I still haven’t gotten around to meditating. In some ways, I feel that the rapidity of my recovery has slightly blunted the urge to try out new health and well-ness practices, beyond the simple fix of adding more medication to my daily regimen. In the meantime, I’ve rediscovered the wisdom to be gained from a slightly more aberrant activity: hitch-hiking.
In the summer of 2012, I hitched my way across ten different countries in Europe. The great stories I took away from that trip—the Polish guy with the coffin, the Czech businessman listening to “horror rap”, the German family that took me home—are interspersed with memories of long periods of panic, of annoyance at spending my vacation sleeping in gas station parking lots, of frustration with all the un-filled back seats in cars that went speeding by. In short, I managed to make hitch-hiking “work” in the sense of getting from A to B, but didn’t appreciate the experience a whole lot.
That’s partly because hitch-hiking has none of the characteristics of the activities I usually devote myself to. Hitch-hiking does not reward effort or skill. The thousandth car is no more likely to stop than the first one. There is no sure-fire strategy for getting a ride. Smiling broadly might make you seem less threatening to motorists; then again, it could give the impression of a scam artist. If it’s raining, someone could take pity on you—or they could opt not to stop because they don’t want a sodden person in their car. Having a sign seems to work sometimes, except when it doesn’t, because people going only part of the way to your destination choose to pass by.
Somehow, though, this time I have found the zen of hitch-hiking. Hitch-hiking, I’ve realized, really does always work, as some drunken anarchist once (probably) assured me. It just doesn’t work if you have a plan, or a time-table, or a firm destination. Yesterday I turned down an early offer from someone who could take me to the edge of the highway from the roundabout at which I was stationed. I then cursed my poor judgment as I waited in the rain for three hours. I finally begged a truck driver to bring me to the nearest gas station. There, I was quickly picked up by an old man who took me to a toll booth, where I met a fellow hitch-hiker who had just gotten a ride from a celebrity chef. He, in turn, showed me the best spot in the area—from which a high-school history teacher with strong opinions about neo-liberalism took me 200 miles to my destination. And today I scored six separate rides without a single wait of more than 10 minutes.
I’m a fan of extended metaphors, and I’ve realized that hitch-hiking is an apt one for this year as a whole. I’ve reached a destination that I’m happy with—contentment and peace—and so it seems silly to question the route I’ve taken to get here. Sure, I wish I hadn’t had to wait a few months in the rainy roundabout of depression, but then again, if I hadn’t waited, would I have wound up in the same place?