A boat gently nudged against the shore, rhythmically mimicking the movement of the ocean beneath it. The waves licked the damaged oars that had been carelessly left hanging over the rim of the aged (and somewhat neglected) boat. The sun had fallen behind the edge of the ocean many hours ago, and in it’s place a dark blanket veiled over the sky. The air was still and the surrounding land gave no signs that life could be found within it’s body. The only hint of an outside world came from the faint glow of the stars far off in the distance, any source of light had been scared away by motionless clouds that lay above the vastness of trees and mountains. It was like another world, they said, a place so disconnected from reality; yet more aware of the essence of life than they had ever known. That is why they searched for it, or so they say, they were not in search of a better life, nor a richer one; they were simply searching for a life that they could claim as their own.
I found their story in bits and pieces, scattered in secret places. There’s a lot of it I don’t understand, and I think it’s because I’ve never been there. I can only imagine the things they describe and the lives they had lived for such a short while. I think I’ve found myself obsessed with their story, in the same way they became obsessed with creating it, and perhaps I should not share this with you in case you grow the same obsession. Whilst I accept that I alone cannot create my own story, I know I can share theirs, and I hope you know that is my only intention; to tell a story. You are already creating your own.
They had found each other through one way or another; a support group, a quiet bar, a busy coffee shop, through mutual friends, in a class at college. It didn’t matter how they met, not to them, everything that happened in the past days held no significance. It was the journey they cared about; they breathed for it, and very quickly with no explanation, it became their meaning in life. I’ve tried explaining this to people, what I mean when I say ‘the meaning of life,’ but it’s probably the only thing in life that can’t be explained. I believe it’s different for each individual, it changes as we age, as our hearts get broken and we learn how to love and how to deal with loss. This wasn’t the case for them, or perhaps it had been at one point, but through their various ways they all developed the same meaning. It had been laid out in print, slipped into their favourite book or song, it became imprinted in their daily language. Their meaning of life became very simple, very impossible:
This is not your life. You must search for the life that belongs to you. Everything else is irrelevant. Search for your life.
They took it upon themselves to find a place where they would be the only thing that mattered; every day material objects would become irrelevant, the daily routine of a 9-5 job, a work out at the gym, counting the units in each glass of wine, it would all be forgotten. All they needed was another like minded person to assist them in their endeavour. They realised that for the time being, they still had one foot placed in the world they longed to leave behind, they realised that perhaps they weren’t the only ones who had the desire to erase and recreate their own life. While they still had the means to reach out to others, an online forum was created; just one on a free website and it never had any more than 10 registers users. That was all they needed, they could combine their life skills in order to make their journey as easy as possible, and it was agreed that as soon as they arrived at their destination it would be a solitary lifestyle. They were to use each other for the sake of convenience, but they were never allowed to lose sight of their goal, of the reasoning behind their efforts. A destination had been decided on, although it was claimed by all that it hadn’t been a decision but more of a ‘calling.’ Each person claimed that they all knew of their destination without ever speaking of it, without ever planning it; it was a place that had summoned them and they answered in the obedient manner it demanded.
It took some time before I was able to fully comprehend the extent of the struggles they faced during their travel. It was a journey I failed to complete, and the secret to their success is something I’ll never quite know. I can only assume that it was because I went in search of this place for curiosities sake, and not for the purpose of faith. My path was blocked long before I could even set my eyes on the shore, before I could really experience the darkness and sanctity that I have since learnt of. I can only speak of the vague descriptions they left in their place, so that will have to be enough.
They boarded a plane, flight number VX3501, London Heathrow to Indian Mountains, Utopia Creek, Alaska. From there they headed north, mostly by foot, occasionally via hitch hiking. With no true destination, it was easy enough for them to navigate to the edge of the land. Along the way, their group decreased in size; some blaming the never ending cold wind, others feigning illness. In the end, 6 people stood along the harbour, watching the sun rise for the last time, lost in their thoughts of the world they were leaving behind and consumed by anxiety. It was the strongest silence they had experienced, with their mind at full volume while the world around them disappeared into the background. They abandoned their backpacks on the land, rented a boat with their last bit of money; all promising the harbour guard that he would have full access to the entirety of their funds as they informed him that they had no intention of returning the boat. They opted for the smallest boat, an old wooden one that had been on many fishing trips; a boat that was capable of sailing far enough to the quietest part of the lakes, suitable for some off shore sight seeing in the calm weather; small enough to slip off the earth, unheard and unnoticed.
