Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Journey is More Important than the Destination

An element of “On the Road” which I found to be very interesting is that Sal seems to be most happy when he’s traveling to a new place. Like most people today, Sal does not seem to particularly enjoy the process of travel itself. He becomes frustrated when he’s stranded and no one will pick him up, as in Stuart, Iowa, and he often grows impatient of waiting and splurges for a bus ticket. However, even though he is sometimes discouraged by the difficulties of hitchhiking, as anyone probably would be, the hope of where he is going and belief that a great place and experience lie ahead seem to inspire Sal to keep going. He seems to believe that if he can just reach his destination everything will come together for him and make sense.

However, once Sal does reach a destination his happiness there seems to be short lived before he has a new desire and feels the need to travel again. For example at the beginning of the book all Sal wants is to get to Denver and be reunited with his old gang. He spends all his money and goes without sleep just to get to Denver as quickly as possible, and the whole time he is happy and fully of hope and excitement about his destination. When he returns from the trip into the mountains with his friends Sal comments, “I was itching to get on to San Francisco” (56). Shortly after he travels to San Francisco and again is full of excitement on his trip there, but after a while he is again eager to move on. “There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded- at least that’s what I thought then” (79). He then hatches a plan to hitchhike back East.

It seems like Sal is constantly searching for something more or new, never being quite satisfied with his location and always wanting to go further. He is very eager traveler, preferring to be on the journey hopeful and excited as opposed to actually at the destination. I think the character of Sal points to the possibility that the actual process of travel itself is more important than the destination. When traveling it’s easy to focus on the destination, where we will end up. However, I think the fact that Sal is happiest “on the road,” as suggested by the title, challenges this practice and points to the fact that travel is an active process and journey, so we don’t just learn from the conclusion but from all parts of the experience. Furthermore, the work seems to suggest that part of being human is constantly moving forward and traveling as opposed to becoming stagnant and staying in a single place in life.

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