June 19, 2017

"I think it's time you read my journal from my bike trip," said the author's dad about his 1977 cross-country ride.

"Knowing my dad had quit something rocked my perspective. I started reading his journal and, very quickly, realized this wasn't some joy ride for a bunch of hippies. Fed up with a sense of stagnation at his job, hoping to escape family drama, and looking for clarity in his relationship, my dad had set out to find answers to questions about his own future.... Reading about my dad's experience—getting inside his 25-year-old head, which seemed to be in a very similar space to my 27-year-old brain, 40 years later—made me realize there's nothing aimless or indulgent about doing something you believe in for yourself. ... [I] realiz[ed] how relatable his feelings in the 1970s were to mine now—and if he could quit to follow a wild dream for a few months, why shouldn't I? So I quit, then boarded a flight to Thailand with my best friend. After 10 days of Chang beers, $6 massages, and island hopping, I said goodbye to her at the Bangkok airport and left for another six weeks alone in Europe."

From "My Dad's Cross-Country Bike Trip in 1977 Inspired Me to Quit My Job and Travel the World/His adventure at 25 gave me the courage to venture across Europe and Asia at 27," by Ashley Mateo (in Esquire). I kind of love the dad — incredibly cute photo of him shirtless on his bike in 1977 — and I love the idea of being a kindred spirit with his young self, but the correspondence between an American cross-country bicycle trip and thoroughly tourist-y jaunts to Thailand and Europe is so bad.

67 comments:

MadisonMan said...

the correspondence between an American cross-country bicycle trip and thoroughly tourist-y jaunts to Thailand and Europe is so bad.

Agree, 100%. The whole article is so all about me, and the anecdotes about Europe are as prosaic as they come.

How can I use the jaunt of my Dad's to justify my trip, and to write about it too.

I'd rather read the Dad's journal, and his reflections on his daughter's trip.

John Farrier said...

These quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world stories are always alien to my experience.

When I was in my 20s, I was working a full-time job and a part-time job to pay for graduate school while trying to establish my career. I didn't have the money for frivolities like this and I would have wrecked my career plans if I indulged in the impulse.

Do these people have piles of cash lying around, gathering dust? Do they good jobs promised to them upon their return?

Bob Ellison said...

Yes, these people have piles of cash lying around.

DougWeber said...

Want to see real people really really biking across the country, look at RAAM. It is running right now. Worlds longest sleep deprivation experiment.

Ralph L said...

Esquire article written by a girl? Assumed it was a guy until I scrolled down, but thought it weird and unmanly that "he" would leave a female friend behind.

Oso Negro said...

Hmm. I thought Althouse was generally opposed to senseless travel. It must have been the shirtless Dad that caught her eye. Meade, take note!

Otto said...

This is always the dream of a jersey princess, always peeking , but never diving in head first, into the wild side of life. It may be simply " the grass is greener...." or a lack of true identity. Belated happy wannabe Father's day.

Michael said...

Oso Negro

Althouse is opposed to senseless travel by airplane. Bike and car are fine. Preferred.

TosaGuy said...

I've never been awed by the sense of "worldliness" people emote after they visit those parts of foreign countries designated for tourists.

William said...

I took some bike trips when younger. I never found myself. I should have gone to Thailand and visited discount massage parlors. That's where I would be most likely to find a person like myself.

glenn said...

Just another allegory.

Known Unknown said...

I thought bike trip meant motorcycle and was disappointed.

tcrosse said...

Her next step is to buy a farm in Vermont and make artisanal cheese, then write about the experience.

M Jordan said...

Desdemona fell in love with Othello listening to his travel stories. It didn't turn out well.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Eh, the Eat Pray Love genre is incredibly tiresome. Spoiled shallow people doing spoiled shallow things. I just read an excellent satire of that kind of person. Buy it through the Althouse Amazon portal to show support for the blog!

As others have noted, some of us had responsibilities from an early age and "courage" meant (in my case) walking two miles from the apartment I paid for myself to work each way as I saved for a car, at age 17. How much "courage" does it take to go play for months on end?

surfed said...

