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STOIC POETRY | I always want to turn back

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

September 12, 2019

Dear Eric,

Every time... Every. Single. Time... Every time I go to the desert, or to the mountains, or to the sea, I doubt the journey and desire to turn back. It always happens at some point along the way during the trip out. My mind rationalizes and conspires a compelling scheme of return. Something I've forgotten to do; or an important responsibility I should attend to; or some potential malfunction; or I'm not feeling so well or fully up to it. Every single time... I've been fighting this sense for decades. Ever since I began journeying into the wild. But the doubt only ever comes if I go alone. It never happens if I'm with another. There's something about going alone into wildness that incites revolt.

When I was younger, I'd often give in, and accept my doubt, and turn back, and go home... I was always disappointed then. My return home a lackluster conciliation to fear. The returns were so common during the decade of my forties - when I was exploring in Japan - that my wife and daughter laid even odds of my early homecoming each and every time I'd set out. But why did I give up? And why does my mind still try to convince me always to give up? Especially given the great rewards which always come of such journeys. Rewards which ALWAYS come. Why would I turn these down?

Every time Through the furnace lands Treasures By the armful Invisible treasures Spilling over Perishable Eternal

It's because of my fear of the consequences of the unknown. I'm afraid of getting myself into a situation from which I cannot easily get out...and then what? Like not being able to find a good or safe place to sleep during an overnight journey. Or of my car or motorcycle breaking down hundreds of miles from home. Or of getting hurt far and away. Or of any of a hundred other such misadventures I can easily dream up to fret over during my long solitary drive or ride into the wild.

Adding some familiar routine has really helped. For example, my current practice of establishing a base-camp at the desert ghost town of Siberia, and the use of a Route 66 flash flood bridge as a writing shelter, have made it much easier to resist the urge to turn back during my bi-weekly, two-hundred-mile journey out to the desert. Still, the voice of protest persists. And I can't dispel it even with the facts of wonder. The fact that each and every time I go alone into the wild I return with such wonders, such treasures, such overflowing wealth that I could never hope to otherwise possess. These truths don't matter to the fear. That part of me is only afraid. And doesn't want any treasure. It does not want to see, know or even be reminded of the Indifference.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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