by Matt Paley
Rook (Nicholas Garcia) relaxing by his bicycle.
The last few months have seen a remarkable change in me, as a steadfast commitment to my Boston way of life has given way to a rootlessness that has taken me across the country three times, the endless motion powering a thorough examination – and a rapid (westward?) expansion – of self. I mostly feel fractured, exhausted, and underwater – but I’m certain that the struggle will yield a real, sharp clarity in the months to come.
Luckily, when I do surface, I have two lovely travelogues to read.
The Long Haul maps my dear friend Nicholas Garcia’s thirty-two hundred mile cycling journey from Vermont to California. Nick is a lovely, vivid writer, and there’s something particularly refreshing about his journaling style – especially since he’s often updating from his phone, which forces his writing into the tightest of prose – it’s simple, unadorned, but lucid, generous, and crackling with wit.
Speaking of wit: Going Hollywood is our friend (and frequent STE collaborator) Adam Goldman’s document of his trip Westward as he stops in ten of America’s Hollywoods (currently he’s in Hollywood, Florida, having just left Hollywood, South Carolina, having previous hit the one in Maryland and both in Pennsylvania – get it?) on his way to the fabled Hollywood, California. Along the way he’s creating a long-form audio documentary (think This American Life) chronicling his trip and interviewing people about the experience of living in the other Hollywoods. A marvelous project, Adam’s blog is less useful as a travel document than as an excuse to read his writing (and, for a few posts, that of The Busy Signal and Skin Horse Theater’s Brian Dorsam), which is sparkling, consistently hilarious and impossibly charming.
I find that, right after checking the headlines (and the movie section) of my NYTimes app, I move straight to Going Hollywood and The Long Haul whenever I have a moment to breathe and a want to engage with the world. If I were you, gentle reader, I’d start both blogs at the very beginning – you’ll be surprised how quickly and inexorably you’re drawn in to the climb with Rook and Bonesy (as Nick and Jessa call themselves), and how curious and alive the country seems through Adam’s eyes.
For me, their journeys (a bit more straightforward, at least geographically, than mine) are reassuringly measurable, covering actual, physical terrain, and both clear and promising in their unfolding. I highly recommend them both – especially for anyone in the midst of a personal journey right now. Which is all of us, hopefully.