Today marks day four of our travels. I wanted to be posting more frequently and will continue to work on that, but we’ve been busier in these first few days than I could’ve imagined, so brace yourselves for a long post to get caught up on our happenings. 

After a series of setbacks that postponed our departure, namely the mechanical troubles of our trusty steed Gustavo Ubon Samsonite (Gus, for short), we headed out on Tuesday morning.

As you may be wondering where in the world that name came from, it starts with Gustavo, the homie we bought the van from. Gus had to be towed twice in one day, right after we bought him. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so we called Gustavo, and while he could’ve blown us off, as we had already paid, the title had been transferred, and liability had been released, Gustavo paid for the necessary repairs to get our van back on the road. Without him our budget would’ve taken a blow that would’ve been tough to recover from.

Ubon is a Thai name meaning lotus, a way of life we appreciate and strive to mirror. The lotus grows up out of the mud and the muck, through the water, to blossom into a beautiful flower atop the pond. It needs to come from a dark place, in order to reach its true beauty, and when it gets there it sits peacefully with the water without being consumed by it. It’s important to remain in touch with where you came from and your own personal development. We must remember why we are who we are, for none of us would be the people we are without everything that’s happened in our lives. But while we have to keep that in mind, we don’t have to let the darkness of our past keep a hold over us. We can choose to be beautiful flowers who thrive because of where we came from. 

Samsonite, because of the Samsonite briefcase in Dumb and Dumber that led Lloyd and Harry on their cross-country journey. 

The first day of our travels was spent driving, after a long morning of packing up everything and making sure we were good to go. 

Day two was our first day of shooting, and was better than I could’ve hoped for. We walked about Tempe, AZ, and after a bit of an awkward start, not quite sure how to approach people, we first spoke with a man named Rob. When we told him we were making a film about happiness and depression, he replied, “Oh, this is right up my alley.”

Rob was a homeless combat veteran who hadn’t found happiness in life until nine months ago, the last nine months that he had spent homeless. 

He had been dealing with depression for most of his life. Rob struggled to cope with the things he had done and had been commanded to do in the military, and after being injured he got hooked on pain killers. When those were taken away, he became addicted to heroin. Rob was an addict who had moved from one medium to another. Drugs were a way of coping with his PTSD and depression, which just goes to show how little our current system does for our veterans and those dealing with mental health issues. 

After being kicked out of his apartment complex last year, and not receiving his promised aid from the VA, Rob found himself on the streets. He had lost everything. But in losing all of his belongings Rob was far from lost. He was given an opportunity to start anew. To remove the materialism and the aspects of life that had been preventing him from finding himself, his spirituality, and his happiness. 

Rob found that in his life he had been chasing happiness. He had been trying to find it somewhere out there, somewhere down the road. But by being stripped of everything except his backpack, he found his happiness right here. Rob found happiness within himself and God in every moment, instead of looking for it externally, as if it were a finish line he’d never been able to reach.

That night we cruised out to Sedona, a place I was stoked to visit, as I’ve heard wonderful things but hadn’t had the opportunity to experience it myself. 

We found a nice spot on the side of the road to post up and sleep, and awoke to one of the more beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. 

As we made our way through Sedona we met some very cool people, had some wonderful talks, and I was presented with a new idea that hadn’t occurred to me before. 

Johnny, a man we met on the walk back to the van on our way out of the city, shared a thought about emotion. As a musician, Johnny sees life in waves. Just as music is transmitted through wavelengths that go on infinitely (or would, should they not be interfered with), time and emotion transmit in the same manor. 

Johnny experiences all emotions all the time, but whatever he happens to be feeling is the dominant wave. He gave us the imagery of the ocean as reference. If the waves moving in the ocean are all emotions, the one that we feel at any time is the biggest, most dominant wave. When you’re watching the ocean, your eye catches the biggest wave. We are drawn to the biggest one, but just as we feel the biggest emotion, it’s not the only one there. 

So the cool thing I see in this idea is it gives a new perspective to our control over emotion. I believe that to some extent, we have a bit of control over how we feel, and this gave a new way of seeing that control. Instead of just basing my control of how I feel on my optimism or perspective on certain scenarios, it can be viewed as me choosing to feed a certain a wave, and allow that to be dominant at that point in time. 

Over the last two days we’ve been experiencing a bit of engine troubles with Gus, and right now we’re currently stuck in Seligman, Arizona, halfway between Flagstaff and Las Vegas, with some problems we won’t be able to have looked at until the morning. At first, this was a bit discouraging. It’s a bummer that we’re getting delayed, while we have a schedule we’re trying to stay on. However, as I’m sitting here writing this recap I’m reminded of why it is that I’m here and why I’m doing this. 

It’s not about the land we cover. It’s not about the quantity of people we talk to. It’s not about keeping a tight schedule. 

It’s about learning. It’s about growth. It’s about being able to hear the stories of people who might not have had an outlet to share them otherwise. It’s about seeing the different ways that different people get to experience happiness and while they can all vary so much, they all share a common thread. 

These minor technical difficulties can’t bring me down, because what we’re doing has already changed my life. And whether we’re back on the road tomorrow or not, it’s cool, because this is too important of a project to fail. 

I love you all. 

-Max