Some of the most immediate and tangible aspects of traveling, naturally, are physical and social surroundings. The places, and the communities that occupy them, seem to define the experience of travel. Slowly, as a state of transition and impermanence comes to feel like the norm, peripheral aspects of the environment, previously only the coloring of the background, begin to stand more prominently as markers of time and place.
Through the winter and into the spring, as the weather warmed and social energy shifted to correspond, summer seemed to emit a warm glow from over the horizon. Knowing that I would certainly find myself on the road, lost in some adventure and giddy with excitement, summer felt as though it came charged with anticipation. Looking back, realizing that we’re now well into fall, the recent past seem punctuated with memories and feelings, telltale markers among the places and communities that have come to constitute my life over the past months and years.
As usual, remaining mindful and engaged in the present moment seems like a daily exercise when the past and future seem to brim with powerful memories and pressing possibilities. But occasionally little things like objects and possessions make for telling vessels, filled with memories to remind of the past and help us through the present. As I haven’t been able to enjoy the permanence of a home for some time now, my tent has served as just that type of vessel.
Finding myself to be both a traveler and an aspiring outdoorsman, I try to find a conscious balance between a healthy detachment from material possessions (a seemingly contrarian endeavor in today’s world) and an active appreciation for essential pieces of gear needed for adventure in the elements. This summer, after much use and appreciation, my trusty tent finally breathed its last. Purchased for a modest price in a small outdoors store in Istanbul, it was immediately put to good use backpacking in southern Turkey and onward for a meandering journey across the Balkans and Europe. Since then it has provided welcome shelter and comfort, whether from rainstorms in the woods of Bulgaria, bird droppings in community parks in France, snowstorms in Colorado or dusty winds in the deserts of southern Utah.
Among neighbors near the border with Bulgaria
Expressions abound: ‘Home is where the heart is,’ or ‘Home is where you rest your head.’ Undeniably corny on the one hand, they manage to capture an essential aspect of a life on the road. After I spent the month of June paddling whitewater and climbing rocks with a good friend, I headed toward Washington to see what the Pacific Northwest had in store for me. With little to go on (save for some good friends I’ve even neglected to pay visits!), I was quickly swept up in adventures and communities I would hardly have been able to imagine given a blank slate. My surroundings, social, physical and never lasting too long, came to offer a certain reassurance. That pursuit of full presence and engagement with the present moment, a thorough appreciation of my circumstances at each turn in the road, have left me feeling each night that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Rock climbing, a recent interest that’s quickly turned into a consuming passion, has yielded countless benefits along my travels. Both thoroughly physical and mental in nature, climbing’s immediate rewards come in tandem with benefits valued by any traveler. Although individual in nature, the need for climbing partners for safety and belay has provided welcoming communities throughout the past months, whether among the granite cliffs in Washington’s Cascades or the volcanic formations in Central Oregon’s high desert. Those communities and climbing areas, alongside my trusty green tent (although countless dry nights were spent with nothing more than a sleeping bag out under the stars), have lent a comfort and familiarity to the past months of transience despite nostalgia for friends and family back east.
My trusty green tent has since been replaced, as have my northwesterly locales. I now find myself slowly heading southward through northern California, my first visit to a state with a reputation only rivaled by its size. With great pleasure I can say that I remain in the company of good friends, old and new, and the familiar uncertainty of the road ahead keeps me content and curious for another month and another mile at least.
Keeping dry in the misty mountains of Durango, Colorado
At home exploring the deserts of Southern Utah
The epic sandstone buttresses of Indian Creek outside Moab, Utah were a particular favorite.
Warm and dry in the (deceptively flat looking) woods of central Idaho
Home for a night during a multi-day trip down the Deschutes River in the high desert of Central Oregon
(Feeling at home) crack climbing the volcanic columnar basalt at Trout Creek in Central Oregon (photo credit: Tülin Kinaci)
Heading down the California coast on the fabled Highway 101
Top Picture: My trusty tent on its first adventure along the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey