Africa – Lushoto Part II: lifelong substitutes for action

africa, Tanzania, Lushoto, hiking, travel

February 19, 2014 • Africa, Latest, Madness • Views: 931

In October of 2013 I went to Tanzania for 23 days to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, go on Safari, and wander away the itch that is Africa. After the trek and the Safari I took a bus to the small mountain village of Lushoto in the Usambara Mountains. This is how I got there. You can find the first part here. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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I tried this two more times. Once, after I’d transferred to Washington University in St. Louis. I drove to the southern Appalachians but came back early when that same feeling hit me (I was listening to “The Leaving” from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack by Basil Poledouris). That trip was another four days–I’d planned for about 11. The summer before my senior year I mapped out this two month long journey home from St. Louis. There were stops at baseball games in Kansas City and Denver. I planned a five day, four night, trip through the Rockies. I backpacked one night, stopping after five miles when the snow was so deep and I got scared I’d lose the trail and myself. I remember that night for the sound of avalanches and a big heavy wind that shook the treetops but never reached me down below. I lost my camera and cried and headed north through Yellowstone and the Tetons, with plans again to backpack both places–I even had my permits. It never happened. I changed my oil in Wyoming, camped at the foot of the Tetons and took one hike up a big hill in Yellowstone where I took a big smiling picture of myself–a selfie before selfies were a thing. I’d planned a week long journey through Yosemite but when I reached Utah and Park City I got hit with that feeling once more. Homesickness. I was walking the streets of my old home and I cried to myself and wished I had never moved and that somehow I could return to the time that was, those few months when I found the first friends I loved who loved me back. That time was gone and I was alone again in an unfamiliar world and so I climbed back into my car and drove straight home. I detoured through the Sierras but only left my car to piss.

That was the last time I left. I haven’t checked the dates but it must have been the summer of 2005, which makes it a good eight or nine years from now. A decade gone.

I wasn’t ready. It was probably good that I turned around. I might have starved or fallen prey to a bear maul or been frostbitten or lost a tire and never figured out how to change it. I was just a fucking kid with big ideas but no practical experience to make them happen.

These were trips. These were big things I wanted to do. But they weren’t my only failures. I wanted to be a writer–not just a writer, but a PUBLISHED writer. That never happened. I wanted a big home to myself, I wanted LAND. I wanted a progressive sex life and a woman/girl who’d stay up late with me and smoke pot and talk the way they do in Linklater movies. I wanted I wanted I wanted. I could have made a book of lists.

The years after college are a drift. It’s what you’re supposed to do in your 20’s, at least that’s what I’m told. What’s so fucked up though is the contrast. When I was 20 I meditated and read challenging books and dreamed of big trips and believed in love and smiles and adventure. My first date with a longtime girlfriend revolved around our shared desire to just fucking go. To live out there. To walk. To be. The farthest we ever got was housing her bestfriend’s boyfriend, a trainhopper fresh from a ten year stint in prison for manslaughter–he’d crashed a car while on heroin. I could see in her eyes that she loved that guy in the few days we knew him more than she would ever love me. I saw that look again on a trip through the Sierras when we met a guy named Falcon–I’m sure that was his name–who was hiking the John Muir Trail by himself. She pulled away from the conversation because she was afraid that if he asked her to go with her she would say yes.

That’s when I knew that we would never be.

This was how I saw myself in the fall of 2012. I was a dreamer. I never published a book. Never published a story. I had had a girlfriend who could love, but not fully. Not me. My dreams of travel had been waylaid. My dreams of adventure had stalled. I was a nothing. I worked a dead end job at a good place, surrounded by good people, but was miserable every fucking day. I couldn’t smoke weed because the weed would show me up. I couldn’t do psychedelics for the same reason. All I could do was drink and smile and talk ideas that would never be. Lifelong substitutes for action.

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© 2014 Christopher Dart

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