William Finnegan a writer for the New Yorker win the Pulitzer last year for his memoir of his travels through the 70-90's. "Barbarian Days". A must read.

Caroline Walker said...

The unbearable lightness of being.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

When I was 25 I was a married homeowner and pregnant with my third child. I didn't understand people my age who still lived with their parents and who spent all their time and energy entertaining themselves, and I still don't.

JLScott said...

I was all in your comment about the bike trip across America vs tourist-y jaunts to Thailand and Europe until I realized we weren't talking about a motorcycle trip. The motorcycle ride across the country has a great American pedigree, but a bicycle trip? That sounds about on par with the daughter's "adventure". (Not that there's anything bad about bicycling across America or with touring around Europe.)

JLScott said...

"I kind of love the dad — incredibly cute photo of him shirtless on his bike in 1977"

But Ann, both of those guys are wearing shorts.

Titus said...

I just read that Milwaukee Pride broke an attendance record this year and over 38,000 people attended.

Boston had over 600,000 attending our Pride this year...fyi-I don't go to Pride.

Boston and Milwaukee have approximately the same population, although Milwaukee continues to shrink and Boston has been growing.

On a side note I am interested in cities historical populations. Cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis and Cleveland's glory days are way behind them, and of course Detroit is dead. Same with Buffalo and Rochester..but I digress.

Sao Paulo, Brazil had over 3 million attend their fag pride.

How many attended your town's gay pride?


mockturtle said...

One of my ancestors in the early 1800's left home in his teens to board a New England merchant vessel. I'm sure his disapproving parents didn't finance him in any way but he ended up with his own ship.

It was common for youths of the upper classes in America to do the Grand Tour of Europe. I see no harm in that and travel is an enlightening and broadening experience. However, by the age of 25 one should be self-supporting. Maturity seems to occur later and later with each generation.

mockturtle said...

How many attended your town's gay pride?

With all due respect, Titus, I fail to understand why one should have pride in one's sexual perversion. Tolerance, yes. Acceptance, of course. But pride???

James K said...

I just read an excellent satire of that kind of person.

F. Scott Fitzgerald pretty much had that one nailed.

urbane legend said...

surfed said...
William Finnegan a writer for the New Yorker win the Pulitzer last year for his memoir of his travels through the 70-90's. "Barbarian Days". A must read.

Thank you for the recommendation.
My doctor hasn't given me a list of required reading so I think not. I've made it this far not reading a great many things some say are a must read, so I'm certain I can manage. So did my dad and mother, who never took a bike trip anywhere, either.

On second thought, did Finnegan include pictures from the massage parlors?

Etienne said...

You have to understand that spending money today, is the new physical fitness craze of the 70's.

You can see how the two are completely equal in their cerebral requirements. The emotional and intellectual demands, etc.

Argh...

Daniel Jackson said...

I am sad for her father's daughter. While Dad worked his ass across North America, Daughter worked exactly where in Europe:

"But it was also work. I struggled to get used to eating meals all alone, and had to force myself to make small talk with strangers, something I admittedly suck at. I missed my friends, and worried that I was missing out on life back home. I didn't always feel like sightseeing 24/7, and I occasionally felt lost without the structure of a daily routine—and then I felt guilty for being bored during what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure."

As Dennis Miller is want to say, this young lady should break into her piggy bank and buy a clue. What the hell was she doing in Europe? Trying to find herself? She has no Self to find.

This is a very sad article.

khesanh0802 said...

Haven't read the piece, but I thought Ann's comment about the difference in the trips was telling. One self-propelled, in every sense of the word, the other just a yuppie delight.

Like so many others who comment here, and had similar experiences, when I was 25 I was just about to embark upon the joys of OCS at Quantico. Now, that was a trip!

lgv said...

I agree 100% with AA's assessment.

