Low-life in the High-lands

The Binge

I never thought it was much of a routine until I fell out of it. Work in the summer, travel in the winter. Unless some friend or other is headed out and asks me if I want to join. Or I take off by myself. Like I said: Not much of a routine.

But it did end, for the longest time. The last time I had gone abroad for anything other than work or visiting my son, was my journey through the United States that started with the unforgettable Burning Man. Luckily, it turned out to be the life changing event that I was hoping it to be, because I knew all too well that it would have to last me a while. I knew I was going to be a father.

 

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Crossing USA: Toronto

I crossed the border by bus, suddenly alone. I felt forlorn and excited at the same time, back to how it all started in the planning phase: Me, on a trip, by myself.
I was joined by a German, who, under the assumption of privacy, told her friends behind her all about me and how she suspected that I was pretty disgusted with her smell. Me, I was just happy that for once, I wasn’t the one disgusting others. Running water is such a great invention, even in New York bathrooms where it runs non-stop, soaking into the walls.

I am on the last leg of my trip and already, I miss the road. I do this a lot and it’s a good habit: Near the end of a long vacation, I take the time to visit friends and hang around for a while, in limbo between traveling and home. It slows me down and absorbs the shock of going straight from the car to the day job.
And a home I have here, indeed- Coincidentally, I have a number of friends in Canada and I’m trying to see them all, happy to be the visitor this time. I feel like part of my background took place here in my absence, and it’s nice to catch up. It feels like I was missing this place without ever having been here in the first place. Problem solved; Let the missing begin.

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Crossing USA: Kansas & New York City

“Kansas? Really? …But why? What’s there?”
-Everybody

Alright, Kansas was a mistake. We could have picked New Orleans or Denver, but we picked Kansas because it was dead smack in the middle of the US. We figured we’d want to see the natural beauty in the west and just skip the east, and Kansas seemed to be the midway point.
Little did we know, all things interesting, including any form of topography, ends where Denver begins. Literally. If you take a map of the US, you’ll see the mountains end abruptly and the lands turn into fields of corn and boredom as far as the eye can see. And into those fields we rode, zig zagging between road works and sunsets, for two long states, until we had to stop for gas which was about 6 times. Damn SUVs and their sub-optimal aerodynamics.

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Crossing USA: Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands

At the time of writing, I am sitting in a sardine can-like airplane, beside the cutest redhead who is actively trying to look disinterested. I couldn’t blame her, I reek of sweat and overtime underwear.
Laundry and showers are one of the many luxuries we had to leave behind when we started this trip, alongside any means of electronic communication. Most of the campsites we’ve been to were pretty bare-bones, without running water or electricity. Luckily, they were nothing compared to a week in Black Rock Desert so we’re well-equipped.

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Crossing USA: Yosemite & Death Valley

America is built on machine scale.
Humans are merely passengers, riding along in immense cars. No one in their right minds would cover any distance on foot, because everything is so incredibly far apart. Except for maybe in the city centers, going out to buy socks would take a whole day.
Things become easier by car. Lanes are wide, regulations are… scarce, and there is much room for human error. Queue the images of my friend standing still on the wrong lane.

So by car we travel, and somehow, things that seem far away in a place like Belgium, are now within reach. With no real hiccups to speak of, we waltz from park to park, drinking in more of the enormity on which the US was built. In my daydreams, I get to do this kind of thing for the rest of my life, I know every corner of every national park, every animal within, and every visitor’s name.
In reality, we have about 2 days at every location, just enough to see the most visited sites before we scurry off to the next place. We stink and our clothes are dirty, and the battery of my laptop never makes it above 15%. Which is why I haven’t been writing a lot. (more…)


Crossing USA: Burning Man

So how are you enjoying your first time?
-I… don’t know. I’ll get back to you when it begins to compute.

On paper, Burning Man is a cultural festival at Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where participation is essential and most of the hundreds of little events organized throughout the week are done by those who pay to attend. At the end of the festival, a large wooden installation with a statue of a man on top, is burned to the ground.

On paper, an ocean is a body of water. I hope you get my point. (more…)


Crossing USA: San Francisco

“Don’t Freak Out.”
-‘What Not To Do at Burning Man’ guide

Three Belgians in San Francisco, gathered in the living room of a friend, nervous as can be about the coming few days. We couldn’t be further away from home while still on a continent, and right now, that’s pretty much how I feel.

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If All Goes Well

If all goes well, I should currently be on an airplane over the Pacific Ocean, looking out the window over an unimaginably vast body of water, rethinking the things ahead. And there’s a lot to think about.

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Burn (Continued)

3 tickets- If all goes well, I will be standing at the gates of Black Rock City in exactly 6 months, with my friend by my side, a fortune in my back pocket and an appealing rump in my palm- in order of how “well” it went (and also, likelihood).
The first hurdle was taken in an attic, with 2 people in front of 4 flickering screens on 2 different IP addresses, automatically refreshing every 30 seconds, resulting in a 10 minute emotional rollercoaster of successive hope and disappointment every 7.5 seconds on average as the website bumped us again and again. Maniacal, yes, but it is the only tactic that works.
Pro tip: If you really want those tickets to that thing you and everyone else likes, obsessive behavior will get you there- nothing less.

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Burn

This is the 24th and that means Burning Man tickets are released the day after tomorrow. I have a reputation of remaining deadly calm in anticipation of an epic moment, but if I think about this too long, it makes my palms sweaty.

I decided I wanted to go on a whim, a feeling of “You know where I want to go next? There.” But as the moment approaches and I am registered for purchase, I feel like much of my future life depends on it.

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