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Leaving the comfort zone for a mystery road trip

For the next several days, I’m stepping way, way out of my comfort zone. I’ve left on a solo road trip that I’m being deliberately vague about.

Back in January, a frequent commenter on a blog I’ve been reading for over five years suggested a get-together for the community. I’ve seen such suggestions before, but they usually involve finding an out-of-the-way bar an having a few drinks. It may sound great, but I’m not going to Delaware or wherever just for an evening.

This time, though, the organizer proposed an entire weekend, complete with a hall rental, entertainment, and guest speakers on topics of particular interest to readers of the blog. That sounded like something worth the trip, but I knew June wasn’t likely to work for me. My colleague at work had already planned two weekends off in June, and a good friend that I don’t see often had plans to visit Arizona in June. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to burn two days of my relatively limited annual leave on something of this nature. I put the event in the back of my mind but didn’t expect to go.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I had just pissed away Memorial Day weekend finishing a grueling project at work, and my boss surprised me with two days of compensatory leave. The compensatory leave policy at this company is rather informal, so it’s wise to use the days quickly or risk losing them. Suddenly the event popped back into my mind. I double-checked my calendar, and the weekend of the event turned out to be my only free weekend in June.

The reason I’m being cagey about the details of where I’m going is because the blog in question is something of an uncensored free-speech zone. Let’s be honest, free speech isn’t exactly held in high esteem in the U.S. right now. The price of free speech is sometimes you have to hear or read or see things that offend you. It’s not a price many are willing to pay these days. Take free speech away and you’re left with an echo chamber of “acceptable” ideas where no one learns or questions anything. It’s like the setting of some dystopian novel. Ironically, it also describes many university campuses today.

It’s also admittedly a bit of cowardice on my part. If I identify myself as a reader of a blog that gives a forum to unconventional viewpoints, one might decide to associate me with some or all of the offensive and possibly hateful things that are said there. And given our current toxic political climate, I’m not prepared to hang my balls all the way out.

As far as the event itself goes, I’m keeping my hopes high but my expectations low. The line-up of topics and speakers is quite impressive. Since the event doesn’t require registration, there’s the open question of whether anyone else will show up. It could be Burning Man, or it could be totally unremarkable. Every nearby hotel is sold out, so that’s a good sign. As for me, I’m bringing a tent and an air mattress.

For her part, when my wife read the description of the event — two weeks ago she didn’t even know I read the blog in question — she seemed comfortable with the idea of me going. I think she would have come with me if she hadn’t made prior commitments. She did ask for my assurance that I’d be traveling with a firearm.

If you’re concerned about my safety, two people I trust are being kept abreast of my whereabouts. One is my wife, and one is a good friend on the other side of the country, adding some geographic diversity. I’ll also post some updates here on this blog, if I can, but I won’t disclose my location, at least not until I get back.