“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” Today, Juliet and I embark on one of our most ambitious journeys to date. We fly to Europe tonight for 20 days, and most of those days we will be doing things we have never done before. Sure, we have been overseas enough times to classify us as veterans, savvy, or some other descriptor our friends and colleagues assign us. However, this will be our first adventure sailing in Greece and a trek in The Dolomites. My posthumous tutor Joseph Campbell taught me that quote I began this piece with, and the lesson, in my opinion, can only be achieved by exploration. One must indeed “find” a place where there’s joy. Joy does not simply come to exist. And at the same time, it is not merely the place that manifests joy, but one’s existence in that space, at that period.
The transitory nature of joy is precisely the hook. Finding a place where it exists is no easy task. For there are few spaces in my history that have provided joy and have managed to do so more than once. Italy, I love the place. I go all the time. In the past few years, I have seen a marked decline of joy I have been able to bank internally from these trips. No fault of the country, it is me who has fallen into a travel rut. I have invested far too much time and energy into learning the language and culture of Italy to abandon our regular visits. So, this time, we are doing our first multi-day hike in The Dolomites. There is a chance it will be a new well of joy. There is a chance it will rain misery upon our hiking parade. Choosing to do new things is risky. I am not suggesting risky as in perilous, but rather, as in ROI. Losing the investment of time, money, and the vulnerability that comes with trying new things are all possibilities. However, if one does not risk, one does not seem to have the reward.
I am not penning this post to solicit sympathy. I am aware that my life is unique and outwardly must appear like an inexhaustible well of adventure. The truth is, I spend far more time at a desk than one might imagine I do. I also deal with copious amounts of creative rejection and indifference on the part of photo editors and clients. I certainly signed up for all of it, but it does not make the experience any easier. So, when I take the initiative to do something new, I am wagering the known return of a familiar experience for the possibility of something far greater in the unknown. It is this gamble that opens the door for a possible JC experience. Campbell had his time reading in the woods. This period was seminal to his development into the thinker he became. I crave my own Woodstock. I seek my own time to read, write, create, and process the experiences which I believe will foster a forced evolution of myself.
I am not sailing in Greece because I have some list that suggests my android life will not be complete without a personal Homerian Odyssey. I am sailing because my friend asked me to. As a person who spends upwards of 20 hours a day either alone or sleeping, the chance to be in the community of other travelers is of high value. I am hiking in Alto Adige because I like hiking, and also because Nassim Nicholas Taleb and I share an opinion on the misery of exercising in a gym. Walking in nature allows me to process nature
. Exercising in a gym only allows me to distil that which is laid out before me. I am not trying to win you over or judge any fitness aficionados here; I just hate gyms. Life in The Bay Area is a treadmill. I do not need to give any more of my time to the conveyor belt.
Now, my reasons for choosing this itinerary may seem ill-conceived.
I am flying on five planes, riding three ferries, and driving one rental car in the course of these 20 days. However, the drug of joy and its allure is nothing for which to scoff. Without the possibility of joy, I would not even get out of bed in the morning. I am not able to solemnly plod about dutifully to a cause created by others. Life is the cause and living it to the very best of my aptitude and initiative serves me and those that know me.
I am the best of myself when on the adventure. I am closer to that place inside where there is joy when I see something with fresh eyes. There is no return to “normalcy” for me because discovery is my normal. My imagery, my sense of beauty, and my devotion to my wife are all hinged upon the continued pursuit of the small spaces where the pain is assuaged and incinerated. The dreams that I may fulfill in these sacred spots and minuscule moments is inversely proportionate to the times I exist in pure joy.
As a kid, I would often sit in my dark closet with one speaker from my little SEARS stereo joining me in the abyss. In there I would envision my path to exploration. I knew once I broke free from the surly bonds of my hometown that I would likely never seek this mundane chapter of my existence again. Now, five years on here in the Bay Area and the wanderlust is getting the better of me. It is time to set the sails and strap on the trekking boots. If you are looking for me in the coming days, I will be carving a path through the darkest part of the forest.