Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hitting the road

In Jack Kerouac’s book On The Road, Sal is ready for adventure after going through a divorce and an illness. He has the pleasure of meeting Dean, who is carefree and excited to be alive and to live life. Going on a journey and getting close to Dean was a good thing for Sal, to help him get over his experiences and to start living an exciting and fun-filling life. The road becomes Sal and Dean’s home; it is all they have, apart from each other. The lifestyle they have come to embrace is rejected by society and spontaneous, yet makes them content with life. The road is not only Sal and Dean’s home, but also their life.
Being on the road means the people that you left behind (family, friends, etc.) are no longer with you. The only person you have on the road is yourself (well, at least in the beginning of your journey). After awhile, you become comfortable with the idea of having no one, trusting no one but yourself, and relying on yourself for everything and anything. What is the road? Is it Sal’s home? Or is it Sal’s escape? From the reading, it can be implied that the road is both Sal’s home and way of escaping his life.
Living on the road, alone, means you have too much time with yourself. This way, you get to know the real you one-on-one; close and personal. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the top level is self-actualization. Maslow said: “What a man can be, he must be.” Every human has the desire of becoming more and more what one is. To become everything that one is capable of becoming and to achieve everything that one is capable of doing. The road allows you to personally develop yourself and reach a state of self-actualization. Sal does not know where he is going. He may have an idea but he does not entirely know where he’ll end up. All he really pays attention or cares about is the journey. That is the reason why he hits the road in the first place: to find himself.
The road gives you the opportunity to start a new life. To experience things you have never experienced before. Even though it might be hard at first to adjust to this lifestyle, it is a sort of liberation from the life you were stuck living in.  I’m pretty sure a lot of people, at a point in their life, have felt the urge to disappear, or escape for a couple of months, or start their life over again The road offers you all of these things. It could be the best or the worst thing that happens to you.
            While on the road, Sal worries and cares about where he is going, but does it really matter? In Sal’s unconscious, all that matters is the experience he gets out of this journey, not where he is going. The places he goes to obviously have some sort of influence on Sal, but the greatest influence he has is from the situation he is in.
Kerouac wrote this book after the Great Depression and World War II. I could imagine that soldiers that had just come back from being at war would want to have a lifestyle like Sal’s. These young people were on the edge of dissatisfaction. Even though it’s been about fifty years since the book was written, the ideas and experiences that Sal undergoes in the book are to this day very much alive. Expressions of restless youth who strongly desire something more than what society expects them to become or to be, something out of the norm, something different and dangerous, something not everyone has the courage to do.
My uncle Francois Boschetti decided at age twenty-one to drop out of college and make his life worth living. He grew tired of society’s expectations while he attended college and all the pressure that was being put on him by his teachers, colleagues, friends, family, etc. to succeed.  He decided to hit the road and travel from Michigan to California on his own. He lived on the road for about a year, going from motel to motel, meeting people of all kinds, experiencing life and living the life he wanted to live, being the person he wanted to be with no pressure or dilemmas. The first time I ever saw him after the one year he spent missing in action, I could barely recognize him. He decided that he did not really know himself. He discovered his true purpose in life, his passion, and his new views on things like politics and religion.
Depending on the type of person you are, being on the road may sound either scary or fun.  It may be depressing or exciting, adventurous or boring. Regardless of how you feel, the road will transform you into the person you are meant to be: yourself.

-Ali Mondini-Boschetti

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