A long, long time ago– merely five years, but it feels like a lifetime! – I had this idea about round-the-world travel. It was a very particular idea: I knew I needed to travel by motorcycle, and no other means. The journey had to be continuous:certainly, by going home briefly I would break some magic spell, and all this weighty, important meaning of it all would seep out through the cracks while I jetted to Vilnius and back. And finally, I had to travel solo, for only the lone wolves experienced the true existential melancholy behind faraway horizons.
I was twenty-seven, and it all made perfect sense. I had just learned to ride a motorcycle, I was in the Andes, and this was, clearly, my destiny and my quest: to roam the world and find it. I didn’t quite know what it was, but that was part of the journey. I would embark on a pilgrimage on two wheels, and I would find out.The world owed me that much, I figured.
But to my astonishment and frustration, the world remained blissfully oblivious of the task I had just imposed on it. In fact, it went on much like it always had: the green oceans kept sending waves to the shore and the seagulls kept crying and the people went to work and raised kids and got old and giggled sometimes, and dogs wagged their tails and our big blue ball of a planet just kept bobbing on in the infinite invisible plasma of the universe, and the universe just was.
Having realized, after much injuries, sorrows and tribulations, how little I mattered in the grand scheme of things, I recognized how little other things mattered, too. Especially self-imposed definitions. If I was small-so small, compared to clouds and seas and the Earth! Then it followed that my idea of a round-the-world journey was even smaller and more absurd. I have invented it; it didn’t invent me. I could choose to replace it or forget it altogether.
So I did. Instead of incessantly poking and prodding the world like a needy kid, demanding an answer or a sign or god damn it, at least some luck, I began searching for a new way to be in this world.
At first, when I was riding through Mexico, I thought I had it. What I needed to do was to change the world. Voila, messieurs, that was it! And change it now!
Immediately, I went to the world and offered to change it. Here, world. I am going to transform you!
But the world was silent.
Perhaps I had to change myself first. Maybe I needed to get better at everything. Maybe I needed to learn more languages and empathy and storytelling skills and motorcycle riding skills and develop a talent for stellar online content and digital everything and make more money and have a better resume and be more creative and productive and learn to learn and oh dear lord, was my English good enough?
I went to the world, and promised I would learn everything, and do better.
The world didn’t even bat an eye.
The universe just was.
Baffled and bruised, I felt lost again.
I went to Cuba and I went to Jamaica and I went to Providencia, and San Blas, and Colombia and Ecuador. I kept learning and scheming and planning revolutions and falling back down into black holes of despair and nothingness, only to crawl out again and get behind my Sisyphus stone once more and push with all my might and hope and enthusiasm and the world
…was still indifferent.
Then one day in the Andes, I met a little girl. She was about five years old, a tiny little figure on a desolate dirt track somewhere high in the mountains, and she was walking down into the valley and I stopped and said
- Where are you going?
And the little girl said,
- To get my llama. Her name is Jimango and she’s there, down the road. And my mum, she is in Ambato, you know?
The girl was so small,but she was strong, and she had a highlander skirt, a poncho, and a hat on,and she knew where she was going. Jimango was waiting.
I shared some chocolate with her.
“Could I have some more? For my grandma. She lives alone”, – the girl said, very seriously and after much thought.
The little girl threw the tatty rope she was carrying over her shoulder and gave me a cool, weathered look and a curt nod and took her chocolates and her large brown eyes and set off again in large, confident strides, and those strides did not look like they belonged to a five-year-old. I knew the little girl would grow up one day and she would matter very much somehow.
I am still riding round-the-world today. I’m not sure whether I have found it.
But whenever I start feeling anxious, I sit and I know that the oceans are sending waves to the shore and the seagulls are crying and the people go to work and raise kids and get old and giggle sometimes, and dogs wag their tails and our big blue ball of a planet just keeps bobbing on in the infinite invisible plasma of the universe, and the universe just is, and there is a little girl in the Andes who has a llama named Jimango, and the girl’s mum lives in Ambato, and for a brief moment in space and time, she smiled.
And so did the world.