The final piece of introduction to this blog also marks the last day of my transition period. Today, I leave the last area where I know anyone, and embark on almost a month of solitude from friends and family. Of course, I hope to meet plenty of interesting people along the way.
I have spent the past two days in North Carolina. After traveling down the coast from Virginia Beach to Nags Head, I headed west to Greenville and my friend Liz. We went camping at the southern tip of Croatan National Park, spent a day on the beach on the Crystal Coast at Emerald Isle, hiked around the marshlands, and topped it off with Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides.
As Liz and I fought off waves and took in sun rays, the crew of the QAR Archaeology Project began their month long voyage to Blackbeard’s sunken pirate vessel, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Blackbeard was also the star of Pirates 4, where he searches for immortal life.
Liz and I played no role in the trip to the Queen Anne’s Revenge, but the presence of pirates is felt anywhere along North Carolina’s outer banks. Restaurants and stores remind you constantly of the area’s heritage, and the wide sandy beaches seem perfect—minus the summer homes—for a pirate adventure. Though Blackbeard and his ship did not achieve immortal life, he is remembered as one of, if not the most, feared pirate of his era.
For most of us, our immortal contributions are those we leave behind. For a select few, their stories are so powerful that they themselves are immortalized. Learning to find and write powerful stories is something I hope to be able to do someday, but for now I’ll just get on with the last bit of introduction.
I want to encourage young people to consider something like the road trip as a rite of passage. This is the most difficult to define of my goals, because I could easily be wrong. I may return in two months ranting about what a waste traveling around the country is, or I may return ecstatic about my accomplishments. I advocate it now based only on what I have heard from others and what I hope will happen.
What is a rite of passage exactly? The Massei Tribe of eastern Africa sends each boy of age out into the brush with only a spear to track and hunt a lion. Alone.
Australian Aborigine boys travel for six months through the wilderness with their father, grandfather, and spiritual elder.
Viking lads had to become “Beserkers” by metaphorically transforming into a wolf or bear, heightening their aggression and preparing them for war.
The ancient Romans threw parties where the boys ran in “hormonal packs” through the streets.
Now that sounds a little more familiar. Here in America, our Rites of Passage begin with small ceremonies, and always end in parties. Baby Shower? Party. Sweet 16? Party. Barmitzvah? Party. Wedding? Party. We even celebrate our own birth every year!
What happened to the idea of a Rite of Passage as a trial? I am not suggesting we hunt black bears, wander through the forests, or go beserk. Nor am I suggesting we stop partying.
America is the only country with the massive amount of space, the diversity of climate, and the road system needed to support an amazing trip, all without a passport. Our people have long had a relationship with the land, whether they were hiking through its woods or chopping them down. It is the one thing all Americans, an incredibly diverse people, can truly share.
Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 20, I think that each young person should take the time to test their ability to sustain themselves, see what they can produce for their society, and take in the vast expanse of land and space they live so close to. They should set goals based on their interests, and try and make improve themselves in whatever ways they desire.
For example, I want to become more confident and charismatic, while becoming a better reader and writer. Others may want to become more in control of their emotions, or physically stronger. So I am in the process of creating tests to serve my goals such as “Have a conversation with 50 people in a week” or “Make 10 new friends in a month.”
On the other end of my Rite of Passage, hopefully I’ll have improved the areas I want to and also taken some time to figure out what I might be able to do with my life professionally and personally. For me, it is a road trip, and I’d recommend it to others (solo or not) because of the access to land, and the diversity of American cultures. Plus, it is something we can all share. However, if a motorcycle, boat, plane, or study abroad appeals to you more, make that your Rite of Passage.
If this project interests you, subscribe to receive an email for each blog post in the sidebar to the right. I’m always happy to talk with anyone who has done a trip like this and has advice, or wants to and would like someone to talk it through with. Or, reach me for any other reason at John.McAuliff@live.com.
After today, my entries will become less about the project and more about my travels, the people I meet, and the challenges I attempt. I hope you’ll follow along on the Road Trip of Passage, Summer 2011. I’ll need some company!