I used to think that the shower was the best place to contemplate life. Living on the road has taught me that a much better place for generating philosophical thoughts is in fact the window seat on a crowded intercity bus, or train for that matter, heading to a new and unexplored destination (or, equally, returning to one whose streets your feet know better than a map).
Traveling can get busy and tiring – you’re always doing something, seeing something, meeting someone new. Sometimes you rarely have the time to stop and breathe with all that’s happening around you. But a long journey on a bus effortlessly manoeuvring through miles of windy road, with your headphones plugged into your ears, is the perfect time to delve into the maze of your inner world.
To be fair, the drive itself can take you to new worlds with so much life happening round every corner. From the comfort of my window seat I can observe this fascinating film playing out on the other side of the glass. There’s a farmer in his field strapping sacks to his loyal donkey. There are eagles circling above, lurking for their next meal. There’s a herd of horses lazily munching away on a patch of grass, totally oblivious to the world around them. There’s the sun dancing through the leaves of trees lined up along the road, throwing a pleasant shadow over a lady selling fruit juice at her stand.
And then there’s the mountains.
Nothing captivates me as much as the ever-changing landscapes as my bus climbs up through the windy roads snaking round humongous mountains. As I stare intensely into the distance towards a horizon dominated by these huge lumps of earth separated by canyons plunging hundreds of metres below my feet, I wish my eyes could open wider. I wish I could stretch them just a little more and permanently etch this view into my memory. To keep there safe for those days when I forget how wonderful a world we live in, for times when I lose sight of the bigger picture.
The mountains have this incredible power to put things into perspective in such a beautiful and humbling way. In moments like these, spending hours glued to the window, taking in the mesmerising views outside, my veins start flowing with endless gratitude. I realise just how lucky I am. To be alive, to be here, to be taking this road and making it my own. And I get major feelings of sonder. Looking out at the twisting roads ahead, I wonder about all the places they lead to. I think about the girl we pass swinging on a swing on the side of her house at the edge of the road. What does she dream to become and where will her path take her in ten years’ time? I wonder what is waiting at the end of the road for the gentleman in a warm woolly cardigan, sat two rows in front of me. I wonder if the young lady behind me is returning to the love of her life. Or maybe she is going far far away without a plan to come back. Maybe leaving hurts her just a little less than staying.
I think of all the different paths we take. I think about how some of them connect in unexpected places and others are bound to run parallel forever, never meeting. I ponder over the tickets we buy for long journeys through the mountains. So many destinations, shortcuts and scenic routes that are in our hands to choose from. For some it takes a leap of faith to get on that bus that takes them somewhere new – perhaps to a place where no one is waiting in the arrivals terminal but where they need to go. For others, it’s a joyous journey returning to something they know they should have not waited so long to return to.
As for me, the journey has become an inseparable part of my daily life. Every day I take a new bus to unfound lands – to challenges and lessons, to happiness and growth, towards more love and meaning and often away from my comfort zone. And I could not be more grateful for the life I’m fortunate enough to live. For the chance to get the window seat on this incredible journey that is my life.
The road is where I’m happiest.