If There's A Fork In The Road

by Cameron Karsten Mar 1, 2007

Overlooking Paris

Experience is based on our personal choices, and we can bring as much or as little choice into the matter as we wish.

Life revolves; as the motion of the sun, as the pleating horizon and its contrasting hues from light to darkness and back. The individual, from their own perspective, is the traveler. And upon all travels, there is a road to follow.

But the road is full of choices. Which fork will you choose?

I’ve chosen the revolving life as a professional traveler. I decided, amidst my turbulent pubescent youth, that the road will always be mine, and thus found the lifestyle to support this decision.

And today, as I prepare to follow the winding road once again, I’m reminded of a phase I heard long ago: “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.”

The quote was read to me out of a book written by Pat Riley (one of the top ten NBA coaches of all-time according to NBA.com) entitled The Winner Within. I was nine, and hadn’t the slightest clue as to the significance behind the man’s word.

I now see it in its full light.

Experience is based on our personal choices, and we can bring as much or as little choice into the matter as we wish.

The Life Of A Student

Paris-its ancient European splendor often only found on one’s lap in turning pages of the finest of books.

The LouvreFive months I signed my life away and gave my word to family, friends, and Paris – that I would be a student. But five months for the traveler is eternity.

The French classes, the homestay with a lone parisienne mère, and the intense independence of the traveler buried throughout my consciousness. The forks a many, came and left offering choices in every direction.

Stay in Paris-the marooned traveler locked in a conceived commitment like a child to a heavy, hot-milked nipple. Or-my mind, body and Soul fancied- return home for a rest bit before the lingering dusty lane of the lone wanderer catches his scent afar once again.

I couldn’t help but sink beyond my nasal utterances into the wordless images of the road, that long curving path of travel, of familiarity within the unknown, which I’ve accustomed my psyche to. Where was I?

From the start and before the birth of my Parisian immersion, I collected my forks – every choice in the road that led to enrichment of adventure, shaped in spontaneity.

My present moment, my future, and my past rolled into one-they were in my hands and they slid upon my tongue.

The Manufacturing Of Commitment

As I said, I’m dedicated-to the softness of the pavement beneath my feet, as to the crisp steel shaping the idiom’s many forms. I’m dedicated to the life of the traveler. Paris’ time was up, and I clearly saw my fork.

A thought is a thought. Leave it at that and move on in your flow.

When a choice is made there is a manufacturing of commitment. “I will do this.” You tell yourself. You tell others. There’s a response from all: Yes you will, or possibly the contrary.

And the word spreads round as you convince yourself of its necessity, its permanence within you. A bond is created. A thought, into speech, turned action.

However, a choice remains at its origin as that plain thought, and then its gone. But here lies the trouble: perhaps you can’t let go. You’re stuck because you took it so seriously, so whole-mindedly that there was nothing else ever to get in the way.

A thought is a thought. Leave it at that and move on in your flow.

A Return To The Road

A spiral of pathsAlthough I thought about Paris from the beginning, shared it, and created it as my reality, five months was whose commitment? Mine? The stone of life and its magical impossibility of revolving and evolving? (Even stones get the blues when they erode).

My five months is two months too long.

I stop, take in a breath, and feel the current circumstances I am fighting against. A perceived commitment, which never existed, vanishes for good as my current becomes unblocked. I let go and I flow, far from Paris.

No, I’m not married to any single thought. I never was, and I never made a commitment. There never was one in any of the forks I came upon because indubitably, as my road revolves and evolves, new choices are made, affecting the current life circumstances.

I don’t allow someone or something else to begin collecting my forks for me. They’re mine-it’s my life.

In other words, it all comes down to this: Bundled in a ball, simple enough for a nine year old to play with, Pat Riley also said, “Don’t let other people tell you what you want.” Deliberately take it upon yourself to recognize and embrace your life’s choices.

If there’s a fork in the road, take it.

Cameron Karsten writes a weekly spiritual travel column for Brave New Traveler. He left his formal classroom studies to indulge in dreams of travel at 19 years old, and has been wandering ever since. Visit his personal photography website.

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