Vagabond Dreams Outtakes # 2 — Alone in a Crowd


Vagabond Dreams Outtakes are “deleted scenes” from my book. Think of them as a “Special Features” disc of outtakes and curios. This incident took place in Guatemala…

plaza1.jpgDuring highland evenings a damp chill replaced the setting sun.

 The park was filled with couples. Old couples walked arm in arm, dressed as though for a first date. Young couples clung to each other on secluded benches, their passionate kisses generating a heat that staved off the cold. Empty promises and romantic nonsense flowed between them like liquid moonlight. Teenaged boys posed and snuck glances at giggling girls, who were sneaking glances back at them.

Each night I walked through the park with my ice cream, like so many of the other walkers. I paced the paths slowly, and I sat on a bench to watch the people. The intimacy of the couples reminded me of my solitude, of the life I’d left behind to make this journey, and it underlined the gulf that separated us.

plaza2.jpgObjects are defined by space. We know what a tree is because of the space around it that is ‘not tree.’ We extract meaning from a sentence because of the empty spaces between words. Without space, spoken words would be a stream of garbled noise. Space can also contain meaning. The pauses in a conversation, the things left unsaid, often reveal more than the words. Space provides an invisible subtext to the entirety of our lives.

Space and distance also define relationships. If the perception of space between the other and ourselves is felt to be too far, we’re seen as distant and aloof. If it’s too close, we’re smothering.

Interactions with others define who we are. They identify the boundary of where I end and other people begin. This space gives us solidity; it acknowledges us. Our gravitational forces tug as we orbit each other, letting planet hunters know we’re there. Each night in the park I watched life happening but I wasn’t a part of it. I was distant. I moved through the night in an orbit of my own.

At those times I felt my hollow aloneness, and I almost began to doubt my existence.




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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.



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