‘If discontent is your disease, travel is medicine.’ Jedidiah Jenkins
Struck by the proverbial quarter-life crisis, Jedidiah Jenkins sets off on a journey from Oregon to Patagonia to find … something – he’s not quite sure what, he just knows he needs to go find it. After a year and a half of slowly making his way down to the southern tip of South America on a bike, Jenkins compiles all his memories and experiences into an insightful memoir, To Shake the Sleeping Self.
In his very first paragraphs, Jenkins says, “The cure to discontent is travel.” With his upcoming 30th birthday weighing heavy on his mind, existential dread sneaks up Jenkins. He takes a look at his life so far and comes up with discontent. Working as a lawyer left him wanting and wondering about his purpose in life. Growing up a sensitive boy, knowing from a young age that he was gay, a Christian boy that wasn’t always sure whether God accepted him or not, Jenkins is plagued with confusion about the bigger questions in life.
He sets off on his journey unprepared. Sure, he’s got his bike, he’s got biking gear, sleeping bags, a map, a friend to keep him company, and yet in spite of all these preparations, there is nothing that can prepare him for what he will meet on the road once he’s on his way.
From getting a flat tire early on to being locked down in Mexico as the police hunt down a drug cartel, getting diarrhea from his first experience smoking weed, his biking companion’s lack of funds for anything but weed, sleeping out on a meadow and waking up to a torrent of freezing rain, news of Ebola slowly reaching distant parts of the world, Jenkins faces it all with the strength of character belonging to someone who feels committed to seeing his journey through. In spite of the many bumps along the road, Jenkins remains optimistic, always able to find the good in the bad. He meets many kind people along the way who help him out. And in spite of the relentless desert heat, the bipolar temperatures of some countries, the dirt accumulated on every crease of his skin, the sore muscles and joints from marathon-length bike-rides, one can’t help to envy Jenkins’ determination and his experiences along the way, both good and bad. For a boy who was often told he would never be an athlete, he accomplished something much more self-fulfilling.
As for answers, Jenkins only seems to find more questions on his way to Patagonia. His whole belief system is put on the hotspot and Jenkins is forced to come to terms and really face questions that he’s been masking his whole life with cut and paste answers. The one thing that he’s able to achieve on this soul searching, mind-opening journey is far more valuable than any cookie-cutter answer he could’ve hoped for: Though our daily lives are laden with rules and the conviction that we must fit into certain patterns, Jenkins learns that sometimes, most times, it’s okay to not have all the answers. Life, after all, is what you make of it.