Andy and I had been in Baja for a few days when we texted our friends and asked them to restock on groceries before they headed south. They showed up with 90 eggs and a watermelon.
Their haul was overkill for a few days of surfing and kicking up dust in Mexico, but it so perfectly encapsulated the playfulness and spontaneity and unexpectedness of the trip that it somehow felt just right.
“We were hopped fences and broken noses.”
When we were kids, we built tree houses and jumped into lakes without testing the water. We were brimming with nerve and mischief, tiny messes of tan lines and grass-stained knees. We were hopped fences and broken noses. When we wanted to play a game, we’d simply invent one. None of us knew the rules when we started, but we figured them out together as we went. That’s always amazed me, the way kids just know their roles: the leader, the troublemaker, and voice of reason.
Then we grow up and start keeping computers in our pockets. We bleach out the grass stains and discover that games come with instruction manuals. We stop inventing them, maybe because we already know all the rules.
Being an adult human being can be overwhelming. There are elections and promotions and ambitions and disappointments and calories and miles. We track and analyze and count and consider. It’s easy to get lazy, to forget to take stock in the things that make you uncomfortable and the things that make you happy. Sometimes, it takes a trip like this one to see the ghost of my childhood self again.
What if we decided to get into some mischief, hop a few fences, and get some new tan lines? What if we went on a trip where no one knew the rules? What if we bought 90 eggs and a watermelon? That’s what we decided to do: six friends from different places, different walks of life, different perspectives, crossing the border into Mexico to act like kids.
“I want experiences that get caught between the teeth and places served rare.”
There was no big objective on this trip. I think we all just needed a break from being complacent and overwhelmed. We ate melted ice cream in truck beds, splashed around on borrowed surfboards, made peanut-butter-and-jelly tortilla sandwiches, built a fire on the beach and jumped without testing the water. We were messy and burnt and making up the rules as we went, and we fell into our rolls like we had as children: the nurturer, the instigator, the comedic relief.
I think that’s my favorite thing about travel. It affords us, more than beautiful scenery or escape, the opportunity to explore like a child again. It allows us the chance to fall into roles not prescribed to us by society, but by circumstance, a role that can change minute to minute, one that reflects what our group needs at any given moment. It offers us a space to problem solve like a child and encourages us to make up the rules as we go.
Travel is stripping away the expectations and assumptions and throwing yourself into the game just to see who you become, even if it’s a mess of tan lines and nervous energy.
As I get older and travel often — for work and for play —the experience has become less about the place and more about the feeling. A friend once described by longing for wild, empty spaces as a “hunger.” Sometimes I’m so consumed by a ribbon of trail and a horizon perpetually out of the reach that I forget to eat until my stomach is a symphony, just like when I was a kid refusing to come in for dinner. I want a meat and potatoes kind of life. I want experiences that get caught between the teeth and places served rare. I want moments that stick to the ribs.
Good thing we brought so many eggs.