When I was a little kid, I used to go with my mother to Caldor on Rt. 10 in Morris Plains. If you’re not familiar, places like Caldor and Bradlee’s were like Target but without the play at upper middle class aesthetic. They were dumpy, knew it, and didn’t pretend otherwise. Looking back, I appreciate that honesty.
I used to go with my mother to Caldor, and inevitably, in doing so, I’d wander off. I’d want to ogle the toys and she’d be loitering over housewares or cheap pants or some such. Patience has never been among my virtues. I wanted to go, so I left.
All the time, I did this. I always left. I always wandered. I was the kid who they called out his name on the store’s P.A. and asked him to come to customer service—I knew right where the desk was, in my head I can still see the orange and brown and then the pink and the gray they painted it later. It looked so tall but probably wasn’t.
To this day, my wife can’t stand to grocery shop with me because she knows I’ll leave her on line. And I will. I have always wanted to go, to be off somewhere doing who knows what. I can feel my absence and I like it. This is something I know about myself.
For the better part of my conscious life, I have romanticized travel. It’s the same impulse, I think, that made me the child the security in ShopRite had to hunt down: That desire to be gone. I have always wanted to travel, and over the course of the last decade-plus, I’ve done a decent amount of it.
I’ve seen parts of Europe and the States, been to the U.K. and made habitual visits to the Netherlands. I stopped in Belgium just long enough to screw up ordering coffee in French. Before this Spring is out, I will have spent 11 days between London and Tilburg, Holland, and I hope to visit Paris for the first time during that stretch. Even if it’s just for a night or a few drinks on my way somewhere else, I’d like to see it. I’ve never seen it.
As I get older, though, I start to think the world is just too big. There are places I will never see. I’ll probably never get to Nepal. I’m not looking to climb Everest or anything so grand, but I’d like to look at it. I’ll probably never get to Africa, or Beijing. I don’t have the money, don’t have the time. In another few years, there will probably be children to provide for in my meager way and obligations beyond those I can currently fathom. The need to stay in one place more than I have it now from this job, my family, etc.
It makes me sad. I’d cut off three fingers (both pinkies and the ring finger on my left hand) to get to New Zealand. I’d love to traipse around the woods in Norway, look at those ancient trees and sing black metal songs to myself. Or go to someplace like Dubai and see how their vision of the excess born of imperial wealth differs from our own. These things I’ll probably never see—well, Norway’s got a shot if that Fulbright comes through in the fall, but I’m not holding my breath—and I’m not doing myself any favors by not reconciling with that fact. I still want to go.
Sounds like a midlife crisis, right? The truth is, I’ve always made excuses and regretted it after the fact. It’s not a midlife crisis, contrary to what Faith No More might tell you. It’s apathy born out of the fear of not being apathetic. I sit around and write about music when really what I want to do is chase it all over the globe like it was Carmen Sandiego. People talk about what they’d do if they had the money. The things they’d build. The things they’d buy. I’d buy myself a perspective.
I don’t go now like I should, and like I hope to at some point. It’s easy to feel burnt out, exhausted, to lapse into escapism. What’s harder is being satisfied with what you have while still striving to make the most out of it that you can. I’m working on it, but the impulse to wander is a hard one to overcome.