Some books you read at exactly the right age and time in your life. For me “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac was one of those books.
As I read it I remember thinking that travel would be THE escape route from my humdrum home countries Hertfordshire existence and I remember scribbling down so many inspirational quotes which resonated with my 18-year-old self. One of the quotes I wrote down was: “The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” And this was exactly how I felt about my life after reading “On the Road”
Today sees the 60th anniversary of the publication of “On the Road” which is now regarded as a defining work of postwar Beat and Counterculture generations.
Kerouac allegedly wrote the manuscript for this cult classic in one drug-fuelled, three-week marathon, on a 120-foot-roll of paper – in an attempt to make sure his creative flow wasn’t interrupted, the he taped together rolls of architect’s paper and fed it into his typewriter. The final draft of the book, which is based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States, actually had multiple rewrites.
It was reading “On the Road”, “The Dharma Bums”, “The Lonesome Traveller”, “The Subterraneans” and “Big Sur” which gave me my wanderlust. This led me to my solo round the world gap year adventure, which subsequently became a gap decade, which led to living my life overseas. I’ve now travelled to scores of countries, in all five continents and lived in Sweden, Portugal, Poland, Syria, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Egypt and now Kenya. I have now introduced my children to the joy of travel.
Photographs and sketches from my Kerouac inspired travels across the USA
There are just so many fantastic quotes in “On the Road”. Here are just a few:
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”
“I just won’t sleep,” I decided. There were so many other interesting things to do.”
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”
I even had a cat named Kerouac, who we found abandoned on the road. The cat, like Jack, had an incurable case of wanderlust and went one day on a dusty road in Dar es Salaam and never came back 🙁
I’m sure if I’d have read “On The Road” later in life, it would not have had the same effect on me. But back then it did. It had a huge effect on me and gave me a love for travel and adventure, which now I could not imagine life without.