As they stepped into the boat, knees touching, sharing body heat as the wind picked up and the sun becoming more prominent in the sky above them. He picked up the oars and began to push the boat out to the sea. Nobody looked back at the land they were leaving far behind. Nobody spoke. Nobody shed a tear. They could not remember how they came to be sat together, abandoning their lives, sharing a journey with strangers. They did not share stories, because they left them behind with their backpacks; all of their memories had been stuffed deep inside and abandoned in a place they had no intention of visiting in order to travel to a place they did not know of. He felt as though he was leading them, yet he knew he was no leader. Penniless and possessionless, they only had themselves for company. They lost themselves in a state of meditation, only occasionally emptying their minds of their thoughts when it became their turn to fill in a page of a notebook. The only item they had agreed to bring with them from their own world; a 200 page thin ruled notebook and two pens. They had not been touched until the boat had been boarded and their new lives were ready to begin. He started writing their story first, unsure of what to include, yet certain that the purging of his mind would allow him to be reborn. The notebook remained blank for what he thought had been two days. It presented itself as temptation to become a link to the world they had left in the distance. Still, it had its uses and they knew it was a temptation they had to overcome before opening up to the new life. No one knew how long the journey would be, but each of them fought with their inner demons to rid themselves of the past world; the older years.
The sky hasn’t changed for what feels like days. I lost sight of the sun long ago. I don’t know anybody else’s name. I feel alone, and this time it’s very real. I don’t know what I expected from this journey, I guess maybe I just wanted to test myself; to see if I could really do, just up and leave. I’ve left everyone behind, all my responsibilities, all the things I never wanted but now I think i’ve taken it all for granted. This has all become incredibly real very quickly. Everybody keeps looking at me as if I have the answers to their unspoken questions. They keep looking at me with need in their eyes. It’s too late for me to turn back. I can’t even remember how I ended up here, but I’m sure it can’t have been that long since I decided to say my quiet goodbye to home. I suppose I shouldn’t call it home, I’m heading towards a new home. I don’t know why. If I’m honest, my head feels pretty empty right now. I keep trying to remember their faces, but the longer I spend in the middle of nothingness, the more my mind becomes filled with just that. Nothingness. Everything is becoming erased, and I think at one point that’s what I wanted. But now it scares me. I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m searching for. I don’t know what pushed me this close to the edge, close enough to forget everyone and everything. Whatever it was, it’s succeeding. The closer I get to…wherever it is, it becomes more real. I can see it in my mind now. Cars, mobile phones, coffee shops, it feels like they’re just words I have made up. That isn’t real anymore. Real is the shore. I can see it. The pale sand running into the stillness of the ocean. The trees towering over me. I can see it all. I keep telling myself that I’m sailing us to a place that’s not so different to the world I know, but I stopped sailing a long time to go. I haven’t touched the oar since land left my sight. The subtle movement of the waves have been moving us closer to the shore of our unknown land. I can already sense the difference in the air. It doesn’t move but I can still feel the touch of nature on my cheeks. I’m no longer cold but I’m still shivering. The water looks different; it looks cleaner. Every so often I test the temperature and it feels like thick oil against my skin. I taste it and the further we’ve travelled, the less salt there seems to be. It keeps us dehydrated. It’s like it’s protecting us. There is no wind so the waves are gentle, the motion never changes. It seems to be swaying us like a lullaby, it never picks the boat up too high, we feel no threat of capsizing.
I’ve lost all sense of direction. Even as I’m writing this, I can feel it all changing. Not the world around me. I feel like I’m not in the world anymore, the ocean has taken us elsewhere. The sky isn’t changing, nor the water or the wind. My mind is changing. I’ve been trying to hold on to the colour of her eyes and the scent of her skin, but even she is slipping away from me. I didn’t tell her I was leaving, but I think she knew I was. I don’t know why I think this, but I started to grow distant even when I was still with her. When she was shouting and crying at me, the blue of her eyes growing darker as I ignored her words. She turned her back on me on our last night, and I didn’t say goodbye when I left the next morning. I knew I had hurt her, but she couldn’t understand that I was doing it for both of us. I had my demons pulling me back, stopping me from loving her the way she deserved. I knew I had to go. Completely. She would never forgive me otherwise, I’d have pulled her down with me.
But now there’s no fear of that, because I can’t remember her face. I once had every part of her mesmerised, but it’s all slipping away from me, and I think the same is happening her. She won’t be able to remember my name by now, and I can’t remember hers.
I suppose this is why I’m here, on this boat in some ocean. Latitude and Longitude mean nothing to me now I’m here. I know I have left and I know something greater is waiting for me. I’ve done this for her. For them. I would have pulled all of them down.