The father-daughter experience aren't similar at all. It's more juxtaposition: how we explored in the 70's vs. how the special snowflakes do it today. Somehow, a plane ticket to Thailand and massages were not the way we found ourselves back in the 70's, unless they were harvesting rice for a few Baht to pay for their beer.

My buddy and I packed up our guitars and a bag of clothes into my Camaro and hit the road for a trip. We eventually got home with an almost empty tank of gas, running on a mismatched bald spare tire and one dime to make a call for help if we didn't make it. But playing guitars on a beach I could never find again? Priceless.

Etienne said...

One thing that is the same in Thailand, as bicycling across America in the 70's, was that you had to squat and shit without toilets or toilet paper.

Never shake hands with a bicycle rider (or a tourist in Thailand).

M Mott said...

I suspect that the author never considered that the adventure she sought might be found by crossing the Heartland of America, such as her dad did.

Michael Brand said...


A 70 yr old man I know recently recreated a cross country bicycle trip he did from Oregon to Florida. He didn't do the 1972 trip to "find himself"....he was strung out from booze and his Vietnam experience. The original solo trip was an attempt to avoid suicide or cirrhosis. Said all the good hearted people he met along the way convinced him life could be normal again.

There was a lot of this type of wandering in the 70s.

Don B. said...

File under: Millennials you're doing it wrong.

Leslie Graves said...

I'm going to print out that picture of the 70s guys on bikes and stick it on my wall for a few days and relive my lost youth.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I just wanted to bear witness to the beautiful places we're constantly bombarded with on Instagram.
This is such an odd statment.
"Bear witness" means to claim the reality of something to someone else. The world is filled with beautiful places. it is everywhere, if you seek it out, even in your back yard.

Here is the first part of the first sentence of the article:
My dad was driving me to Atlantic City to catch the casino bus back to New York, and another miserable work week . . .

From Ashley Mateo's bio page at The Atlantic:
Ashley Mateo is the site director at redbookmag.com. Ashley is a journalist raised in New Jersey, schooled in Boston, and working in New York City. She's a marathoner, Ironwoman, and amateur photog, and has a penchant for traveling the world. She was most recently the deputy editor at Shape.com, and previously held the positions of a staff writer at Refinery29 and news editor at Seventeen magazine, where she wrote cover stories and developed multi-platform campaigns. She has also written for SELF, Glamour, The Hollywood Reporter, MTV News, Rolling Stone Australia, and more.

These seem to be the types of jobs and career she probably dreamed about at college. Shouldn't there be an attempt by Mateo to universalize her experience? To make me feel that her decision would have been my decision, if I was enduring her circumstances? Otherwise this is just a lifestyle piece.

CJinPA said...

If you want to stop working and f-ck around for awhile, just do it. Don't dress it up in the meaningless term of "finding" yourself.

I think we've indulged such vanity just long enough.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

What the hell was she doing in Europe? Trying to find herself? She has no Self to find.

This week my church is doing its annual mission trip to Tijuana to help build houses for the poor. Included in that group are several teenagers. In previous years some of those kids, who all come from affluent families, have cried on recounting the poverty they witnessed. They all always want to go back. The work is extremely hard since there is no electricity, so only hand tools can be used. They sleep in tents on air mattresses and showers are cold and powered by gravity.

PackerBronco said...

Of course she went to Europe to find herself, she sure wasn't going to find herself in "flyover country" Yuck!!

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

The author's father must be demanding a DNA test right about now. His trip must have involved incredible physical and mental toughness to complete.

This little snowflake was gone for less than 2 months. She managed to get messages in Thailand and drunk in Italy. How does something this vapid get published?

mockturtle said...

IMHO, the best time to do this sort of thing is between high school and college.

James K said...

His trip must have involved incredible physical and mental toughness to complete.

And risk of life and limb. Wasn't there a cross-country biker in the last couple of years who was hit by a car and killed? Or was that a walker?

Etienne said...

The reasons that the movie stars all have homes in Europe, is for tax tricks. It's not like they like living with people who can't speak f'n English, or provide a decent 115 volts at 60 Hertz...

