by Cat Hubka
I got the idea to travel long ago, on the back of my father’s motorcycle.
My father was in the midst of his mid-life crisis, a spiritual and emotional breakdown that had flung our family to the winds, when he purchased a mid-sized Yamaha and began exploring the high country of Colorado on the weekends. Eventually, he would travel the Pacific Coast Highway and take the ferry from Vancouver to Alaska on his motorcycle. He discussed traveling to South America as well… but somehow that never materialized.
One Saturday when I was seventeen, my father invited me for a quick ride. I felt thrilled and honored; he hadn’t shared much of his life with me since his separation from my mother—nor, for that matter, had my mother supported my continued contact with him.
Before we started out, my father supplied me with a helmet and attire to protect me from the wind and cooler mountain temperatures, as well as with a brief explanation on motorcycle riding. He advised me to lean with the bike and into the turns. And then—off we went!
It was exhilarating and wonderful on the back of that Yamaha. The world felt much more immediate from the seat of a motorcycle than it did from a car. I felt a thrilling sense of freedom—it was like riding a horse.
The seed was planted in my mind that one day. I would take flight, too.
At age forty-one, I entered my own spiritual and emotional crisis. Had it not been for the encouragement of a man I think of as a lover and a spiritual mate, I would never have had the courage to do what my father had done—and what I passionately longed to do.
I traded a very low-mileage Bronco in for a conversion van with slightly over 100,000 miles, and, with some solid coaching, packed it up and took off.
I have been traveling and staying in various towns across the west for over a year and a half now. My father, ironically, doesn’t approve of my adventure—even though I am, in a sense, following his example. Although I deeply resented him for leaving at the time, his doing so provided me with some of the courage I needed to let go and live life for once, rather than sitting in my garden, wishing I had done the things I dreamed of that day on the motorcycle when I was seventeen.
I travel solo. I have met a bit of mechanical misfortune along the way, but nothing truly hazardous, and I have been fortunate to meet people who have invited me into their homes and into their lives. I have come to prefer my sleeping bag to a bed—very often my best sleep is in the back of my van at interstate rest stops. What I miss most are showers. But I love the road and the almost meditative state I achieve while at the wheel for several hours. I love the passing countryside and scenery; how the landscape subtly changes from state to state, from mile to mile. I am awed by the vastness and variety of it all.
People, too, are good in the main. Some are friendlier than others, of course, but generally, people are intrigued by travelers, and are hospitable and welcoming—especially when they feel that the traveler is genuinely interested in them as well. I endeavor to be a courteous houseguest, pitching in and doing what I can to help. I have been blessed in my travels to have met and come to know people from so many walks of life. Blessed to have experienced the wonderful variety of life, and the diversity in creation.
I don’t know how long I will travel this way. I sense that when I tire of it, I will stop wherever I am when I come to that realization. Or perhaps I will remember a place with particular fondness and return to put roots there. One city stands out in my mind: I sense I may return there, but don’t know when that will be.
I have a different feeling about roots now. We have them—I did before now, at least. We can even be uprooted and transplanted to grow in another place. Yet a cactus won’t grow in a rain forest; nor will a cedar grow in the desert.
As I roll along, I ask myself whether I am a cactus or a cedar. I think my father asked himself that question too, and found that he grows well in the beautiful hills of California orchard country. Not far from the sea, never very warm or very cold, always a bit of sunshine… and the scent of garlic in the breeze.