First of all, toward a definition. I don’t mean “free” as in money-less, though much of Free Travel is free in that sense as well. My thought for it is more in line with “Free Jazz.” A way of expression. A way of communication. A way of tapping into natural harmonies and rhythms that resist following a set of humanly-preconceived forms, rules, schemes, etc.
Ordinary travel involves itineraries, schedules, plans. The dreaded, spontaneity-killing “AAA TripTik (as in “tick,” a blood-sucking pest that gets under your skin). In ordinary travel, success is measured by adherence to time tables. “Making good time” refers to a quantitative value of miles or hours as opposed to a qualitative value of experiences and epiphanies.
In Free Travel, you allow the road to decide. There are no plans. No pre-conceived notions of what is supposed to happen. You ride the Moment, following the road to where it leads. There is no illusion of a destination. The journey itself is the goal.
If you believe (falsely) that you are supposed to arrive in Cleveland at 5 p.m. and don’t, you feel you have failed. Every minute past 5:00 increases the degree of your failure. But the problem wasn’t not being in Cleveland at 5:00; the problem was believing that that was what was supposed to happen. The universe unfolds as it must. Following the unfolding leads to success. Resisting the unfolding leads to failure. Always.
Clinging to the Cleveland at 5 fallacy also causes you to miss out on the experience that actually was happening for you. If you view the gifts of the Moment, the small miracles and epiphanies of the ordinary, as merely obstacles to a pre-conceived goal, you’ll never appreciate that in the ordinary lies the extraordinary. In the subtle is the profound. In the profane lives the sacred. Our attentiveness reveals the magic.
As in Free Jazz, the method of proficiency in Free Travel is to develop openness and “deep listening.” You must learn to be open to the whims of the Moment, the possibilities of movement, the wildness of change. And then, in order to respond in sync with the music of the road, you must practice deep listening.
Deep listening is what I teach in theatre. It is worlds beyond merely hearing. Hearing is what happens when a sound wave hits your ear drum. It’s passive. Automatic. Without meaning. But listening is active, conscious and loaded with meaning. It involves all the senses, all six or all twenty-seven or all of the infinity of senses that we possess yet will never name. Infinity which is One. In deep listening, you reach out with the entirety of your being – reaching out to connect with the Other. It is seeking the natural flow, and following without resistance.
It’s exactly what Lao Tzu taught. Which is why, at one point in Vagaond Song I refer to Free Travelers as “vagabontaoists.” It’s not merely an attempt at witty word play.
John Coltrane says, ““All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws.” Bashō says:
Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural – if the object and yourself are separate – then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.
What’s true for the musician and writer is true for every artist. And Free Travel is without question an art form.