I recently read Jedidiah Jenkins’ memoir, “To Shake the Sleeping Self,” a sweeping, honest retelling of his adventures traveling via bicycle from Oregon to Patagonia. In the first chapter, he writes: “Travel has a way of shaking the brain awake.”
I always find that to be true when I travel. Each time I visit a new place, meet new people, experience a new cuisine and weather and wildlife, it seems as if my spirit has come anew once again. Not that it was ever lost, just maybe in hiding.
In July, I had my own adventure on a bicycle, though it wasn’t nearly as extensive as Jenkins’ mega-trip. I love my house in Marietta, but after months of quarantine and working from home, a restless spirit gets, well, restless. So I found a dog-friendly Airbnb in downtown Savannah with a quiet room and free WiFi, packed up Norman and Penelope and hit the road.
While I was there, I was looking for nearby places to explore on my downtime and remembered Cumberland Island. Always up for an adventure – especially on a beautiful, remote island - I booked the tickets and the next morning, I was off.
The ferry to the island was quiet and breezy. After we landed, I rented a bicycle from one of the workers on the island because I knew I could cover more ground on bike than on foot. After a few hours of enjoying the beauty of an island forest, wild horses, a mansion in ruins and a beach void of tiki bars and giant hotels, I came upon a couple who was walking toward me at a fork in the trail.
They studied me, my bike and my steady pace. They then raised their heads and started to open their mouths, the way people do when they are about to speak, so I slowed.
“Did you just come from the ruins?” they asked.
“Yes, I did. Need some help?”
“Well, we were just wondering what was down this path, where you’re heading.”
I smiled, and said, “Actually, I don’t know. I should probably open my map.”
They laughed and replied, “No, it’s OK. We have ours, we just thought you might know where you were going.”
The truth was, I didn’t. And that’s just where I needed to be. Exploring, allowing the island to take me where I didn’t know I needed to go, with a map at my side just in case I felt lost.
That’s how life seems to be, for me, at least. I can try to make plans, set goals, make certain things happen in my life but I don’t really, truly know where I’m going. While I was there, I could have been mauled by a wild horse, or met the love of my life, or missed the ferry back and found myself spending the night on the island.
Every minute, every moment, every decision or non-decision can change us and, while sometimes scary, that’s also the beauty of life. All we can do is get back up on our bikes, look at a map if we need to and just find a way to shake the brain awake.