18 January 2008
When cutting away that safety net and starting all over again, a positive outlook is a tundamental fool of survival. I had just walked away from thousands of dollars worth of material things and given away a business I had built for over a decade. This was not my first visit to Britain. As a child I had been told that our family owned the Isle of Lewis, which seemed logical given that it was the family name. During my first trip to Europe, I took the ferry to Dover and started hitching my way north. Night fell, and so did the rain.
My hitchhiking technique got people to stop who later confided they had never picked up anyone before, or not in years. Rather than just stick my thumb out, I would wave hello, smile, and even if they didn't slow down, wave again as they sped by. Some would turn around and come back. Eye contact is greatly hindered if all you can see is the headlights. Unless traveling with a pretty girl, you may need to walk for miles to find the right spot. One night I left Barcelona, the next day I was in Amsterdam. Ever have to keep a conversation going all night in order to keep an overworked trucker from nodding off and getting everyone killed? Or need to clarify your orientation to one who may have hoped otherwise in a language you are learning by chance?
It's a shame that people don't hitchhike much anymore. What is even worse than the exceptional scary incident that makes the headlines, is how it poisons the trust in everyone and inhibits our capacity to show kindness to others, the basic thread of which society is woven. By now the rain had soaked through each layer. The cars, which were coming from the wrong side, were not going to stop for me. With the poor visibility, I had to stay alert just to keep from getting hit. There was a light up ahead. I knocked on the door, explained my situation as politely as I could, and ended up sleeping on their couch. Got some tea and biscuits the next morning as well.
After a few days of helping lorry drivers make their deliveries, and a four hour crossing to Stornaway through gale force winds, I had finally made it to the Isle of Lewis. But as it turns out, I was the only Lewis there, they were mainly MacLeods and McCraes. Destinations are often part of the ongoing journey, best approached with an open mind, a magic carpet ride to the unknown.
We've only just begun...