Out to my right was open ocean while in front of me the road appeared to slide along the hills as a black river. How long had I been walking for? At times it felt like forever, other times it felt like just a few days.
I could no longer hold on to time. Days were lost like grains of sand against a mountain. Maybe it was that there was nothing around and that my hours passed in monotony.
There were no restaurants. There were no people. Sometimes there were bamboo shacks but they were torn apart by the wind and abandoned.
I went days at a time without conversation. To compensate I spoke to Savannah. I told her when there was nice weather and when I was tired, that was about the extent of it.
“Now this is nice walking,” I’d say when clouds shielded us from the sun.
“I’m freaking wiped,” I’d say when it was time for a break.
Since leaving Lima, Perú had become aggressive in its barren majesty. The Andes broke apart roughly and fell into the ocean as though sawed off with a dull knife. The road along the mountain edge ran beside loose stone walls which rained pebbles at the passing of a strong gust. Fallen stones piled high in the gully beside the road. I sometimes winced in anticipation of a rock the size a fist hitting me over the head.
The roads curved and rose. When I reached a curve and the road went up my legs throbbed with the type of dull pain felt more in the bones than in the muscles. Even when I massaged my thighs there was no relief. It was only once I reached the top and saw the road went downhill that the dull pain washed away. Probably it was psychological. The mountains in Colombia and Guatemala were tougher.
What really drove me mad were all the cars that passed a car behind me then missed me by inches. I’d jump at the sudden flash of a car, be stoked with adrenaline, then rage at the driver’s lack of patience. Couldn’t they wait another minute until they were beyond me? Everyday I thought my arm was going to be knocked off. Somedays I was able to put their impatience behind me with a few long breaths. Other days I dreamt of being able to throw a stone fast enough to hit the receding car.
The further out I became the less respect the drivers seemed to have. Only Honduras was equal. And in Honduras there were kids driving who could barely see over the steering wheel.
It wasn’t only the drivers bothering me. At the root of things I was parched for human interaction. I could feel it just as I felt the dull ache in my bones. All these things accumulating: the heat, the hills, the cars barely missing me, and no one to rationalize them with. It was me and me.
In my solitude I wondered if there was a specific point an insane man becomes insane, or whether he was always insane?
I settled on always insane, because insanity is inherent to the human condition
Once the internal dialogue starts in childhood, man becomes two people. He refers to himself as one person because when he looks in the mirror that’s what he sees, but he isn’t one person, he’s two, he’s what he does externally and what he thinks internally. He is simultaneously and individually the sum of his actions and the sum of his thoughts. The greater distance between a man’s actions and his thoughts the greater his insanity. If a man by his actions is a world class mathematician is by his thoughts an FBI informant, his two sums are too separate, making him insane.
Since insanity’s greatness is measured by the distance separating the two sums, sanity must use the same measure and must be defined as some minimal separation. If an insane person’s actions and thoughts are separated by a foot, a sane person’s actions and thoughts may only be separated by an inch or less, while everything in-between falls the typical man – somewhere between sane and insane.
For me, a year before, my two sums settled in as close neighbors. The person I thought of myself as, a man walking around the world, became the man I was by action. I was at peace. I saw myself clearly. My thoughts and actions worked in tandem.
In Perú however, I was splitting. Walking around the world was no longer enough. Another goal was increasingly dominating my thoughts. Whereas months before I could sit in the Mexican desert and be content with my lot, I now had cracks forming in my peace of mind. I wanted not only to be a writer, but a great writer, and the growing importance of not being a great writer was increasing the distance between the sum of my thoughts and the sum of my actions.
Intellectually, I understood I couldn’t be too hard on myself. I’d only been writing for four years and it took eight years of singleminded focus to start the world walk. To comprehend such an abstract skill as writing I’d need at least eight years. I understood that, but that rational wouldn’t appease the reoccurring worry I had – You haven’t written a single worthwhile thing.
Sum of thoughts ———————————————————Sum of actions
(Be great writer) (Am not great writer)
Too much distance between.
When I looked back on the four unpublished novels and the countless short stories I’d churned out, they all seemed like such embarrassing waste. I shook my head when thinking about them as though recalling some terrible misstep with a failed love interest. A part of me wanted to throw in the towel, to forget becoming a great writer, but a larger part of me scoffed at that idea. I had to be patient and work steadily. To extract a piece of my consciousness and transmute it into something externally complete was no small task.
My walk bought me the time necessary to develop. That was to be kept in mind. I’d have five years to write and enough experiences to draw on for the rest of my life. At night on the road it was easier to remember patience.
At night my schedule went as such: throw out the tarp, eat food, drink water, stare at nothing. While staring at nothing, an act as reliable as the ocean striking the shore, I’d think, ‘Could I do more miles?’
From Texas all the way to Lima I walked a minimum of twenty-four miles a day and rarely took a full day rest. But not stopping every once and a while meant I was always passing through. There were hours here and there I’d spend in a nice restaurant, but if there was a notable sight, maybe a view of the ocean five minutes from the road, it was guaranteed I wasn’t expending the time or energy to see it.
Since Lima however my mindset changed. As best I could I took every seventh day off. Hotels were cheap so I could swing getting two nights every week. And with a full day off I could get a good sleep, call family, and actually do some casual sightseeing (never wandering too far on worn legs).
I also decided to walk three miles less each day. Eight hours of walking was too much, it had to be crammed into the daylight. Eight hours meant straight up at sunrise and either walking through the midday heat or walking until dark.
The result of my new schedule was usually a two hour nap during the worst of the heat. Savannah enjoyed her midday naps very much and I was learning to enjoy them. There was no longer the need to rush. I’d be a writer one day, maybe even a great one.