There's a strong desire for discovery that travel inspires in us--that change in life asks us to embrace. Sometimes you must stretch out to reach deep within; you must go outside yourself to recognize what is already within yourself. Traveling can offer the independence of self-creation, but through interaction with a new exterior, it can also invite you to discover what has always been interior.
I think Kerouac touches on a really important point that we've been discussing in class: the ability of travel to shape the way we recognize ourselves. Sal says, "I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was--I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel... I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost" (15). I wonder if this type of feeling is unique to adolescents and young adults who haven't quite figured themselves out fully yet, or if changes in life bring out constant discovery no matter how old you are--no matter what you've experienced already and how well you already yourself.
The first time I traveled pretty far away by myself was a couple of summers ago when I took a train (well, a couple of trains) from Long Island to Pittsburgh to visit a good friend I mine. On a map it's really quite close, comparatively, especially after reading Kerouac, but it was still ten hours further than I had ever traveled alone before. What I found most interesting during that experience was my heightened awareness of myself--how I was sitting, how I was holding the book I was reading, who I was making eye contact with. Since all my familiar contexts for understanding and knowing myself were removed, I realized that I was more of a stranger to myself than I imagined I could be. I also realized that I could create a slightly different version of myself that would be unique to my new context.
What I think is most interesting about that experience now is that I was concerned with creating myself more than finding myself. I didn't assume that there was one true self already present that I just had to reveal in order to feel natural in a new context; I allowed the context to influence the self I wanted to create and project into myself.
Now that graduation is creeping its way into my consciousness, I'm thinking about the different post-grad options available and whether after leaving here I'll be more concerned with finding or creating myself. I think that when we enter new situations, as Sal experiences, we do intentionally present ourselves in a certain way, partially because of what we're doing and partially because of who we're surrounded by. On page 54, talking about Dean and Carlo, Sal says, "They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new Beat Generation that I was slowly joining." Sal is coming to recognize himself in a new way in light of recognitions he has of other people in this new context. I'm not sold on arguing it either way--I think part of that process is definitely creating a self you've thought you could inhabit and want to try, but a huge part is feeling out whether the deep-down-authentic you can fit into this new self comfortably. It's really important to take notice of what your instincts tell you about your self within, but I fear that it can also be a handicap to keep waiting to stumble upon a way of being you that is strictly revealed and not created. The liberty to imagine and to create is a beautiful human gift that can bring out what might have been meant to be recognized all along.