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Road trips lead wanderers in right direction

By Mike Fink
CNN Headline News

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Hitting the road gives travelers some uninterrupted time for reflection.
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(CNN) -- I just finished reading Rush drummer Neil Peart's "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road." The book is an account of Peart's self-imposed exile and travels to grieve the deaths of his wife and daughter, who both died within a year of each other.

In 14 months, Peart put 55,000 miles on his motorcycle in a quest for meaning and peace.

He, like many others, instinctively knew, or at least hoped, that "the road" would provide an escape where healing could take place and answers could be found.

Peart's story reminded me of Theodore Roosevelt's travel West to overcome the sorrow of losing his wife and mother, who both died on the same day. After their deaths, Roosevelt spent two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory riding, driving cattle and hunting before he went on to become one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Throughout the remainder of his life in times of stress and trial, Roosevelt returned to his wanderings for solace.

In "Detours: Life, Death and Divorce on the Way to Sturgis," Richard La Plante relates a motorcycle trip he took to escape debt, family pressures and writer's block. He rode from New York to the famous rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. The book tells about the people he meets, trouble he faces and the self-discovery he encounters along the way.

After losing his job and his wife, William Least Heat-Moon turned to 13,000 miles of American back road for answers. Heat-Moon was able to put the past behind him through the people and places he discovered through his travels. "Blue Highways: A Journey into America" chronicles how he was able to turn his life around through his extended road trip.

In the early '70s, Peter Jenkins was a young man who was disillusioned with his country. He walked from New York to New Orleans, Louisiana, in an effort to find the "soul" of America. At the end of his adventures, he finished his trip with wisdom and confidence. He wrote about his "rediscovery" of America in "A Walk Across America."

I have caught a glimpse of the therapeutic effects of the open road myself. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I drove 2,000 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, to Salt Lake City, Utah, to my sister's wedding because the airlines were canceling flights.

Rush drummer Neil Peart's "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" focuses on his motorcycle journeys after the loss of his wife and daughter.

As the miles and days went by, it was heartening to see numerous flags at half-staff and various displays of unity and patriotism. They reminded me of my faith in humanity. The trip was a breath of fresh air for my mind and soul.

Why is it that many troubled souls seek out the open road for comfort and clarity? Writing about the immediacy and rawness of traveling, Michael Crichton suggests the traveler, stripped of routine and familiar surroundings, is forced into direct experience. The traveler must face reality and sometimes danger, not ideas or opinions.

Also, the experience seems to perpetuate and complement "inner travel," providing long periods of uninterrupted time for reflection. When the chemistry of outward experience and inward "soul searching" combine, it makes for good traveling on the healing road.


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