I did was because someone told me to do it.”