21 May Road Trip
They made a choice to go. They would work for six month. They would buy a van. They would quit their jobs. They would sell their stuff. Pack their bags. They wouldn’t bring much. Just one backpack each. They would just go. Where ever the road took them. They would go.
And six months later, that’s exactly what they did. They bought the Van, a 1992 Mazda. A huge bed in the back. The previous owners had sprayed her in military colours. She was a real work of art. They named her Roobie.
The van would be their home throughout their trip. They had taken her for a test drive on the first day. It had felt right from the start. They’d fallen in love.
They quit their jobs. A date was set early. After their shift on the day they told their boss that they wouldn’t be coming back. The boss asked why. They said they had to go.
It took a while to organise their stuff. What to sell. What to bring. What to throw away. Not because they had that much, but because each of the stuff had a story. And on those last days, as they were going through them, they talked about those stories. They Reminisced. The memories made them laugh.
Some of the things they would leave in the house. Like the plant by the bed and the painting of the naked blue woman on the wall. It would’ve been wrong to separate it from the house. They wanted to remember it that way.
The night before they left they drank wine. Friends came over. They did some more reminiscing. The house held memories for them too. They’ve had some great times there and they all knew that this was the end of a special time. They toasted.
They left early on a Thursday morning. The sun was shining. It was going to be a warm day. People were going to work just like they would any day. People were in their cars. They were waiting for a train. They were waiting to cross the road. They were queuing for coffee to take away. But as they drove away from the house, they knew that this was no ordinary day, and they were sure that if people could stop whatever they were doing for a moment, they would feel it too.
As they drove over the Harbour Bridge they got a last view over the city. The city where they’d been living in for the past years. The city where they’d met and fallen in love. They knew the streets and they knew the corners. They knew where you could get the best pizza. If you’d ask them, they’d tell you. It was with mixed feelings that they drove over the Harbour Bridge. Pleasure mixed with a subtle sense of loss. They were quite on the way out of the city. They hoped, but knew they will never come back. Once they were out of the city, they rolled down the windows and let the wind into the van. They invited it to play with their hair. From the speakers, The Cat Empire was singing “I’m on my way, to where I won’t look back”. They rolled a joint. They smoked it. They sang along.
There wasn’t much inside the Van. A small portable stove. Two plates. Four plastic cups. One green, one blue, two pink. They had a pot to cook in. A pan. Some cutlery. Things to stir with. An Eski to keep things cold. Before their departure they had bought the basics to keep them going for a while. Bread, eggs, noodles, cans of soups, cans of vegetables, pasta, rice, conserved vegetables and sauces.
That first night they slept close to a beach. And as they lay inside Rooble, side by side, listening to the sound of the waves coming into the beach, they felt that something inside of them had changed. A sense of calm had entered their bodies. The calm that comes with an utter and complete feeling of freedom.
In the morning they made breakfast and hit the road. They were not sure where they were going. They followed the coast.
* * *
As they travel, the places they visit become a part of them and they become a part of the roads they travel on. They get to know the sky and the clouds. Not in the way that one knows the sky and the clouds in the city. But really get to know them. It becomes their companions, a great source of comfort. Like a loyal friend, never failing to be there.
The roads are long and deserted. Some days they travel for hours without seeing a single person. Only small little worn down villages with a few houses on the side of the road. Once in a while they pass another car. They wave to the people in the other car. The people in the other car wave back. They learn that on these endless roads, everyone is a friend.
At night when darkness falls, they lie on their blanket and watch the stars. In the city the stars hide because they know that people are too busy to admire their beauty, but here, the sky is accessorised with millions of diamonds. They count the fallen stars and they make a wish each time. In the end they lose count.
Once in a while an air plane flies by. It looks like a falling star at first. But since it never really falls they know it’s an air plane and they ask each other “where do you think that plane is heading?” They pretend to calculate the direction it’s flying towards and they name a city. They have no idea where the plane is heading. But it’s nice to pretend.
Small things make them happy now. They love arriving at a place just after dark so that they can wake up to an unknown view. They love the feeling of arriving at a town where no one knows their name. The open road is strange but also so very familiar because on them they can truly lose themselves. Their notion of time becomes vague, almost non-existing. They wake when they wake and they lay down when they are tired.
Sometimes they meet other travellers and together they share some food. They drink together and play some cards. They share jokes about the road. Stories about the people they’ve met and places they’ve been. Sometimes they get particularly close, and they decide to travel together for a while. Later when the time comes, they exchange numbers. They say that they hope to see each other again someday. They hug and say goodbye.
They head north, the huge roads and the warm sun are not always forgiving and on some days they struggle to come to terms with the boredom that comes with excessive freedom. They find themselves in situations that stretch their patience and they learn to trust the strangest of strangers. But they go on because deep down they are loving every second of it.
But even the sweetest things in life must come to an end, and soon they are planning their return to a place that they no longer call home. They book their tickets. They repack their bags. Decide what to bring, what to leave behind. Memories of the past six month. The day comes when they have to sell the van and they try to keep the tears from falling when they watch a stranger drive off with her. They catch a bus to the airport and as they take off, they carry the roads, the villages, the desserts, the sun and the stars with them in their hearts.
Written by Badria Ahmed