Photo: Clara Bensen/Via Salon.
In case you're wondering what Zooey Deschanel and Ryan Gosling will get up to next, our bets are on a slightly tweaked adaptation of this real-life story published on Salon today. In it, Clara Bensen tells the story of how she and Jeff — a man she met on OkCupid — ended up traveling the world with only a pocket's worth of items in hand. One outfit, no pajamas, an iPhone, a toothbrush, and a map.
They hitch-hiked through Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, also stopping in Sarajevo and Budapest. They made no plans and slept everywhere from random lawns to the beds of kind strangers. Did they achieve "nirvana"? Well, it was tiring and exhausting, but at the same time, Bensen points out: "We were vividly present in the midst of a disorienting cloud of city grids, metro stops, and incomprehensible dialects that shape-shifted with every border crossing. We were alive."
Seriously, this is begging for a major motion picture. While she doesn't go into their love story much, it's not hard to extrapolate and imagine a very MPDG-infused take on the whole thing, complete with a folksy soundtrack and a Wes Anderson-lite view on life. But, it also poses some questions about what we want as a society, right now. That longing feeling you might get while reading this story from the cubicle at your 9-to-5 makes us think of this story recently published by The New York Times. In it, a father muses on his son's seemingly directionless yet truly very fulfilling life as a musician and sometimes-substitute-teacher. In a particularly poignant moment at the end, he recalls a conversation with a friend who says that upon retirement, he'll take up fishing, traveling, living on the fly, and occasionally taking odd jobs when he needs money. "My friend, who has everything," the author wonders, "is working his tail off, making maximum contributions to his 401k and buying rental properties, so he can afford to have the life of someone who has none of the trappings of success."
Is it just us, or is this kind of malaise — just enough to make you depressed, but not enough to actually jolt you into action — becoming a more significant tone in our society with each passing year? We don't know where these two are now, but it seems like Jeff, at least, makes a habit of this kind of "travel experiment." It sounds wonderful. Impossibly wonderful, maybe. It's certainly the kind of bourgeois dream that has made millennials the spite of many articles. It's rare, though, to read about people who've actually gone through with this kind of lifestyle, even if just for 21 days. We have to wonder: Is reading this piece just another form of escapism, like any movie filmed in an exotic locale, or are these stories and their matching Pinterest boards really indicative of some future global migration of reasonably, relatively wealthy young Americans hitch-hiking their way across the globe?
It's like the boho resurgence in fashion of a few years back: We want the trappings of a free-spirited lifestyle, but, do we actually want to live like that? If we did, wouldn't we all be on a broken-down bus in Eastern Europe, right beside Clara and Jeff, as we speak? (Salon)