I love travel days. Now a routine part of my life, they offer the immediate excitement of active change mixed with the humbling perspective of movement, particularly when I move past people whose lifestyles differ greatly from mine. From October through March, we pretty much vagabond it from coast to coast, country to country, and I can’t get enough of it.
While it’s fun to get all philosophical, like I said, travel days now feel routine. Habitual, even. It’s always the same: arrive at airport, try to check overweight bag, repack overweight bag, take shoes off at security, get patted down at security, go to gate, avoid eye contact until boarding, avoid eye contact on plane, land, disembark, go to gate, repeat. You get it.
Two days ago, this routine was completely and surprisingly disrupted by an unfamiliar piece of carry-on luggage: A guitar.
See, my teammate Jessie forgot hers in Vermont when she traveled west, and I, being the loyal, helpful friend that I am, agreed to transport it for her. Honestly, at first I begrudgingly accepted. My bag was already overweight, after all. But, the minute I entered the double doors of the Albany airport, I changed my mind. Turns out, carrying a guitar makes people think that you’re really cool.
Never in my life have I been approached by so many strangers, received more than passing glances and brief inquiries. I became queen of that airport, and Jessie’s guitar was my crown.
How I actually handled those inquiries varied. At first, I told the truth, that I was a roadie for my friend, it wasn’t mine, I’m not musical. Soon, that story grew dull. My teammate Andy was also carrying his ax (it’s an industry term, don’t worry about it), so we thought about posing as a Mormon folk band heading to Salt Lake. When one man asked if I was a professional musician or if I just played for fun, I responded that I was “just carrying it to look cool.” The surrounding passengers erupted in laughter. Little did they know that the answer was more true than it was false. Apparently you’re funnier when you carry a guitar, too.
Throughout the day, I really embraced my new status as a musician, to the point where I almost forgot that I had a guitar (we were one, man). Whilst waiting for my flight to Salt Lake City, a woman at my gate made short, kind conversation with me.
“Do you travel a lot?” She asked, eying my instrument.
“Yeah, so long as I can afford to,” I quipped. I was working on a sponsorship packet, I didn’t think she would get the joke but that’s never stopped me from snarking around with strangers.
“Well, keep at it. Not everyone gets to live that kind of life.”
I smiled and thanked her before even realizing that we spoke of two different things. WAIT, I thought. Is she talking about skiing? Or music?
I then considered, why were people so enamored by my (Jessie’s) guitar? It couldn’t be that they thought I was famous (because A. I’m not famous as proven by my B. sitting in the center of the back row of the aircraft with the other plebeians) nor was it simply that they admired a unique skill. There’s something more that makes musicians so indubitably cool.
Perhaps the traveling guitar represented something deeper to them, something romantic and ideal. Perhaps they saw a career of traveling gig to gig, eating off of meagre stipends while simultaneously living a simple and unequivocally happy life and couldn’t help but feel intrigued. Perhaps they envisioned dark, bohemian times sprinkled with life long friendships and the soulful benefits of the road. Maybe they admired the pursuit of something neither glamorous nor lucrative, but personally meaningful.
On my flight into Salt Lake, I sat next to man who himself once dreamt of chasing the dream in skiing. Life circumstances led him elsewhere, towards a great deal of business success, but he did not hesitate to support my decision to ski full time, to live the vagabond life and pursue an all but elusive goal. His words were encouraging, but also advisory. He reminded me to keep in mind that mine is a privileged life, that I should do nothing else but take advantage of it, to truly love it. Because, as the woman said at the gate, not everyone gets that chance.
Because, I do live gig to gig, breaking even by surviving on sponsorship product, riding the highs to endure the lows while meeting incredible people along the way. My instruments say about as much about me, lovingly taped together and packed into an oversized ski bag that draws about as much attention as a guitar case.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m basically a rockstar.
But also that even when the going gets roughest, I know that this job, this sport, these people, deserve a great deal of gratitude. Because not everyone gets to do this.