RichardJohnson said...

John Farrier
Do these people have piles of cash lying around, gathering dust? Do they good jobs promised to them upon their return?

After I got my BS degree, I worked three months at an institution for the mentally retarded to pay for a 5-month trip to South America. No, I had no job lined up for my return.Because the college grad hires had been done in May,I had a difficult time finding an entry-level job in my profession after I got back to the US in September.Oh well.
I ended up hitching to Houston. I worked temp labor jobs for three months until I found an entry job in my profession- which turned out to be in Latin America. In that sense my 5-month post-baccalaureate job didn't hurt me.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Does going shirtless making wearing shorts more masculine?

I do like the helmetless 1979s look.

Bill Peschel said...

I always wonder about the cash these people are burning through, but that's because I didn't have enough saved to take off for three months.

On the other hand, who knows? Maybe I'm excusing my cowardice because I didn't take the bus to NYC in the early '80s, couch-surf, work crappy jobs, and be a part of what was new and exciting.

MadisonMan said...

Tangentially related, but about golf.

You may have heard an old guy died at the US Open.

Link. And now you know the rest of the story.

James K said...

To answer my own question, it seems that practically every year a cross-country cyclist is killed on the highway. Maybe cell phones have made it more dangerous.
2016
2015
2014

mockturtle said...

But it was also work. I struggled to get used to eating meals all alone, and had to force myself to make small talk with strangers, something I admittedly suck at. I missed my friends, and worried that I was missing out on life back home. I didn't always feel like sightseeing 24/7, and I occasionally felt lost without the structure of a daily routine—and then I felt guilty for being bored during what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

This would be laughable except for the fact that she seemed quite serious. Work? She wouldn't know work if she tripped over it in broad daylight.

Nick Carter said...

The adventures I had when I took a year off from university could fill a book. Plus I met me wife of 30 years, and can't really think of any possible way it would have happened if I hadn't taken a chance and gone travelling. The 2-1/2 years we spent driving around the US in a van after I graduated were just as rewarding. We're both glad we did it when we were young and relatively unencumbered.

n.n said...

A short return to Nature, away from anthropogenic noise, will realize the same stabilization at less cost and with improved sustainability.

Lewis Wetzel said...

And for most of my life, that rule held true. By 26, I had everything I thought I was supposed to want: a great job in publishing, an apartment in New York, enough money to get drinks and dinner when going out with friends after work. But I felt unfulfilled and unhappy, always wondering what came next with no idea—and no guts—how to make something happen myself. Still, voluntarily leaving the security of the 9-5 world for an uncertain future felt aimless and indulgent.
Note the passive voice "I had everything I thought I was supposed to want."
Who wanted it? She wanted it, of course.
And the paragraph ends with "Still, voluntarily leaving the security of the 9-5 world for an uncertain future felt aimless and indulgent." This is what she admitted when she wrote "I had everything I thought I was supposed to want . . ."
She didn't feel aimless and indulgent when she went to college and built a publishing/writing career. That choice is what made her feel aimless and indulgent. At 26, she should be thinking of marrying and starting a family (a man should be thinking of this as well).

Ann Althouse said...

"But Ann, both of those guys are wearing shorts."

I have always accepted the wearing of shorts in athletic activities where shorts are the traditional attire — such as basketball but not golf. Biking shorts are not to be criticized as a style choice, though a particular individual might be advised that he doesn't look good in them.

JLScott said...

How does something this vapid get published?

I see you're not a subscriber to Esquire.

PackerBronco said...

I did my "big trip" between undergraduate and graduate school. Worked as a bartender in a hotel in the Scottish Highlands (only way I could afford the trip) and then bought a bicycle and biked around the country until I had burned through my money had to go home. A great 9-month sojourn and then it was time to start grad school and become a grown-up.

n.n said...

Ah, yes. Context matters.

Althouse the girlfriend. Her advice is well crafted.

Etienne said...

My dad had a word for people who escaped the rat race, even if only briefly. He referred to these people as: bums.

