As a kid, I watched reruns of “Route 66” featuring George Maharis, “The Fugitive” starring David Janssen, “Run For Your Life” with Ben Gazzara, and “Then Came Bronson” with zeiygeist hero Michael Parks. From two guys in a roadster traversing the west to a doctor escaping the law to a lawyer finding meaning in his final days of life to a vagabond who becomes the catalyst for change in people’s lives. — each showcased a man on the move who enters new situations, encounters meaningful relationships, and ends each episode by hitting the road.
As I descend from Lake Batur, stopping at temple and warung, one after the other, I realize my motorcycle road travels through Bali are like the TV road shows of the past. Yes beautiful scenery, incredible food, but the conversations, the people I meet off-handed, on the side of the road, asking for directions, the gym owner who humbly tells me pre-pandemic he worked housekeeping on a cruise ship, the family pulling weeds to maintain the luxury look of their hotel empty of guests, the smiling chef of a Michelin starred restaurant who tours me through her kitchen, the lady at a roadside warung who makes me coffee at no charge because I do not have small bills (I later returned and paid in full). Each of my encounters is an episode from those childhood TV shows, stories about travel and meaning found in the mundane. All of those shows are not as they seem. They are about a traveler, a traveler much like me.
If the 1960’s were about cheap backpacking through Europe, later decades were the Middle East and Southeast Asia. I was in Laos a couple of years ago, hiking up the Tat Sae Waterfalls near Luang Prabang. I was on a journey to recapture my youth, and met a guy at the top of the falls who was everything I wanted to be: young, independent, and adventurous. The 28 year old had dumped his finance job in NYC, flown to SE Asia, bought a motorcycle, and was road tripping through Laos. I wanted to be him. My longing turned out to be a premonition.
I am now on that road trip, discovering wrong turns, dead ends, and the connections to humanity like those TV shows of long ago.