Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the Road v. On the Plane

I was sitting at my desk in front of the computer with three massive stacks of documentation for our clients.  It was around 4:30 PM, and I still had three more hours of mundane work left.  My boss, frantically pacing our office, was yelling on the phone in her usual panic that the rest of us seemed accustomed to.  The minutes rolled by like hours, and the hours seemed like days.  I sat there waiting, but I knew I was anticipating something else. In one month I will be on a plane to Rome where I will spend four exciting months travelling through Europe and living the carefree life.  I will escape this dusty, anxiety-heightening atmosphere into a land far better than this.  It will be my temporary sanctuary away from home.
            It is so hot here.  How do these people live without internet? The water tastes fun.  There is so much walking.  Why is she telling me I cannot take a shower? How am I supposed to do homework if I have to conserve the electricity and turn off the lights? These classes are not as easy as everyone had said they would be.  There are too many rules.  This is what I was met with when I reached Europe.  I was dismayed; everything was so chaotic and not what I expected.  At my desk chair where I interned this summer, I pictured a blissful place.  No, what I found across the pond was struggle. 
            The moment I stepped off the plane I was relieved. Thank God! I am home.  Back to the world that knows me, and I know it.  My parents, sister, brother, dogs, and friends.  A place where crossing the street is not a suicidal gesture.  A place filled to the gills with wifi.  Where people run water and keep the lights on just for kicks.  Back to the place that I thought I was too good for.  The place I once underestimated.  The place that I wanted to escape.  I was back, and I was never in such love and gratitude for being back.

            After reading the first portion of On the Road by Kerouac I felt extremely empathetic to the characters of Sal.  I related to him because he was looking for an escape, similar to how I viewed going abroad as my escape.  He had all of this pent-up energy and expectations for his spontaneous journey.  In his first attempt, he plans to travel from Cape Cod to Los Angeles, which is a very lofty plan of action.  However, this plan is ultimately unworkable, and Sal returns to New York—right back to where he started.  At this point in Sal’s character he seems like the typical, cynical New Yorker, very analytical and sensible, but he wants to shake his predictability and congeniality.  Rather, Sal views his journey West as an opportunity to transform; he aspires to be more youthful, carefree, and open to the world.  With conviction, he hopes that his journey will reshape his psychology, but in reality this transformation can only occur through suffering and hardship.  The journey is not as blissful and glamorous as he envisioned, but nevertheless there is a change in his character that is slowly developing. 

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