Monday, May 18, 2009


I don't feel comfortable talking with people about my trip.  It actually was surprising for me to notice this.  I just get uncomfortable, and I answer questions simply, without going into descriptive detail.  I am all too aware that other ears turn from their conversations to listen to mine, and that it's a conversation many of them have already had with me.

                'You're doing what?'

                'I'm riding a bike from Alaska to Argentina.'

                'Oh…' They pause, looking awkward as they try to think where Argentina is: Somewhere near Mexico I think.  I think they speak Spanish there.  Yes that's right, South America.

                'When do you leave?'


                'This July?'


                'Oh.'  Another pause as they nod their heads to keep the conversation from feeling like it's sticking.

                'So who are you going with, are you going with a friend?'

                'I'm going alone.'

This is the tipping point, once we get this far the advice starts to flow, but their reaction is one of two things.  Either the head stops nodding and starts shaking (this is usually a mother's reaction) and then the advice I get basically boils down to 'you cannot go alone.'  Or else they lean forward and offer wisdom from personal experience. 

                'I used to cycle.'


                'Oh yeah, you just need to remember to have a spare tire.  Do you know where the bike shops are in South America?  Yeah I went to one in Mexico, I bet it's still there.  Do you want the phone number?  What was it called… or what was the owners name… I mean I think I still have the number.  Where are you going in Mexico?'

I answer the questions, but my internal response says something different than my words: Spare TUBE, I think you mean spare tube and duh I'll have an extra.  Of course I don't know where every bike shop in South America is! Mexico is not in South America.  You don't have the phone number.  Why would I want it?  Mexico is huge, that's like a European saying 'I went to a bike shop in the U.S. once, do you want the phone number?  What, do you want me to list every town in Mexico that I'm going through?'

Ok so it's not so bad, and I do appreciate the advice I get.  Some of it is good, and people are helpful, but I chuckle to myself after most of these conversations.  However this is not the reason I get uncomfortable.

I do think I know why it is, why it feels uncomfortable for me.  Imagine a poor man talking to a wealthy man,

'Wow, how much money did your swimming pool cost?  Oh that's expensive… It sounds like you made quite a bit this year as well, I heard about a new car?  How much did that cost?  Oh you are wealthy!  You should put your money in bonds, my brother works at a bank…'

Odds are the wealthy man likes and is proud of his money, but you can see how he would be uncomfortable with this conversation.  It's something personal, and he doesn't want the poor man to feel badly about his own possessions.  I don't mean the analogy at any deep level, just imagine the wealthy man's discomfort, and you will understand mine.

So is it modesty?  No, I don't really think so.  I'd love if I could point to modesty as the explanation, ha ha! But that would be a self indulgent lie!  So let me be honest with myself, I have a confession which proves it's not modesty:  I love when people find out what I'm doing.  I would like to think that people talk about it when I'm not there, that they whisper admiration and astonishment.  I love meeting people to find that they already have heard about me.  I like to have the biggest and baddest aspiration in the room.  Ha!  It's a horrible confession I know!

It's not that I dislike talking about it, it's just discomfort.  I wish it weren't the case but I just can't seem to help it!  Maybe it is modesty, I don't know.

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