I felt this was harsh. I mean, he was a victim of capitalism, the Great Depression, and a world war. He thought if you didn't work toward a pension, and save your money to raise a family, you were just pissing in the wind.

He only took two vacations in his life. They were both to Hawaii.

I once asked him why he went to Hawaii. Well, he said, two reasons: To visit Pearl Harbor, and to visit Lindbergh's grave.

Then also, to wander around with Hawaiian shirts and shorts, while gawking at naked women. Not to mention all the free booze you can handle.

He said a WW2 veteran in Hawaii without a free drink, is like vanilla ice cream without chocolate syrup on top...

I asked him why he didn't take mom. He said it was a vacation. You don't go on vacation with your wife! That's crazy.

Snark said...

"With all due respect, Titus, I fail to understand why one should have pride in one's sexual perversion[sic]. Tolerance, yes. Acceptance, of course. But pride???"

I wondered that too in the past...found it hard to connect/relate to the purpose and the expression of Pride events. But I've come to understand I think that because so many gay people lived and formed under oppressive social and familial shame, an expression and celebration of pride is the antidote to that. Healing for some, protective for others. To be proud is to not be ashamed. I think it is as beautiful and simple as that.

Ralph L said...

traditional attire — such as basketball but not golf
Plus fours? No bare leg, of course.

Nancy Reyes said...

when I read about the kids traveling the world, I always wonder: Who was paying the bills?

For all the 'hippie" retrospective on your blog, you have to remember that most of us were working hard because we were not rich. We had to work for a living, or in my case,(as a scholarship student) study. And we were ridiculed for doing so...

the "culture wars" started in the 1960's.
For example there is a famous scene where Jack Nicholson is ridiculing the hard working waitress in Easy Rider was cheered: but why? Because he was "freedom", but she was poor, probably supporting her family, and probably exhausted. But we never heard her side of the story, did we?

As for running off to Thailand: Sounds glamourous. But I wonder while he was partying if he noticed all those street kids, many of whom are sexually abused by affluent tourists?

Michael K said...

When my son was 16, I took him with me on the Transpac Race to Hawaii.

The idea was to give him a chance to grow up and be a man.

When he applied to college, he was supposed to write an essay on his most significant experience and he wrote it on the race.

The high school counselor asked him if he really wanted to go to college. The counsellor wanted something about a peace march.

I wish I could say it helped him become a man but he became a lawyer.

mockturtle said...

Well done, Michael!

Caroline Walker said...

Excellent point, Nancy Reyes

Michael K said...

Mockturtle, he was the kid in the white shirt in the middle.

Johnny Sokko said...

Just think of her carbon footprint with all that jet setting.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Michael K said...
When my son was 16, I took him with me on the Transpac Race to Hawaii.

I had a girlfriend who crewed on that race. She would have been 16 in 1981. Last name was Marchment, her father was an airline pilot. They were out of Malibu (IIRC, their boat wasn't much bigger than 40').

Zach said...

Europe until I realized we weren't talking about a motorcycle trip. The motorcycle ride across the country has a great American pedigree, but a bicycle trip? That sounds about on par with the daughter's "adventure".

From the article, it sounds like the dad wanted something like a spiritual quest. A difficult but achievable goal would be better for that than just sitting on a motorcycle.

the correspondence between an American cross-country bicycle trip and thoroughly tourist-y jaunts to Thailand and Europe is so bad.

Notice that the dad -- who comes across really well in this article -- didn't say his daughter needed to go on a spiritual quest. His advice was 1) quit the job that you hate, and 2) do the thing you always wanted to do. The daughter followed his advice on both points, and he was right both times! Way to go, dad!

Zach said...

I also suspect that if things have reached the point where your parents are suggesting you quit your job and bum around Europe for a while, it's probably *really obvious* that you're in a funk and need to have a little fun in your life.

These seem to be the types of jobs and career she probably dreamed about at college.

They also sound like economically uncertain jobs, where you might take a job you don't really like in hopes of getting a little security, only to regret it later on.