And that was that. I spent most of the ensuing week dealing with trivial annoyances like not having a phone at work, email at work not working, not getting paid, my phone line at home suddenly going dead (leaving me phoneless for three days 'til PacBell could come fix it), workpeople making loud noises with sledgehammers right outside my thin bedroom window at 7 am, and so on. I'm gradually settling back into daily life—work, trying to set up an apartment (buying lots of stuff, but so far no furniture other than bookshelves), attempting to spend some much-needed time by myself after a year of near-incessant socializing. I'm finding myself being very territorial, wanting my own space, dammit. I suspect this will wear off once I've had a little time to myself, though.
It's been a good year, but also a long one. The Wanderjahr is something I'm very glad to have done, and I hope to spend more time visiting faraway friends for short periods over the next couple years; but I'm also glad to be back, settling in again and perhaps letting some roots grow. Things are certainly far from perfect in California—but it's home.
I wish I had some words of wisdom here. Someone asked at one point if I was traveling to find myself; I said no, I already knew where I was, I just wanted to see some friends. I learned a lot from the trip, mostly about how I deal with certain kinds of situations and people, but I don't know that any of it can be summed up concisely—except for Arthur's advice right at the very beginning: "Talk to people. They won't bite you."
I guess my other advice would be: follow your dream. I strongly, fiercely, believe that people should do that whenever possible—and that it may be possible more often than people think. People all along the way have told me they're jealous that I can do this, that I'm lucky to be able to, and that they wish they could do something similar. I know that I was immensely privileged to have the leisure and resources and freedom and money to take this trip; but remember that I saved up for it for five years, and that I mostly stayed on friends' floors. It would be possible to do a shorter version of a trip like this on very little money, at least for a single person without major debts. (And in fact several of my friends have done Big Trips of that nature, swinging through a dozen states by car or mass transit over the course of a month or two.) I think I was luckiest in two things: knowing that I wouldn't have trouble getting a job when I came back, and having friends in so many places who were willing to put me up. Anyway, my point isn't that everyone should leave their jobs and go wander; my point is that sometimes you really can turn dreams into reality. And sometimes they even live up to your expectations, though not always in the ways that you expect.
Okay, one more pithy maxim: travel may broaden, but coming home again deepens. That's my theory, anyway. I'll let you know how it turns out.
So there you have it. The End. Thank you all for reading—the old friends, the new friends, the surfers who turned up one of my pages on a search engine. Putting up these pages this past year has helped me feel connected. I hope everyone will stay in touch—you know my email address; don't hesitate to use it.
In closing, I'll repeat a tidbit from my quotes page that I've quoted often in a variety of contexts. I think it bears repeating.
"From quiet homes and first beginning
Out to the undiscovered ends
There's nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends."
Take care, all.
These Wanderjahr pages will remain in place for at least a couple of months, as a document of a journey. I may even add to them: I'd like to put up some more photos, and perhaps transcribe bits of the tapes I recorded while driving, with occasional observations that didn't make it into the travelogue. (I have to keep some anecdotes out, though, so I'll have stories to tell at parties without boring those who've read the travelogue.) At some point, however, I may take these pages down (or at least shunt them off to a siding) and put up some other sort of ongoing journal. Not for a while yet, though. Just so you know.
(Last updated: 23 August 1997.)