This little snapshot occurred after I finally escaped the San Clemente book-writing layover and plunged through Los Angeles, heading for Silicon Valley with the madness of the road again my daily life. But something was different; I was starting to contemplate how it might end, with tempting offers both personal and technical even as my “high-tech nomad” identity made the adventure self-sustaining. What to do?

by Steven K. Roberts
Santa Barbara, California
May 21, 1985

The Santa Barbara campus of the University of California swirls about me, a place sunny and leggy, a teeming mixture of academia and perpetual play. The bike paths are like silent freeways, cruised by backpack-toting collegiate commuters; the lawns are places of languid pre-finals procrastination and urgent springtime romance. Smells are of flowers and coffee… sounds are of clicking freewheels, hacky-sack and birds. This is definitely not Orange County.

I sit in front of the library, plugged into my bike: jazz to brain, electricity to HP, water to lips. The contrast in realities here is dramatic. I am passing through on an open-ended journey: students around me are seeing the world through the high-Q filter of college life and occasionally interrupt to ask if this is my senior project (or if I’m a professor). And suddenly I am moved to look at the journey with an objective eye.

Yes, now that the book is done, it’s time to re-pose the question that opened this series of articles way back in ’83…

What’s this all about?

A few thousand miles along, I learned that true travel was not an experience of miles and places — the lines in my atlas are reflections of the trip, not reasons for it. I try not to speculate about where I’ll be next month, for the surest way to ruin the quality of travel is to go somewhere.

No, the issue now is whether I am still doing something useful or just indulging my addiction to travel. One could make a strong case for the latter: I have a foolproof safety valve for commitment, I can be the center of attention whenever I like, and I feast on a Whitman’s Sampler of lifestyles. I get high on the energy associated with beginnings, and life is visceral, energetic, and fun.

But recently I was invited to participate in a venture that would involve making a home in Santa Barbara. The thought is at once alluring and frightening, so I had no choice but to go lie on the beach for a few days and examine my motives.

The trip has changed me, that much is obvious. Living on a bicycle, I no longer lust after new possessions — and I tend to read books and pass them along rather than simply shelve them and assume they are safely in some kind of database. I pay more attention to people, for time is always short… and I have become the first citizen of Dataspace, looking to CompuServe as my enclave of social stability.

These changes have imposed a new attitude, and it is this that feeds the continuation of the journey. But what that means remains a mystery.