On The Road
by Jack Kerouac
One of my favourite books of all time, Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical piece is based on the travels he and his friends took across America which defined a generation, and continues to capture those of us with gypsy hearts even now, almost 50 years after it was published. Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty define the term “free-spirited,” and their adventures in hitch-hiking, drugs, music, poetry and going where ever the road happened to take them is strangely beautiful. It’s also one of the most well-known and written about travel books out there, so I’m not going to write a whole lot more about what it’s all about; if you want to know more about the turbulent brilliance that was Jack Kerouac and the culture changing Beat Generation, just Google it. Instead, let me quickly tell you why I love this book so much, and why I’ll keep reading it over and over again.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
That line right there cried out to me. It jumped off the page, and wormed into my soul. How could it not? What I wouldn’t give to feel that kind of freedom… I find the past, what’s behind me, a curious thing. I’d like to think that I have no real regrets in life thus far, being a firm believer in the school of thought that I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without having taken the path I’ve taken, “mistakes” and all. As for having everything ahead of me – what a beautiful idea. Reading that one little line paints such a vivid image in my head. I can see myself, clearly, standing literally in the middle of a dusty, away from the city type road, a quiet road with very little traffic, like the ones you see the truckers driving down to get from city to city in the movies. I see myself standing there in my favourite torn blue jeans and my hooded black and red checkered shirt and my black Chuck Taylors. I see a worn, brown leather overnight bag by my feet, my sunglasses perched up high amongst my messy auburn hair, and a stupid, scared, excited smile on my face. Leaving everything so far behind me and looking ahead. It excites me. It’s something I want.
I’m bogged down in a life of reality and obligation and paying the bills and being a responsible wife and daughter and friend and colleague. What I want, more than anything on earth, more than a fancy house or nice car or brilliant career, is to pack it all in and hit the road. And I think that’s why I love this book so much; for those few hours when I’m reading it, in my mind, I’m free. I may not be into the sex and drugs and rock n roll, but the freedom is intoxicating. And if I ever can work up the courage to just get up and leave and live life unplanned and unexpectedly, I feel like this would be very true as well…
“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
If you, too, are a wandering soul in need of escape, pick up a copy here – hopefully it’ll fill that need for the time being until you can get out on the road : )