Two outwardly unassuming words that mark the beginning of the ever-difficult follow-up blog post; hoping that this one is as well liked as the similarly tricky debut post.
The good news to report, for those concerned either way, is that last week I successfully chartered an aircraft to take me and some of my possessions across land and sea to the city of Seattle, Washington, USA. From there me and my traveling companion, long-time pal Finbar, have navigated a course to Vancouver Island. This is where I am located as I write this spiel.
The gentle pitter-patter of April showers on loose tarpaulin and metal provides a soundtrack to these outpourings; the reason being that another success story of my first week here in North America is our acquisition of the Ford E-350 van-cum-hotel, which will be home to me and Finbar for the next ten weeks.
This is an idea that has taken some getting used to for both of us. But after a busy week of last-minute purchases and furtive planning, as well as the swift dissolution of what cheerful nonchalance I’d brought with me on the flight over, we now face the prospect of the open road with equally open minds.
The sense of freedom is tremendous. Augmented by the immensity of the North American continent, it is this seemingly limitless scope for adventure that propels us forward.
But this not without reservation. There is a loneliness to this land of plenty, a kind of overarching intolerance of mistake making that is all too apparent even in Lefty cities like Seattle. You only need to ride the bus at night to notice the desperate gulf that separates one citizen from another.
I don’t mean to suggest that this is revolutionary reportage. Even ol’ Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian and Americanist extraordinaire, observed in his 19th century treatise on democracy in the US: ‘The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle’. I think he might have seen this as a positive, as the motivational force behind the triumph of a new nation, but today his words feel less optimistic.
For me, this journey will be a means to muse on such questions, to dissect whatever romantic notions of the Western United States persist in popular culture and in the recesses of my own hazy imaginings.