One of the core concepts that I keep circling back to when I contemplate the meaning of The Roadtrip to Nowhere is the importance of appreciating the journey rather than fixating on the destination. As someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck, constantly moving from one small town to another, it’s easy for things to become an indistinct blur. A blurry haze, intensified by alcohol, engulfs us from Monday through Sunday. Working as a field landman has always felt like an ongoing expedition into the lives and business dealings of disparate individuals and companies scattered across vast swaths of land. The only connection being the presence of oil beneath the surface. Delving into the minutiae of these strangers’ lives requires more than just reading glasses or binoculars – sometimes, it even requires a microscope. However, in the process, we also find ourselves gazing inward. Most of us don’t particularly like what we see in the mirror. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why we turn to alcohol and ultimately burn out.
Always on the Road, Heading Nowhere
You see, the Roadtrip to Nowhere encompasses many destinations, yet it also seems to have none. It’s a perpetually shifting experience. We reach the end of one story, only to eagerly dive into the next. Perhaps these stories take place in the same location, or maybe they unfold somewhere entirely new. When you lay down to sleep, you can rest assured that the goalposts are going to be in another place by the time you wake up. Does this make us nomads? It’s possible. During downturns, we witness vagabond landmen on every virtual street corner, seeking out potential clients. These downturns hit everyone hard, but landmen tend to bear the brunt. Alcohol may offer temporary respite, but in the long run, it exacerbates the burnout. Those who attempt to “take a break” often struggle to regain their groove once a new opportunity arises. It’s as though burnout accumulates, festering like a cancer. Bringing a landman back into the field after a year or longer is a daunting task. It may simply not work out.
Back when I spent more time on the road than at home, I learned a great deal about myself. I gained valuable insights into human nature and the desire for a simpler life that many claim to yearn for, but few actually achieve. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants and beer joints scattered across rural landscapes became my regular hangouts, and the people who worked there became friends. We understood that our friendships were transient because I might never pass through their town again. Rather than shying away from these connections out of fear of loss or wasting time, we embraced them. That’s life, after all. Recognizing that our time together might amount to just a single beer, or perhaps a few, bestowed a genuine and authentic quality to those interactions, those moments, those friendships. Some of them lasted longer than others.
Making the Most of the Moment
Recently, my family and I took a trip to Colorado for a few weeks, and I found myself slipping back into that wandering spirit once again. I ventured into unfamiliar places just to see what they had to offer. Rather than keeping my head down, I explored the world around me. One night, we decided to have a drink at a restaurant bar, and the person who sat down next to me happened to be the bartender from my favorite dive bar down the street. Although I had introduced myself countless times before, I didn’t expect him to remember me from a crowded establishment where the bartender’s attention is as prized as gold.
He did. “You’re the guy with the OnlyFracs stickers. Those were cool, man.”
We sat there, enjoying our drinks and having a great conversation, while the rest of the dive bar staff came and went. The bar buzzed with more conversations than people at times, but everyone was having a blast. Getting to know each other outside of the usual interactions, once we had all let our guards down a bit, allowed us to see the person behind the façade. These moments were when people revealed their most authentic selves. What’s there to lose by being vulnerable with a stranger? Chances are, you’ll never see them again. So, revel in the moment, soak up the experience while it lasts. They insisted on buying our drinks, and we insisted on doing the same for them.
I’ve often said that a skilled landman can feel just as at home in a trailer park as they do in a country club. This isn’t meant to imply that I’m disingenuous or trying to adapt to every situation. Rather, I’m commenting on my ability to be my true self in any circumstance and feel comfortable relating to anyone I encounter. It’s a way of fully embracing life without worrying about the consequences of the next minute, hour, day, or year. REK sings “but that life it is contagious and it gets down in your blood,” it’s true. I’ll never be able to change what landmanning has given me, what it has turned me into. When you’re at peace with yourself and can genuinely enjoy those rare moments of genuine connection, you’re bound to form real bonds. Perhaps it’s a gift, or maybe it’s a curse. Burnout can spread within us all, sometimes without us even realizing we’re sick.