Does It Matter Which Way You Go From Here?

And so goes little Alice’s rather perplexing and philosophical conversation with the Cheshire Cat as she wanders through the forest in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I used to have this poster framed on my bedroom wall, but I don’t know what happened to it- probably lost somewhere in the mix as I moved apartments, cities and countries throughout the years. Rereading it from time to time would calm my mind down when I would sometimes get seized with the the panic-inducing question: What The Fuck Am I Doing With My Life? And Where The Hell Am I Going?

Well, according to the cat, I’m sure to end up somewhere no matter what. Though of course we are all speeding somewhere whether we like it or not. Perhaps it’s better to have an actual planned destination in mind, or is it better to simply BE, and not worry about it. We’re going to get somewhere even if we don’t try. If it doesn’t matter to you which choices you make in your life and where you go, it shouldn’t matter to you at all where you end up.

Though for me, I am constantly asking myself: “which way ought I to go from here?” Maybe I shouldn’t torture myself with these types of questions, but my seething brain won’t stop asking. I reach a destination, accomplish a goal, and then the perplexing question arises again. And unlike Alice, I do actually care where I end up (I think). Well, I keep walking, and then walking some more. I think I walk a lot more than many, so I’m sure to get somewhere- if only I walk long enough.

Then there’s this guy: Nimblewill Nomad. He’s been actually hiking his ass off for nigh 15 years now, crisscrossing the North American Continent on foot. Across highways, deserts, swamps, mountains and freeway overpasses, this old codger has got to be the toughest dude on the planet. He has literally walked solo from Florida to Quebec. Rain, sun or snow does not slow him down, and he subsists almost exclusively off his Social Security checks. He thought he’d retire at 75, but then just started up again. Wandering the wilderness of North America in “a desperate search for peace”, as he calls it. Perhaps there really is no “peace” to be found when the curtain comes down, no rainbow at the end of the tunnel- but I like to think the journey is what’s more important. The Quest to seek it is what defines this septuagenarian, and perhaps is what should define us all. It can be physical movement, or internal self-reflection, but we could all do with a healthy dose of old-fashioned wandering from time to time.

His backpack and it’s contents are basically his only possessions, but he sleeps in his pickup truck during the Winter months. In Nimblewill’s own words: “I tell my friends: every year I’ve got less and less, and every year I’m a happier man. I just wonder what it’s going to be like when I don’t have anything. That’s the way we come, and that’s the way we go. I’m just preparing for that a little in advance, I guess.”

I don’t know my friends, his story’s inspiring, but I’m just not able to do without a little material comfort at some point in my day, and I’m not a HUGE nature person. I like Glamping and drinking whiskey with friends, but not living without a roof over my head and running water. But I respect those folks who can live the lifestyle of a Zen Buddhist monk and make it work for themselves. They’re far more hardcore than me.

Seems like Nimblewill has found his path and is sticking to it, right until the very end and doesn’t really care very much when or how that happens. It doesn’t seem to matter at all which way he goes from here, so he’s bound to get somewhere. If only he walks long enough…

Or maybe he’s just batshit crazy- I’ll leave it to you to decide.

What about you- how minimalist are you willing to take it? How much discomfort can your limits withstand? Does reducing it all to zero make us happier? And does it matter which way you go from here?

8 thoughts on “Does It Matter Which Way You Go From Here?

  1. I take it the guy worked at sometime in his life if he has a social security check each month. I bet the kindness of strangers also help him out.
    I like to be in nature and in see it as I am part of it, the beauty and the wilderness,the strange formations, animals, and sky. but I need the softness of a bed and a bathroom close at hand.
    Keep writing and reading some of the great books like John Muir “my first summer in the sierras” or just keep on walking,you will find yourself on your path even when in a dark woods..it’s as carl jung wrote A hero’s adventure

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      Yes, I think the Guardian article talks more about his “normal life” before he started hiking through the wilderness. He worked a straight world job in sales or something or another. Looks like he mostly started rambling after retirement and SS checks kicking in at 65. Certainly help from strangers must go a long way. You’re right to point out that he is a bit of a John Muir type- though maybe even more eccentric. John Muir was definitely a wilderness type as well, but also campaigned and befriended presidents like Teddy Roosevelt to preserve Yosemite and other natural areas. Nimblewill seems to want to withdraw from society altogether…

  2. Nimblewill’s story reminds me of John Francis, a planetwalker who walked for 30 years, 10 of those without speaking and his walking led him to all sorts of amazing places, including lecturing a class on environmental studies without speaking a word.

    I’m obsessed with asking where I’m going, especially in the last few years as I’ve hit mid-40’s because I have so much I want to achieve in my life. The funny thing is, obsessing on it isn’t getting me any closer to achieving it and if I’m honest, I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is most of the time. It changes a LOT!

    I guess the problem arises when we have too many things we want to do in life which can lead to getting none of them done (unless you’re super decisive and focused!). I’d admire Nimblewill’s ability to stay on track and not be distracted by other ‘options’.

    So yeah, I do think we need to have big dreams for our lives, be mindful of our path, decide on where we want to go next (not necessarily a place we want to stay at forever) and just go for it with full on commitment, ensuring each decision we make takes us in the right direction.

    The fun part is that even when we decide not to just ‘be’ and we choose a destination, we can’t always predict what surprises the journey will throw at us.

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      @ Tracey:

      Thanks for the insightful and philosophical commentary! “I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is most of the time” LOL, I don’t think many of us do all the time and for sure “it” can change at different points in your life. I think that’s part of why I started this blog as a way to explore some of these same thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for a while. I definitely get thoughtful and indeed often a bit frustrated when I think of all the things I’d like to do in this lifetime and realize there’s simply no way to do them all. Like yourself, I’m the opposite of someone like Nimblewill in that I also get pulled in so many directions. This world is a truly a mysterious and endlessly fascinating place. As my 97 year old Grandma once said a few years ago: “I wish I had 2 more lifetimes to do it all!” She definitely inspires me. Perhaps, just follow the path that feels true to you and trust in that- you’re sure to get somewhere no matter what, right?

      Never heard of John Francis, will have to Google his story, but it does sound interesting. How the heck do you teach a class without talking?!?

      • The crazy thing about teaching a class without talking is that the students were far more engaged and creative with their thinking in their effort to glean his meaning. Some were saying ‘he means this’ and others we’re like, ‘no, no, he means this’ and he remarked at how they came up with interpretations and angles on the topic that he’d never thought of himself. His Ted talk is great by the way.

        • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

          Alright, now you got me really curious. I gotta check this out on YouTube and get back to you!

          I used to teach ESL abroad; hearing about this kind of reminds me of my classes where often there were huge communication barriers to teach my students (though of course I could still “talk”). There’s actually whole theories of how to teach language to people just using physical motion when neither party speaks a word of the other’s language: getting them to jump, dance, sit down etc. Kind of fun.

  3. Check out this wonder >>>

    Latcho Drom
    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0107376/
    The journey of the Romany people told through musicians and dancers of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain.

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      This is an amazing movie- some of the musical sequences (particularly in Romania) are jaw-dropping.

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