I don’t know when I first had a desire to travel alone, but I’m pretty sure a Hollywood and adventure books had a hand in it. A mysterious adventure, sort of like Indiana Jones or even Forrest Gump, has always been somewhere on the radar, but not in your face kind of type, rather on the edge of peripheral vision, already out of focus, but yet with colours and motion recognized. That type of traveling, when one heads out alone, is not a common occurrence in the human history. Those who attempt this feat are the outsiders, cast out of their communities, and it is sort of a one-way ticket to be expelled from the community, with only hopes of finding… what, another community of like-minded outcasts. A quite unlikely outcome.

Of course the days have changed, and so the communes of outcasts can now tweet, post, snap, and do whatever they need from the always-draining-always-charging smartphones. This delirium of being within a group but still separated by inattention to reality and the power of blue screen glue that keeps eyes focused on tiny glowing screens is a global cancer of the present.

As I sit in front of half-complete page of writing, eyes half-gazing over street with a dimly lit screen, one prolific memory is coming back into central view now. Pack a bag, jet, set, go go, and I’m in Shanghai. First stop. Shanghai is brutal, but not because of glitter and shit mixed together so thoroughly that it simply because a glitter shit, but rather because the blue screen glue isn’t potent. Just as I crossed the border, the communists cast a wide net, rendering my devices, my means of reaching out to the world, worthless. The VPN won’t work or help. The drip of loneliness breaks the dam and turned into a tsunami, breaking my heart and shattering the soul. The bigger the city, the bigger the yearn for acceptance, and Shanghai can definitely break even a sarcastic could into pieces.

Another memory drifts into view. I’m in Vietnam, not alone. I’m travelling with the companion. The fear of taking a trip through the whole new-undiscovered-yet-so-familiar country is crushing me. We are on the sleeper bus, and it’s full of backpackers, just like us. The road twists are raging, and the bus driver, high on adrenaline, drives through the night. I wonder what unites us. Does backpacking status makes me what to connect with the people-who-I-share-the-backpack-style. Who are they, who am I, who are we, moving through the night on narrow mountainous roads through long and narrow outline of the map named Viet Nam. The magic trick is to find the batman signal — something to unite, something to connect us, beyond the basic features. All we need is a common connection, even a fluke one, that will tell yes, you are in the faraway land, but don’t be scared, I am of your kind, here, take the hand, I will not betray you, we share a common love for… for what. A baseball team. A brand of clothing? A camera strap!? A hometown, the same hometown that is home to 5 million? What gives. I’d take that too.

The lonely traveller does hold a wish to come home one day, and yet, the homecoming, the sweet memory of familiar, the memory of comfort is not what awaits at the end. The homecoming spirit is swept away by nervousness of daily routine, people crammed on the subway, busy making ends meet, focusing on getting ahead, making up excuses fixing busy calendars, there’s no time for them for the tales of the faraway adventures. They live in the present. The live the day. The moment you step outside, a refresh, a reset, a glitch has erased it all from their memory, and there is no coming back to feeling the same again. A moment of homecoming, a dream of being relevant, is as translucent as silks at the exotic Asian market, nothing more than a false promise. And the lonely traveller gets out on the road again, once and forever locked in a repeat nomadic loop. That’s how it’s going to be, now and ever.

Chief Growth Officer at Skylum, maker of Luminar AI. Before: founder of 500px (a16z backed, acquired in 2018).

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