Drifting Down to a New Sunrise


On the flight back, somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico, the feeling changed. I crossed some sort of invisible divide where I re-entered the life of the States: the life of work, obligation, responsibility and long hours. I dropped back into that weight as though it had never been lifted. It almost felt natural. But it’s not.

I realized at that moment that Central America is a separate dimension. An alternate reality that one steps into, just as one steps into Macondo.

Down there I felt carefree. Like nothing matters. Rules don’t matter because everything is chaos. You can do what you want, but at the same time you’re responsible for looking out for yourself. Life slows down and Time loses its hold.

Ten years ago, sitting in a hammock in a dusty back yard staring at the moon, the night before I was to fly back home, I wrote:

At the end of my road I discovered that I could feel at ease anywhere. Every place belonged to me, because I no longer belonged to any place. Central America had become a state of mind, a mental construct, a place of no fixed geographical borders. It was something I carried with me.

But the challenge doesn’t end with the conclusion of the journey. In many ways the most difficult task is just beginning. A journey is a liminal place, existing somewhere between the normal and the completely otherworldly. And so at the end of my journey I had to return, to confront society and my past lives with the light I’d fought so hard to win.

I would be shaken by questions, resentment, and the incomprehension of good people who couldn’t grasp my new insights through the filters of the world I’d left behind. I would struggle with a nagging inconsistency between the wisdom I brought forth from The Road and the way things functioned in the day-to-day. My challenge would be to reconcile that; to carve out a new path for myself; to remain true to my vision, and to not forget.

I had to remember that the light is extinguishable, just because it is light. That it must be tended and cherished. And that it can only be lit from the source.

I’d forgotten that feeling ten years later. But I found it again once more.


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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