Tag Archives: matthew arnold


I blew it. I spent all my money and can’t afford to go it “alone” this summer. So I’m not going to be on the bus, but I’ll still be following the trip through this site, maybe posting responses.

I still think it’s very important to say what this trip meant to me. What it still means to me. I think there are two reasons I yearned for the journey. First, to see as much as I could of this country. Even just on that superficial level of observation, to see it. There is a lot more on this earth than most of us will ever see first-hand, and so long as I have the chance to explore the depths and heights of it I see no reason not to. Life is short, and we might only do it once, so I believe in learning and experiencing as much of it as we can.

It’s not the same thing to see pictures or hear stories. I went to Ireland for ten days last summer. I’ve seen plenty of videos and photographs of the country, but the moment I saw the mountains for myself I was changed. It was unlike any previous experience. It was literally breathtaking to look out the window of my room in the morning and see the sparkling water of the loch under the bluest sky, or the palpable mist hovering about the grassy mountaintop. You have not seen Ireland until you stand there and look at it.

But perhaps more important to me: I want to find something. Anything uniquely valuable about the experience. I have felt for most of my life that I was missing something, and have made some guesses at how to feel more complete, or simply how to be happier with my life. But for these past few years I have struggled to find a place for myself in the world, or even a place without the world, or alongside it. I don’t expect a road-trip to California and back, even if we covered every inch of the country, would bring an answer to such a monumental question. I would probably find no answers, but many more questions. But I expect, and I think many of us do, that undertaking this journey will teach me something that I can’t even imagine before I see it.

In the poem “Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold writes:

And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight

For three months of travel, I expect at least one instant of discovery, one minute piece of experience that lends the least bit of light to this darkness. Not that I will understand the world any clearer, but that I will return knowing something new. I will be changed, as changed I was by the Irish mountains.