I’ve been thinking about what loneliness means to me a lot lately. A couple of my friends have asked me how I do it, live on the road by myself. I’ve experienced epic bouts of solitude in my life, and sometimes in those moments it’s almost impossible not to believe that those feelings aren’t made of a thousand pound stone being pushed off a mile high cliff directly on to my brain. I’ve been working hard to interpret the emotions running rampant inside of my head and free myself from that weight. I want to learn how to find the validation and self-worth I need to be happy and productive on my own. It’s not that I don’t love my friends, on the rare occasion that I get to share a little time or travel with someone it always turns out to be an amazing experience. It’s important for me to figure out how to make the life that I want for myself, and really learning to be comfortable alone is a big piece of that puzzle.
Something changed in me recently, I don’t know how or why but I just don’t really get lonely anymore. I think about the people in my life past and present every day, but when I fantasize about travel, those thoughts are often only occupied by me. I love the way I get to spend my days, being honest with myself about where I want to go, stop, eat, explore, nap etc. Since I was a little kid I remember seeing little roads on the hillside while riding in my parents car and always wondering what was just beyond what I could see. I love exploring the coasts and mountains, the highways and trails. I think about the chances I take being alone and very often not telling anyone where it is that I’m going, even when that destination might be dangerous. At the end of the day though, nothing settles my mind like the roar of the ocean or the dead silence of the deep woods.
I spent Thanksgiving night this year nestled high above The Pacific Ocean way back in the hills of Big Sur NP. Holidays have had a sweetheart holiday feeling to me for a long time. There have been large swaths of my life that I spent holidays alone and it just doesn’t bother me anymore, I’m not sure if it actually ever did. As I watched the sunset into the ocean that evening I took some real time to think about all the people that care for me and that I care for in return. As I get older and have the chance to explore my thoughts and intentions more, I realize that the only things that matters to me are the people in my life and experience I have. I never sit around thinking about all the cool stuff I used to have, but my mind often goes to the amazing times that I’ve spent with so many awesome people.
I’m in no way suggesting I’ve cured myself of all my ails me, only that I’m trying to take a new approach to the way I think about things. When I think about my best friends, my mind wanders to all the amazing times we’ve had and all the epic adventures of whatever nature I hope to have with them in the future. I reserve a space in my brain to appreciate the times that I spend alone and i try to add an equal amount of value to those experiences. It has really freed me in a lot of ways, I am happy and whole doing things as simple as seeing a movie or eating lunch alone and or sitting though the night in the woods taking photos. I’ve tried to readjust my mind to appreciate all the wonderful things I’ve been able to experience with people in my life and never feel pain about experiences I thought I wanted that didn’t come to fruition for whatever reason.
I’m not going to say that I’m not intimidated by the world sometimes. There are so many times that I’ve gotten myself in a little deep for comfort and I still get saved by my friends all the time in one way or the other. I know that there are many precautions that I should be taking outside of my head, I’m really just learning from experience and hoping to live to tell the tale.
I saw this wild fellow and his sister way up in the Modoc National Forest grazing on something beneath the snow. When they first saw me they bolted, but came back around after a bit and went back to the business of eating. This guy never got close to trusting me though, making sure I knew that he controlled the situation with repeated little false charges and gestures. I gave them plenty of space and left them both apples to eat. The photo at the top of this post is another guy I met in the desert that was more than happy to share an apple with me.
My friend Emily recently took me and a couple of friends to a place called The Albany Bulb, a former landfill and homeless encampment turned park and large scale art installation just outside of Berkeley. There’s a interesting documentary about the eviction of the residents on youtube, called Bum’s Paradise and I really think it’s worth a watch. There seems to be a deep history in this place and it was an beautiful place to spend the late afternoon. Along the banks of the water there were several intricate sculptures made out of what seemed like refuse that just took my breath away.
Collin, Henson and I a few weeks ago pretending to remake The Outsiders, here’s ol’ bob (foreground) is about to get whupped by the cool handed Ponyboy. I love these guys and cherish my times with them.
I took this photo minutes before hitting snow (that I wasn’t prepared for) way up in Sequoia National Forest for on my way to Death Valley. It was a strange day, I started out in a t-shirt on the coast, drove through the parched central valley then hit the snowy mountains of the Sequoia National Forest before camping on the other side in a dried lake bed in the frigid desert. Pro Tip: You can camp for free in most places in National Forests, just make sure to check local National Forest office if you have questions.
Lastly for now, I got to visit one of my dream locations… Mono Lake in Northeastern California. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and my twenty minutes of pre-sunset daylight was paradise for me. I was knocked out by the beauty of the place. It was about seven degrees out when I got there and I didn’t realize that most of my face was frozen until I got back to the car, it was so worth it. Mono Lake’s South Tufu at sunset. I will return soon with a little more time and preparation.
Collin and Sarah are hamming it up for me here, buy they’re right. The sunset was truly incredible.
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All words and images © Adam Smith 2015.