Posts Tagged ‘yankeeronin’

Two weeks ago, I received this private message on Facebook:

“Hello my Dear Western-ly living Unschooler Friends! I hope you are all well and happy. In case you missed the memo, my 20yo son, Austin, is on an American Walkabout. Check out his blog here: http://yankeeronin.blogspot.com/ He is now in Idaho and heading in your general direction. He travels without money, and on foot or by hitchhiking. I’m here to ask if any of you would be interested in hosting my boy for a night or two while he is on his journey. All I would need from you would be an email, phone number, and city of residence to pass along to him. YES, this is for real, sorry if it seems impersonal to email the four of you as a group. tongue emoticon If you prefer to respond by PM, feel free. Thank you all for considering helping him out; he’s a great kid and you will enjoy him a lot. Love, heart emoticon”

Well, it wasn’t entirely private since four of us and the sender were involved, but it also wasn’t public. I’ve known the sender for at least a decade – we were both members of the same unschooling support group when I was still homeschooling. She has five boys and lives in the Midwest. I’ve never met her face to face.

I was very excited about the prospect of helping out a young adventurer, especially since I did something similar when I was 20. You can read about it in the four or five blog posts centering around Jaci’s Great Adventure. So, I approached Don & asked him if he thought we could help out.

Austin showed up on a Monday while I was at work. I was able to find odd jobs for him at the outset, but everything sort of fell off the table after that. Undeterred, and in love with the Portland area, he applied for jobs. I took him on a tour of Oregon City (which included riding the elevator). He figured out mass transit in Portland.

You’d think that with college kids going back to school, that jobs would open up – not so. Austin hiked all of Oregon City, rode the bus into Portland, filled out applications online. He thought he’d spend the winter here and continue his odyssey in the Spring. But nothing opened up.

We sat and discussed books, philosophy, and the Meyers-Briggs personality test. Austin is INTP. His mother is INFJ. I am INFJ.

It was an interesting two weeks. Autsin is a book worm and an introvert. We’re introverts. There were long silences between us as no one had any small talk to initiate. Movies were watched, gardening done, hamburgers fried and consumed.

Don took Austin on a hike into the Cascades where our visitor climbed his first mountain (4,980′ tall with views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson). Correction: Don and his 72-year old hiking buddy, Charles, took Austin up into the mountains. I hope the two old guys didn’t put Austin to shame with their energy and stamina. I’ve hiked with them. They never get tired soon enough.

No one felt pressure to be anything they aren’t: we’re just two empty-nesters with grandchildren across the continent and he’s just a 20 year old adventurer with a dream.

Today, it ended. I drove him up to the intersection of Hwy 217 and US 26 so he could hitch-hike to the coast and see his first ocean (versus the Great Lake he grew up near). I don’t think he had much money, but he was adamant: this was what he wanted. The lack of response to his job hunting was God’s – and the Universe’s – way of telling him to follow his dream and to have the courage to test his calling. He was sure it would work out all right.

My mother’s gut was in a knot, but I hugged him and wished him well. Sometimes, you just have to cut them loose. Who knows, maybe we just hosted a John Steinbeck or a Jack London. I told him to call his mom.

He packed up everything, including his travel bible, Into the Wild by John Krakauer. He did promise he wouldn’t end up in Alaska, in a bus, eating poisonous plants.

He didn’t know who John Krakauer was (writer for Outside Magazine, author of several books, including Into Thin Air and Into the Wild.) I hope he knew by the time he left. Krakauer is one of our (Don’s and mine) favorite authors.

The thing is, it’s so quiet here tonight. Don and I watched a movie, Tracks, about a woman who traveled across Australia with four camels and a dog. (Robyn Davidson) I decided I need to read it. We talked about how quiet it is – and how much we both already miss Austin.


Austin stayed in the VW Bus. I was going to give him a cot and space in my studio (aka Chrystal’s old bedroom), but the temps were in the high 80’s and low 90’s while he was here and Donald sensible suggested the van would be much cooler accommodations. Austin loved it.

I hope he’s OK out there. My mother’s heart is freaked out, but I remind myself: I did something like this. Jack London was a hobo. My favorite Steinbeck book is “Travels with Charlie”. I’ve read Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins at least three times. I know a man who rode his two horses across America just a couple of years ago: Samuel Hopkins-Hubbard. One Nation Ride. Austin will be OK.

Some day, I hope to meet Austin’s mom in real life, not just over email. She’s raised a fine young man. She should be proud.

I know her mom-heart is freaking out.


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