Oh! How I long for rain and wind
to soak and shake my mind’s warm home!
To pull my thoughts out through the door
and up into the cloudy skies,
where to my thirsty soul’s behest
I’ll learn to see the one who sees;
and when the lightning thunders next
I’ll dive with it into the earth
and crawl out from its blackened pit
to tell the tale of where I’ve been,
of falling as rain and living as wind.
Oh! How I wait with bated breath
the day these myriad shapes make one!
When words and connotations fall
into the void which gave them birth,
so all of life’s sweet melodies
will have the chance to burgeon forth
and fill me to the spirit’s brim
with silence, truth, and energy-
to burn my soul from deep within!
On that day- that day of days-
I’ll shed my ego’s dark disguise,
and see the Truth through God’s own eyes.
-Imminent, by Adam
On the morning of August 21st, 2015, I awoke wide-eyed to a surge of adrenaline, excitement, and overwhelming terror.
I lifted my hands. They were shaking. It spread through me until my whole body was trembling.
This was it. The day of days.
The day I set out, completely alone, on a 10,000+ mile road trip through the National Parks of the United States.
Completely alone. What are you thinking? I saw myself sitting on a stool in the corner of a dark, doorless room, head in my hands. Alone. No light. Suffocating, living blackness, coiling tighter and tighter…
I stammered back at the swirling fearstorm, “I… I don’t know. I think I need this though, and-”
What if something bad happens? it interrupted. More visions: a busted car in the middle of the desert. Hopelessly lost in the woods as the sun sets, an ominous quaking in the bramble nearby. A shadowy figure following me through the backcountry with nervous, half-mad eyes.
“I don’t know! I’ll have to figure it out when-”
How are you going to support yourself after the first couple months? Slumped shoulders, returning “home” with my tail between my legs, defeated, broke, and hopeless. A failure, a failure, a failure.
I desperately tried to reason with it, but I felt weak, sluggish, “I don’t know, but there must be a way, maybe I’ll-”
What if you DIE!? the fearstorm bellowed back at me. I cowered, shaking, the visions rising to a bloody crescendo: a violent car crash on a two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. Plummeting thousands of feet in a high-elevation misstep. Dark images from the films Into the Wild and 127 Hours, the protagonists wearing my face.
My mother and my father, weeping over my grave.
“No!” I shook my head violently, casting off the rapidly-swelling ball of fearful thoughts and images as it threatened to consume me. There wasn’t any more time left to wonder if I was doing the right thing. No time to be afraid. Now was the time to move. To be in the present moment.
To just fucking leave already.
I quickly got dressed, made the bed one last time, had breakfast, and packed my last few electronics and toiletries into my car. As I tucked my 3DS and PlayStation Vita into a small box, I smiled at the irony of bringing video games with me on an escape from civilization. My two dearest loves have always been the contrary pair of isolation in nature and well-written games.
I moved quickly, yet somehow I felt impossibly slow. It was surreal, like I was drifting through a dream. There seemed to be a shimmering skin cast over everything. Was that tree always so green? When did my dusty old car become this shining, beautiful, yet somehow portentous thing of power in the driveway? I expected to wake up at any moment: alarm missed, late for work, the stress of the “real” world reaffirming its daily hold on me. Is any of this really happening? I thought, a quiet panic stewing in the back of my mind as I deliberately closed the car door and settled into the driver’s seat. I shuddered as imagined realities swirled around my head.
I glanced to the back seat and looked over the bulging half-organized mess of a tent, beach umbrella, folding camping chair, tarps, bedding, non-perishable food, and books. The trunk beyond was full of clothes, tools, camping gear, a small cooler, firewood, and seven gallons of water. My U.S. atlas, journal, camera, and other small electronics and charging cables rested in the passenger seat. My phone was mounted on an air vent, displaying the route to Joshua Tree National Park. It occurred to me that my entire life was now packed into a single two-door ’98 Civic. It didn’t seem possible. Is this really all I need to survive? I thought. Like… really? It looked like all my bases were covered, but I still wondered if I had forgotten something critical. What unknown disasters were waiting out there on those long desert roads? Would I be prepared? I’d never done anything like this before. I rarely left my hometown at all save for family camping trips, and many of those were in an RV. All I had was a little car and a tent and a vague sense of the direction I was headed.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
No time to worry about it now. Time to go.
I looked up at the house in front of my car, where I’d lived with family for the past two years while desperately saving for this trip. Funny, I used to associate this house with the feeling of home… but now, for the first time, it’s just another building. Once I drive down this street, I won’t see that house for months, maybe longer…
Sparked by that thought, a hundred thousand images- vivid memories- flashed before my mind’s eye: growing up feeling like I didn’t fit in with the people around me or the culture I was born into, which along with my parent’s divorce at age 8 (or 9?) instilled in me a deep sense of loneliness that I still struggle with. The yearly vacations my father took our family on: Big Bear Lake, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Mount Whitney, so many beautiful places. Spending my free days in town exploring the local mountains and creeks until I could recognize each stone on the trail as an old friend. Four years of wandering in and out of college, making new allies and having incredible new experiences which strained and cracked the comfortable bubble I’d grown up in. Discovering meditation and eastern philosophies, I remember weeping as I read the Tao Te Ching, feeling for the first time in my life that maybe I wasn’t totally crazy. Eight years of sales and retail, barely making enough money to survive while wondering what the fuck it was all for. The joys and trials of roommates. Escaping big-box sales into a nice grown-up office job, working myself to the bone to advance my nebulous career while putting in long hours of overtime to keep my domestic and international clients happy. Scrimping every penny for years, denying myself any form of currency-based entertainment in order to fund the start of a new way of life.
As the memories washed over me, I could sense a common thread running through them all, becoming ever more tangible as I approached the present. It was my dearest dream, simmering beneath everything I’d ever experienced, incubating quietly on the edges of consciousness. I watched it as it bent and twisted in a hundred million delicate permutations throughout my life, manifesting pixel by pixel, moment by moment, until my heart’s deepest desire lay spelled out before me:
What I truly want, desire, and need is to seek out and imbibe the beauty of the natural wonders of this world, and to share the heavenly experience of these magnificent places with others.
I blinked, the world suddenly coming back into focus around me. My car was on, idling contentedly, perhaps more prepared for the coming journey than I was. The engine sounded smug, somehow. To my right, my dad was waving goodbye from the front lawn.
Wait, what? I thought with a start. When did I put the keys in the ignition? Why is-
My internal questioning was interrupted by a soft, loving, and strangely familiar voice from somewhere deep inside me: Shhh. Just go, Adam. It’s finally time to write your story.
Where had I heard that voice before?
Go, the voice whispered.
I drove to the end of the street I’d grown up on. I looked in the rear-view mirror, watching my past disappear behind me as I turned towards the highway. A slow smile began to spread unbidden across my lips.
The long road. My road. My new home, stretching out before me for as many miles as I dared imagine, and more. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what was going to happen. I was fucking terrified. Yet my grin widened until my cheeks hurt.
I had given up on what society expected of me, and suddenly the entire world was mine.
My name is Adam Morsa, and this is my story. Won’t you come with me?
Read next: Ch. 2: 100 Degrees in Joshua Tree, Part One