The term “Walkabout” splashed into modern popular culture thanks to the movie Crocodile Dundee in the 1980s. During that same great decade, the term “Vision Quest” was also immortalized by the blockbuster coming-of-age movie bearing that term as its title. One Aboriginal and the other Native American, both concepts refer to ancient rites of passage associated with a journey, a time of awakening and spiritual awareness. The concept of a journey marking a spiritual transition to adulthood is quite common. The Beat generation of the 1950s adopted Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” as its defining work. Sal Paradise’s adventures with Dean Moriarty reflected a real relationship between Karouac and Neal Cassady, one that included many cross-country automobile trips. In the 1960s, Cassady bore witness to an even more iconic journey, the New York to San Francisco acid trip of Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters, with Cassady actually driving the magic bus.
What one finds on such a journey really depends upon what one is looking for. Ancient rites of passage frequently sought a closer connection with gods or nature. Sal and Dean didn’t really seem to have goals at all, while the pranksters just wanted to enjoy a fleeting youth, unencumbered by the shackles of otherwise traditional social norms. That said, the Pranksters’ experimentation with drugs probably gave them a pretty good idea of the Apache peyote tradition from centuries earlier. I suspect at least one person saw God on that trip…
My journey is really all and none of the above. I just want perspective. Every person’s life is a mash up of his or her decisions, decisions made every moment of every day, and each based upon a unique amalgam of experience, values and desires. If one’s experience is limited, one’s decisions will be affected. If ones values are dogmatic, one’s perspective will be forever compromised. Kerouac says of the people with whom he prefers to spend time, “The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved…” I want to be one of them, even if I am a little too old to be making spiritual transitions to adulthood.