Hitchhiking my way to salvation.

3 years ago today started a journey from a very specific point in my life that has helped me grow into the man I am today. I’ll often refer to it in stories because it shaped my career, my world view, and my everyday lifestyle. It’s a point in time I call, “that one time I quit my job, sold everything that I owned, and hitch hiked to California,” but it’s much more complex than that. This moment in time was 14.6 billion years in the making, and will be celebrated with each breath I take. To sum it up without tears would rob it of its value.

3 years ago I took a leap of faith and found a world more magical than any dream I’ve had. I closed my eyes, jumped forward, and have been free falling ever since. It’s as if the universe doesn’t want me to fall, turned off gravity, and has held me weightless in its embrace. It’s like jumping out of a plane and smiling at the sun.

Chuck Manley in Joshua Tree

Hanging out on a rock in Joshua Tree, CA – Sept 9th, 2009.

How I did it!

I pieced together ideas in my head of what I valued in life and what I wanted to take from each day. I imagined myself living a perfect life where anything is possible.  Then I tried emulating that perfect life in the real world by acting out how I envisioned it in my head. I spent a long time in introspection coming up with it, and finally outlined in my head what was working, not working, could be fixed, would be better, doesn’t matter, important, and what can’t be changed in life. With those blueprints I began smashing down walls and renovating my psyche.

In the end what I sought can simply be stated with the word “freedom.” I was terrified that I’d never find it in the direction I was headed, and it was time to follow my heart while it lead the way. I thought of people, objects, and ideas that held me back from reaching my potential and began to shed them like dead skin. I stopped searching for answers and instead started creating solutions. I learned that you’re not supposed to drink from the cup of life, you’re supposed to fill it. I fed my soul with positive things, and the world began to change immensely.

How I envisioned my perfect life.

I wanted to travel anywhere at anytime. I wanted to live simply and humbly. I wanted to meet amazing people and share life experiences. I wanted to explore my own consciousness. I wanted to understand myself better and overcome as many obstacles as possible. I wanted to do all of these things every single second I was alive and I was ready to do whatever it took to do so. And, I wanted to overflow the cup of life and dedicate myself to making a difference while I am here.

I had always fantasized about the lives of hitch hikers, train hoppers, and the wandering hippies. I had a romantic idea in my head of what it would be like to live those roles without responsibilities or obligations. I liked the idea of trading luxuries for peace of mind. Sure, not having a place to sleep or a car can be a drag, but not having a car payment or a mortgage is pretty damn good trade off at times. With less financial obligations I didn’t have to work as much and could spend more time doing the things I loved.

For a long time I had no idea what those were.

Chuck Manley's gang of merry road warriors.

Hanging with some family at the grand canyon. – July 5th, 2009

How I prepared for the one-way ride to understanding.

There was nearly 1 year of preparation leading up the day I went one foot after another to find my destiny. I needed to physically, mentally, and spiritually prepare for something that had the potential to change me forever. I would be learning new skills, abusing my body, challenging my beliefs, and forcing myself to look at things from an ever changing perspective.

The first thing I had to do was verbally express what I wanted. I started telling myself and those around me just what that was. I wanted to be able to carry everything that I needed in a backpack. I wanted to live by the seat of my pants hitch hiking around the united states. I wanted to live as frugal as possible stretching my money for as long as I could. I wanted to stand proudly of what I was doing and let my smile soak up rays of sunshine. Once I knew what I wanted, I could begin creating it from the atoms around me.

Chuck Manley at Rothbury 2008

The title of this art installation was “reincarnated.” – Rothbury, 2008

When I decided I wanted to hitch hike around the country, I did what anyone does these days when they need to learn something. I googled it. I came upon the digihitch community which turned out to be a portal for road travelers. It gave me a great insight into a life I wanted to live. I learned about hitch hiking laws, techniques for getting rides, how to be safe, ideas for signs, and how to pack. It provided an incredible resource for me. I also learned about the hospitality exchange website, couchsurfing.org, which became valuable along the way.

At this point, my possessions became a liability. Anything that took up space was going to have to go. I needed to whittle my life down to fit in a backpack so it was time to let go of “stuff.” I moved into a smaller apartment, and got rid of many of my possessions in the process. I started to base what I wore out of function rather than fashion. In the process I was able to donate several boxes of clothes and learn to live with only a couple changes.  Some of my more stylish wares I made a few bucks on.

I do miss this suit though.

The day I left

The plan for as long as there was one, was that I was going to leave on June 1st no matter what. Things would be packed away in some sense and I would be ready to go. I locked the door to my apartment for the last time and loaded up a car. I drove to my parents house after stopping to see a friend, and packed away some things in their basement.  I said goodbye to my parents and with tears in my eyes promised them I’d be okay.  And with that done, this journey would begin.

My cousin gave me a ride to Ypsilanti just west of Detroit.  I’d spend a night there, see some friends, and be on a bus to Chicago the next day.  I was feeling a lot of different emotions, but it made me feel alive.  I felt exilherated thinking about the unknown to come and I knew things would never be the same.  I had decided that I was either going to live or die trying.

What played out

What happened after that was stuff that dreams are made of.  I experienced so much, so quickly, and with such intensity that it knocked me off my feet for awhile.  Those next couple hundred of days set me on a path to the cosmos.  I’ve learned people are generally good, everyday is a blessing, and to never stop exploring.  I learned life is what you make of it, and if you can imagine beautiful things, you can do beautiful things.

Chuck Manley on Seneca Rocks in 2009

Hanging out on Seneca Rocks taking in the view. – October 10th, 2009

If you’re interested in hearing about how it panned out after that, subscribe to me blog for future updates.  I’m going to tell all about those stories and many more while I try document my my past, present, and future life experiences.  If you know of anyone who might be interested in my story, consider sharing it with your social networks.