Does escapism drive our desire to road trip?

Outside Fairbanks, AK on the road to Denali National Park

I have been thinking a lot about escapism recently. Ever since I passed my 40th birthday one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs keeps coming to mind: “A Pirate Looks At 40”. The song, like most of Buffett’s work talks about escapism. Its theme about a man who at forty was contemplating his mortality and assessing just what he’s done with his life was definitely a meme that resonated with me. I am working on a spin on that “A Gen-Xer Looks at 50”…but thats a story for another time. Instead, lets talk about escapism more generally.

There is something so intoxicating about escapism. Jimmy Buffett has made a career of playing into our escapist fantasies and more recently Kenny Chesney and the Zac Brown Band have learned from Buffett and are appealing to audiences with much of the same message.

What is it in those songs that tugs at us? Well of course there is the care-free life of sitting on a beach with a boat drink in your hand; who could complain about that?

But I think there is more to it than that. Because if you look at it Americans today have a much easier go of it at work then they historically have. Now, don’t get me wrong–obviously there are people who are struggling and people who work at back-breaking jobs every day. But what I meant was many jobs are far easier than the jobs our grandparents had.

There are very few of us working six 12-hour days in a coal mine or in a sweltering factory. There are few of us who are getting hurt or sick on the job because of poor working conditions. Many of us work in an air conditioned building and work regular hours and have our weekends off. So we have less reason to yearn for an escape, yet we still do.

So what are we running from?

I think that there is something ingrained in the American DNA that makes us escapist. Nearly all of our ancestors came here as a form of escapism, so we are predisposed to pack it in and head for greener pastures.

When we listen to a Buffett song we yearn for that life of running away from people telling us what to do and making our way in the world in what ever way makes us happy.

Jimmy calls this a gypsy-soul. The part of your soul that keeps you wandering–not able to stay in one place for very long.

In my gypsy-soul I wish I were a good enough writer to live a life like Hemingway–-living a nomadic lifestyle of traveling around the globe going from cafes in Europe (here is Papa’s favorite cafe in Paris) to dive bars in the Caribbean (like the Soggy Dollar Bar) meeting people and observing life and earning a living chronicling the interesting people that are all around me.

I have a feeling more than a few of you can relate to the idea of my fantasy escape–if not that fantasy in particular. Like I said, I believe it is ingrained in our DNA to want to wander.

I think most people are afflicted with that gypsy-soul but there are only a few of us who actually listen to it. The rest of us just dream about wandering and that is why we embrace the Margaritaville mythos. Its also why we seek out Interstate Adventures and dream about hitting the open road like Doug and Loretta and recreate one of their trips.

We yearn to live according to our gypsy-soul but we are afraid to let go of our everyday lives–earning a steady dollar, being able to pay the bills, work and family responsibilities, etc. That’s why we flock to Buffett’s and Chesney’s concerts to dream of running away–if only for a few hours.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being responsible like that. We need to be adults at the end of the day. But I do think we need to spend just a little more time listening to our gypsy-souls every once in a while.

Very few of us have the means to be able to live the life that Jimmy Buffett is selling us. BUT–we do need to escape every now and then. Like that great philosopher, Ferris Bueller, once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” We all need to slow down and take some time to just relax and escape.

That’s the point of this site. We encourage everyone to take a road trip, even if its just a long weekend, get away and listen to your gypsy-soul.

I know my ideas of escape are pretty specific to my dreams…what are yours? What is your dream escape?

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