As everyone in the entire world is probably aware by now (and if you are not aware, then you are on the wrong side of the internet – google “unpronouncable icelandic volcano” immediately please), western europe is grounded. Eyjafjallajokul – the smaller of two rather large volcanoes – has erupted, spewing tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere and basically creating a massive cloud of thick volcanic ash in the air over the west of europe.
This has prompted the blanket shut down of all flights within the affected areas, basically eliminating air travel throughout Europe. Definitely a setback, definitely inconvenient for many people, what an unfortunate incident. That was my first reaction. My second reaction was slightly more paranoid, and was prompted by the realization that the damn volcano is still fucking erupting, and that no-one has any idea when it will stop. Right now everything seems to be pretty speculative, previous eruptions have lasted over a year, and weather conditions make the dust cloud unpredictable.
I cannot help but notice a tiny part of me that is squeaking “wow, thats actually a little bit fucking cool in a very medieval way, huh?” Practically I think this is a disaster, for Europe in general, for the world as a whole, and for me specifically. I can’t go home, my camp can’t come to Burning Man, airlines will choke to a fiscally horrendous death, the economy of europe will leap into the nearest toilet. I am perfectly aware of these things. Yet still some bit of my brain (presumably the bit that imagines post-apocalyptic earth scenarios and occasionally prods me to go backpacking in the wilderness) thinks this is an essentially romantic notion – no more planes means travel by trains, buses, boats. Real adventures, on which you might actually have to talk to people to stay sane, on which you might actually see the places you are passing through.
If getting places were a real effort, how much more worthwhile would it seem to make it around the world? One of the most fascinating evenings I had last year was when friends of friends showed us footage of their amazing travels all over the world – which they did almost entirely by bicycle or kayak. They’d been moving for 6 whole years, spending minuscule amounts, and having the adventure of a lifetime.
I think about that with some sort of extreme reverence and awe. I don’t know if I could handle that sort of total freedom despite it being the ultimate goal of my whole existence. There are drawbacks to a 6 year adventure – the most obvious being that we have to live after the adventure has ended, and that will be harder in a million ways. But do any of those really matter? Is there any real excuse for not launching yourself into the ether and seeing what happens? Or is aimless travel as bad as no travel at all? Maybe my excitement is prompted by the idea that there will be no other way to get home again, that it could be need and not frivolity that would send me on that adventure the long way round the world.
As I finish this, I realize that since I began writing it air travel restrictions have started to lift, Europe is mobile again. I am relieved and happy, but I have to admit I am also a tiny, minuscule, fractional bit well, disappointed.
For someone who values choice so highly, I amaze myself with how I react when it is restored to me.