Standing on the side of the road with my thumb outstretched in the 110 degree heat index, I wanted nothing more than to wash the soup-like mixture of dirt, sweat, and sun block off of my skin. We’d been standing there for nearly three hours and my backpack had become sufficiently glued to my body with sweat. It was only the second day of our hitchhiking adventure.
We were stuck in a small village outside of Hagerstown, Maryland; 85 miles from where we started, but still 330 miles from where we wanted to be - Columbus, Ohio. Another hour passed without a ride, and as the sun rose higher, our moods sunk lower. Searching my mind for a boost of morale, I remembered something a friend of mine told me just before I left, “Think of hitchhiking as a walking trip with the possibility of getting rides,” he said, “not the other way around.” While this statement held some truth to it, it didn’t stop me from being upset. The first day we never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride; but now we were waiting twelve times that!
I told my friend Jon I was taking a break, sat down, and closed my eyes. Whenever I start to get upset, I try to think through the problem logically rather than emotionally. I was obviously upset because we covered any distance yet today, but then I asked myself why not covering distance upset me in the first place. Cars continued to zip by, and I couldn’t think of an answer. We didn’t have to be in Columbus by a certain time, nor was there any real reason for us to go there at all. I was getting upset over nothing at all. The entire basis for this trip was to experience true freedom and live without any worries, even if just for a week. To quote Robert M. Pirsig from his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than “time.”” The destination didn’t matter; the emphasis was upon the journey alone. Ten minutes later, someone picked us up.
I look back on that trip and I realize that I try to look at everything with focus on the adventure and not the result. I don’t want to go to college to get a degree just to make a six figure salary later in life; I want to go to learn everything that I can and meet new people and experience everything I never thought possible. The same way that I don’t want to work all my life just to be a rich old man; I want to make a difference in the world and overall be happy with my life.