Opinion

COLUMN: In praise of a wandering spirit

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I met a young woman named Faye the other day.

She was enchanting, but not in the usual way.

We were outside the River Market in New West and she was unlocking the bike next to mine.

We chatted.

Nice day, I said.

Sure is, she replied. And when she said yesterday's glorious weather had tempted her to ride out to Abbotsford, I asked, in a roundabout way, what would possess you to do that?

The sun, for one thing, she said.

But this is her life.

She wakes up in the morning and decides where to ride her bike, who she’ll visit. Occasionally she’ll pick up a little work while she’s there—landscaping and the like.

She has lots of friends scattered around the region, she said. And, judging by her easy smile and the way we fell into a comfortable conversation, I’m sure she makes new ones wherever she goes.

To look at her, she isn’t scruffy in the way you might imagine someone riding a bike around the region might look. Yet she is doing something we’re more accustomed to scruffy folks doing.

Wandering.

Now that’s a loaded word.

Faye says people get anxious when they hear about her lifestyle these days.

But where are you going? they ask. She shrugs. How long are you going to do this for? Another shrug, and a sweet, mischievous smile that kind of says ‘crazy, I know.’

“Driven” is a word we use to flatter. “Wandering” sounds inefficient, lost even, or at least off course, right?

She admits she’s not immune to the pull of this mindset too, the push to get back into the grooves society digs for us—the pursuit of the house, the car, the career track, the kids—the grooves that, some days, feel more like ruts.

And can you believe it, she’s not even blogging about her experience!

So what’s it all for, then? What is “driving” her to, um, not be driven?

Faye says she’s been doing this about a year, riding from town to town throughout B.C., staying with friends, old and new. Before that she took a trip to Costa Rica and like many young people before her, she saw a way of living that challenged everything she’d grown up with.

The people there had so little, materially, yet seemed to have so much in terms of community. They spent a lot more time focused on coming together, she told me, and less time working and stressing about achievement and our ideas of success.

When I was in my 20s the idea of doing what Faye is doing would have made me queasy. I’ve always liked to know where the path is. The plan. Exploring? Sure. But wandering? Yikes.

But meeting people like Faye can be energizing and stimulating. Her journey, her courage and her willingness to embrace the unknown—are inspiring.

She admits she won’t be doing this forever. One day her wandering will cease.

And yes, she’s 20-something, and to a degree wandering is something many of her peers do.

Few take it this far, though.

When Faye and I finished chatting down by the river, I said to call me at the newspaper if she passed this way again. Maybe we could have coffee and talk more.

About a week later I returned to my office after an interview. She’d left a message.

“At the River Market again, until three thirty. Come out if you’d like to meet up.”

I’d missed her.

And maybe that’s for the best.

The image I’d created in my mind of Faye’s life would remain intact. One of romance and adventure, and continuous discovery. No fears or anxieties about paying the bills. No blisters, and no nagging questions about where it will all lead in the end.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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