Through the 1960s when I was in high school and college, I never had any money and I didn’t have a car. My main modus transportandi was hitchhiking. By my estimates, I traveled the equivalent of around the Earth’s Equator merely by using my thumb.
My most memorable hitchhiking jaunt took place in 1968 when my
friend John and I hitched from
For the record, that particular trip wasn’t all hitching, however. In Port Arthur, Ontario, because there was a huge backlog of hitchhikers clogging up on the Trans-Canadian Highway (some had been stranded there for as much as two weeks), we went to the freight yards, took a crash course in alternate means of transport from a drunk French-speaking hobo, and hopped a freight train to Toronto – without question 18 of the most miserably cold, windy, filthy, noisy, boring, treacherous, and mercilessly uncomfortable (trying to sleep on a narrow, bouncy corrugated steel flat car) hours of my life.
When we finally arrived in
Needless to say, L’Autobus Libre (The Free Bus) picked up EVERY SINGLE HITCHHIKER on the way – 63 in total.
But I digressed.
That was then. If, however, today, my 17-year old son told me he wanted to hitchhike somewhere, even before I could have the luxury of a heart attack to dissuade him, my wife would have called out the United States Marines and slapped leg irons on the poor kid, all the while berating me for filling my son’s head with vagabond nonsense.
But let us, for a moment, return to those relatively carefree days of yesteryear. While spending an inordinate slab of my youth on the side of the road going hither and yon, I developed a kind of hitchhiker’s philosophy. This noble set of insights maintained that Mother Nature loves free spirits and nothing could be freer in spirit than the glorious hitchhiker. Nature, of course, would look out for her fanciful sprites (us free spirits) and accordingly she would never leave us stranded anywhere. Sometimes it may take a little coordination and orchestration on her part to make sure the sequence of rides would unfold in perfect synchrony to get us where we wanted to go but she always got us there. As proof, here I am, right where I want to be.
John and I would
take turns hitching so the other guy could read or rest or groove. John wasn’t the
archetypal Peace-Love-Hippy that I was. He was more from the
Anyway, John used to get supremely angry when cars would not
stop and he’d curse them as they passed. I, on the other hand, had developed a
highly successful hitching technique. I’d open my heart and love each car and
its occupants no matter if they passed us by or not. With this technique I scored
most of our rides. I tried to teach John my technique but he preferred his bile.
If ever we got stuck at some place, instead of getting impatient, I always felt that there was something in that place that Nature wanted me to learn or appreciate or someone she wanted me to meet before she would get us our ride out. That being the case, I never felt that we were in danger of being stranded. I’d look for the beauty or the lesson of that place. It could be just enjoying a dandelion. Whenever I found something or learned something special about that place, Nature would send us a chariot and off we’d go.
I bring up that silly story because that is how I go about my daily life even today. To me there is no such thing as an obstacle or a setback or a failure. Those things are just Nature’s traffic signs letting me know that there is something right there and then that is important to be learned or appreciated before the next step can be taken.
Sometimes, by taking the time to look, a greater success can be found in a failure than if you actually achieved that which you were originally aiming at. You just have to stop and check out the so-called failure from a different angle.
The Free Bus. What a great experience. I guess Nature saw too many of her glorious free spirits getting delayed so she organized a magical solution. What a privilege it was to help her.