Saunterings

by Matt Langer

Archive / About

003: Itinerary

LAX > EWR, then California by way of northern Washington and Sioux Falls and Saratoga Springs. A roundabout way to make it out west, for sure—heading 3,000 miles east by air only to turn around for another 4,000 behind the wheel—but: the best laid plans, etc.


I just ran out of love for New York is all, ran out of things I needed to see there. There’s too much of the rest of this country I still need to see—or whatever of it’s left at least: Steinbeck was already warning fifty years ago of a dull uniformity sweeping across the American cultural landscape with the advent of the television; now that everyone and everything is networked to the hilt I’ve got to believe whatever remains is fast being assimilated, and I desperately want to see the places we’re losing. I want to work out of small town diners; I want to witness the Bakken; I want to drive the Blue Highways.

So I got rid of all my shit, all the IKEA and the electronics and all the rest of the garbage weighing me down, packed a few boxes with the handful of memories I care about and left them in a family member’s garage in Jersey, then threw a couple wooden crates of books in the back of my Jeep along with some stuffsacks of camping gear, a mountaineering pack, a bear canister full of food—and anyway this is home now, at least for as long as I can pull it off.

Some… derive the word [saunterer] from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.

This has been a lifelong dream of mine. I did it fifteen years ago, lived out of a pickup truck part-time from ‘98 to ‘00—but the world was a lot different then (think paper atlases and disposable film cameras and Motorola StarTACs). Yet in 2014—thanks to MacBook Airs and coffee shop wi-fi and personal hotspots and HipChat and Skype—I can be on the other side of the country and still very much be an active part of the day-to-day at Giphy.

But first a vacation: some cross-country driving followed by a seven-day solo trek to the most remote location in the lower 48. If you should have any interest in following along I’ll be posting photos on Instagram and keeping a road journal here.

OK see you soon <3

002: New Year

I like packing the night before a trip. I’ll pack everything the night before, right down to the toiletries I’m going to need again come morning. This way I can wake up in the same place but at least already be in the routine of being somewhere else.

I like the perspective afforded by such a simple thing as packing, the opportunity to reflect on our most mundane daily rituals. Our days take so many hours to transpire—they seem so hectic and so full when we’re in the middle of them—and yet the abridgement we get when packing covers them exhaustively: brush your teeth; take a shower; dry off; put on underwear; put on clothes; put on shoes; put on a coat; eat; drink; shit; sleep on something soft. That is all there is. And then we can pack it all up and set it down on a table and look at it, see all of it just sitting right there in front of us, all the time and space of our busy sprawling lives compressed into a single point: about 4,000 cubic inches and a pair of shoulder straps.

That is all there is because very little else in Maslow’s hierarchy occupies space: we don’t grow larger as we self-actualize; we don’t find love by accumulating stuff. Only memories take up much space—the rest is just for show.

001: Saunterings

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre” — to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer”, a saunterer — a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which indeed is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels. Henry David Thoreau, Walking

000: Coming January 2014

[ellipsis]