The hippie trail


Not every baby boomer was a hippie. In fact, I'm guessing less than one percent would have qualified. I was a Midwestern hippie, which would have translated into a mild social deviant. But I did my best.

Hippie is defined on Wikipedia as "a youth movement that began in the United States during the 60's and spread around the world. It was used to describe people who created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs to explore alternative states of consciousness." Putting a Midwestern flair on it, I would say it was someone who was anti-war, anti-establishment, and pro-dressing funny. A little beer, a little marijuana, and you hoped you would get lucky.

As conditions deteriorated in San Francisco, primarily due to excessive drug use, a group of hippies eventually headed for Europe. They found their way to what has been called The Hippie Trail, a journey through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and ending in Nepal. They were in search of nirvana, the Truth, enlightenment. What they found was life with a whole different presentation.

The adventure is documented in a new book by Rory MacLean, Magic Bus – On The Hippie Trail From Istanbul to India. MacLean is a journalist who retraced the Hippie Trail recently and recorded the trip. As he states, the trip is much more dangerous today. We have not moved forward with peace and love, which would have been one of the original hopes of the Intrepids, as the traveling hippies came to be known. They were wanderers, travelers, explorers.

The Intrepids were moved to seek enlightenment by such iconic names as Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Must reads included Walden, the poems of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, and books by Kafka, Huxley, and Herman Hesse. Inspirational music came from The Beatles, The Who, The Doors, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, and Bob Dylan, to name but a few. The books and music communicated ideas that inspired, guided, drove thousands to seek a new way, a better way, a more enlightened existence. It sometimes worked, it sometimes didn't, as MacLean documents.

The travelers were young, often only 18, 19, twenty years old. They were looking for something, something more than what was. I felt the same way. My hippie trip included a road trip to the Badlands, and a chance meeting with a medicine man at Wall Drug, of all places. The year was 1967. Not quite as adventurous as crossing the Asian continent, but still pretty wild for a Midwestern country boy. It was a trip to find myself, and to come to terms with a father who recently died. Not unlike my magic bus cohorts, I too was seeking enlightenment, understanding, happiness, fulfillment. Such was the dream. Some of the dream was realized, some continues to play itself out on a day to day basis, as life continues to meander down the hippie road.