“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose…
…Henceforth I ask not good-fortune — I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”
“Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman
A gravel road near rural Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
I came across the last five lines of this poem by Walt Whitman in the preface to a book a few weeks ago and it make me catch my breath. It hits me right in the heart. I wish I’d written it. It probably should have been my wedding vow. If it weren’t so long, I’d tattoo it on my person. I’ve come across this poem not once but twice since then and I think that’s a very good omen — and also a sure sign of things to come.
This spring will bring a new round of trips and adventures for me — and probably for lots of you as well. When I started this website four years ago, I did it as the most tentative, scaredy cat, Plan B way of inching away from an increasingly brutal corporate life and toward a more creative, adventurous and slightly more nomadic future.
It worked. Eventually I took the plunge and made writing a full time gig. I met fellow travelers like you along the way. And I’m thankful for that every day.
The open road near Williston, North Dakota
You’re the curious ones who comment, email and message me ideas about where I should go next — and a few intriguing questions to keep me curious. You’re the neighbors and truckers and traveling salespeople who stop me on the street to rave about your favorite food trucks and craft breweries and mom and pop shop discoveries. You’re the small business owners and makers and artists and storytellers who let me share a piece of your unique vision of the world. You’re the vagabonds who have made professional travel your lives, the ones who inspire me from all corners of the globe.
Adventure begets adventure. And our increasingly connected culture makes getting to know and getting inspired by others easier than ever. Just this week, I’ve chatted with friends in Ukraine, Armenia and The Netherlands. I’ve followed along on a road trip to Montana, a trek through Jordan, a family vacation in Washington D.C. and a gelato binge in Italy.
I know sometimes all this technology is overwhelming. But sometimes it’s flat out amazing. Connecting with other travelers and adventurers and curious souls opens up the world in a way that Whitman could only have dreamed of.
I get to experience the marvel of it every day. I’m busy arranging my summer and fall travel, off the beaten path experiences in Colorado, Minnesota, South Dakota, western North Dakota and possibly, hopefully, dear-God-please-Cuba, and I’ve already connected with so many new and interesting people who are excited to show me what’s special in their communities. I can’t wait to get started.
So where are you going this spring and summer? What kinds of adventures and experiences are you looking forward to? What will you cross off your bucket list?
You don’t have to go far to take a journey. You can have an adventure right in your own hometown. Explore a new park or neighborhood, take a new route to work or stop into that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Research the top tourists spots and check them out. Most locals never do. Try walking, biking or taking a bus or a train and see how a familiar landscape suddenly looks and feels new again.
Are you road tripping this summer? Heading to the cabin or going camping or finally taking that family vacation? I want to hear about it. If you don’t already have a travel community to connect with, I encourage you to find one here. Did you take the plunge and buy plane tickets or get a passport? Are you planning that once in a lifetime getaway? That’s awesome. I’m excited for you.
This is what life is made for. This is why we’re here — to have adventures, to experience new things and to see the world through new eyes. I don’t care where you go or what you do.
But I do hope that you do something. Life is short and this season, this day, this moment, will never come again.
My friend Liz in the North Dakota badlands
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems from my fellow North Dakotan, the wild, rangy, luminous Thomas McGrath. He grew up on a farmstead near Sheldon in Ransom County, forty miles west of the Minnesota border and about an hour away from where I sit right this second, drinking a beer and looking out the window at newly planted tomatoes. He was a fellow lover of Whitman, a whip-smart, deeply curious kind of dreamer and an adventure lover in his own right.
The poem is called “Epitaph”, but I hope it will serve as both a prologue and a little inspiration for this season of traveling and adventurers. I hope you love it as much as I do. Happy travels, everyone.
“Again, traveller, you have come a long way led by that star.
But the kingdom of the wish is at the other end of the night.
May you fare well, compañero; let us journey together joyfully,
Living on catastrophe, eating the pure light.”
“Epitaph” by Thomas McGrath