The International Writers Magazine: No End In Sight
It all went tits up so fast. Once I was a well cradled bachelor; an internet entrepreneur with a successful website that sold art lessons that unfailingly delivered cascades of effortless cash neatly balanced with a landfill of geometrically accruing lifestyle expenses and debt.
Travails of a Roadside Travelin' Freak Show
Once a reasonably wealthy internet entrepreneur, now reduced to licking the dust at the bottom of the abyss, I have attempted a new paradigm for living; herein follows sage wisdom for a young and despairing generation ... run!
Original Paintings © Michael Britton
Never a cause for worry: x always equaled y and z merrily minced from cocktail to cocktail with a lurid grin fixed on my pampered visage entertaining and usually accepting the carnal offerings of delicate and sometimes not so delicate flowers sure of having snared a sugar daddy.
Those were the good years: come the Crash of '08 the gusher of cash slowed to a trickle while my debts surged like a full moon tide.
The IRS, ever ready to fire a boot into the ribs of the fallen, felt that the onset of a Depression would be an opportune time to reassess my filings and after doing so demanded a heart stopping wad of lucre. The banks, their antennae finely tuned to the anguished flopping of a distressed consumer, picked up the scent of my blood in the water and gratuitously tore into my sorry assets.
The foreclosure of my condo, my glorious shrine to Bacchus and Dionysius and every other lord and goddess of inebriated and priapic merriment was a bitter blow. It took less than eight minutes from the reading of my mortgager's indignant indictment of my fiducial incompetence to the ludicrous plop of a rubber stamp—-no judicious crack of a gavel for me-—and I was tossed into the heaving mass of the dispossessed like an unloved wet nappy.
Washed up, washed out and no real skills to offer other than a poor attitude toward wage work I surrender to the dull comforts of self-pity. With a gimlet eye cast upon a grim future I reconcile myself to the idea of self-imposed economic exile. Someone, I do not remember who, maybe Thoreau, wrote that travel is both flight and pursuit. Perhaps I misread the passage but it seems apt to my predicament. I cannot afford to stay in Seattle, nor anywhere in America—not without succumbing to the soul numbing strictures of getting a despised job with a meagre wage that could not support a lifestyle that a bacterium would disdain? My tender spirit would not tolerate such a horror and the remains of my savings will not last long here.
I hatch a plan: I will ride out this gray tide of poverty on South Seas islands. My toes will gleefully sift tropical beach sands while I toast my brilliance at having slipped the grip of penury with a frosty ale clapped in one hand while the other draws closer the admiring caresses of coffee-hued maidens. Sans grass skirts, of course. There will be little need for garden care in my grand plan.
Online I purchase a one-way ticket to Kuala Lumpur. Return is not an option. There will be nothing to return to.
In the dark recess of night, when demons scurry amongst the dust balls beneath my bed, fear grabs my testicles and hoists them to my eyes. Orbs to orbs. 'What the hell are you thinking?' my testicles demand.
'I don't know,' I reply.
My testicles are not amused.
Ten days later crammed into an economy airline class seat the full horror of my proposed escapade screws into my gut. Again my testicles clamber out. They want no part of this. I slap them back into their assigned berths. 'It is too late,' I tell them, 'we are committed.'
||This morning, five years down a long bumpy road, I wake up in a grimy hotel room in a dusty little town called Kamaina in Indonesian Papua. This area is also known as Irian Jaya. The State Department's travel advisory stridently suggests avoiding this troubled region. Perhaps it is the regularity of massacres between Christians and Moslems.
There are valleys in long term travel—deep, dark abysses that swallow and chew you up.
Those days I spend laying on a promiscuous bed, a small arena where traces of strangers' seminal enjoyments have been recklessly spilt, or on a mat peering holes in my life. Travel has a way of regurgitating old wounds; long past slights and injustices clamber out of their dusty crypts and sit uninvited for milk and cookies.
I am a freak here—a one-man circus—a bedraggled clown—there is a crack in my window. The lonelies slip over me like an assassin's plastic baggie and suffocate me. I have seen loneliness twist other travellers into jabbering idiots. I hope I have not become one of those but there is an otherness to me now. People smell it.
It is on mornings like this I need to remind myself that to travel continuously for five years is a rare fortune. It is also a curse. Like someone who has lived far too long I am disjointed; the tenuous connections to friends and family have snapped off. My closest ally is my passport, my dearest friend my Bank of America debit card. Both have predetermined expiry dates.
My passport grants me leave to venture into almost any place I desire—most of the world's populace is denied that privilege. The skeletal remains of my internet business selling art lessons and paintings provide a meagre income. Enough to sustain and remit me from place to place but not much more.
One can flit from continent to continent for only so long before the need of a purpose confronts you. Without a purpose long term travellers either go to seed or go home. If they have a home. I paint. Painting is my compass directing my journeys of external and internal discovery. I engage each place in a dialogue of oil paint on small canvases. Painting steadies me; it is my anchor to whatever crumbs of sanity I still possess.
If I had stayed put for these past five years, perhaps found a job, maybe selling insurance or shoes, to pay the rent on a mouldy basement apartment I wonder what sort of life would have unfolded for me. I don't really have to wonder; that life would have been unbearable. Instead of slurping noodles while gazing on the lit splendors of the Himalayas or sipping a breakfast beer while floating down the Nong Kieu River in Lao, I very likely would have looped a 10 foot length of rope around my neck and found a dark corner.
The next ferry is due here in six days. It is the kind of ferry, an overcrowded hulk of dubious seaworthiness, that occasionally makes the news ... thousands perish at sea. No hope for rescue. I will leave dusty Kaimana and sail into Fak Fak. I have absolutely no idea what awaits in Fak Fak. I just like the name of the place.
© Michael Britton Oct 9th 2013
Michael Britton is a gonzo plein air painter and wanderer. He is a regular contributor to VagabondJourney.com and is the subject of an article, In Search of Haunting Images by Stephen Doherty, in the recent August/September issue of Plein Air Magazine. His travel writings and paintings can be experienced at www.en-plein-air.com. He is currently mincing toward his tiffin in Kolkata.
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