There are many different journeys being undertaken by Michael McGirr in his story of his travels along the Hume Highway, Bypass: The Story of a Road. In his book, McGirr embarks on a quest to discover his identity and belonging hand in hand with revealing many of the Hume Highway's hidden stories. McGirr's search for his spiritual beliefs is also an integral aspect of Bypass, as his recent departure from the Jesuit priesthood not long before he completed the cycling feat from Sydney to Melbourne along the Hume Highway meant that his identity was no longer associated with the Jesuit priesthood. McGirr was effectively a 'nobody'. Although working as a Catholic priest for 20 years of his life provided him with a sense of direction and security in life, McGirr decided that being a Catholic priest was not for him anymore; this is later reaffirmed when he states that he does not miss saying Mass.
The Jesuit priesthood was, for 20 years, the author's focus in life - Being a priest gave McGirr security, self-worth and identity, but his primary motive for becoming a priest was to find an occupation that gave him a sense of identity and personal fulfilment. If it were not for his job, McGirr would have considered himself a nobody. After 20 years of service, McGirr leaves the priesthood and observes that when he stopped work as a priest he actually 'missed [his] title'. McGirr then concludes that he 'didn't know what to call [himself]' and that 'only other people can give you your name' - this makes it apparent that McGirr was seeking direction and purpose in his life and felt convinced he himself didn't know or understand his own identity. The author seemed convinced that he did not belong anywhere, thus setting out on a journey from Sydney to Melbourne to discover who he truly was.
Along with his physical journey along the Great South Road, McGirr is also seeking a soulmate with whom he can depend on emotionally. Being a Catholic priest for a major part of his life...
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