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.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hmm... I don't really like that last entry. It seems too much like what it is: a young mans mind bristling with too many of the ideas of a young man. It reads like brain vomit, but trust me, the meal was good!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Thoughts on the Why

One opportunity, viewed in isolation, is easy to ignore.  In each singular idea and potential one can readily find an abundance of flaws, so glaring and crucial that they manage to kill their hosts.  In an existence ultimately devoid of perfection, this is the inevitable result.  Opportunities, extraordinary in their size and potential, are often dismissed either because they seem so incredibly foreign to our daily patterns that we fail to even recognize them as a possibility, or because we find and inflate one of a billion excuses.  Missing one opportunity may be no great tragedy, and often we are wise to avoid them, but as the number of opportunities we pass by or fail to create grows, we as people shrink, and stagnate.  In this state we find people turn pitiful, sorry and defeated.

 Of course we simply cannot take advantage of every opportunity.  There must be some filtering, but can I suggest that we are generally too harsh, too stringent in our requirements?  Life in both her beauty and ugliness is waiting just outside the protective sphere of our routine, and will firmly embrace us if only we are willing to embrace her back.  In my own faltering way I have tried to open my arms to her, and have had tastes of the range of life's flavors, good and bad, and been enriched because of it.  But still I am dissatisfied, or perhaps I am dissatisfied precisely because of these little tastes.  Perhaps these little tastes of the richer flavors of life have only awakened a deep and vicious appetite in me, an appetite with a mind and drive of its own, an appetite I am obliged to feed.  

 I am not arrogant enough to make a recommendation.  I will not declare what is or is not a proper way to live.  I will not tell anyone to stand up, open their arms and seek out the deep satisfaction that exists only well beyond the boundaries of comfort.   I do not presume to know where each person can find fulfillment.  But let me share this thought, this feeling of my own, and it is my most sincere hope that you would let it sit in your mind and affect you.  

 Opportunities are moments of freedom.  We live imprisoned by the constraints of possibility.  When an opportunity arises, our constraints have loosened in one dimension, and that new opportunity is a new freedom to us.  Imagine the life, fully articulated into every facet available to it.  Imagine the richness of existence in the person who is not constrained by comfort, or laziness, or fear.  I am not this person, but a strong and deep part of me endeavors to be.  It's a smoldering ember deep in my soul that flickers, and dims, that I breathe on and try to coax into ignition.  It is smothered by complacency, and the hollow stagnation of contentment.  I want more only because I want to want more.  I value satisfaction more than comfort.  I value experience more than security.  I want to look back at a life colorful and detailed, faceted and full.  

 Maybe I am not feeding this hunger in the right way, or maybe I should smother the ember and be calm and small and content.  But I don't think I could.  I may make decisions that I regret, but regret is often the fair price of experience.  There is one regret I fear, one regret that I am willing to suffer through a thousand others to avoid.  That is the regret of, at the end, wishing I had done more, of wishing I had realized the God-splendid gift of my time, and valued the beauty of existence.  

 I want to taste the air off the Arctic Ocean.  I want to hear mad rain torture me through a sleepless forest night.  I want my back to be an anvil for the sun.  I want to be thirsty and tired and alone.  I want to pull layers off of myself and find my nucleus, and see if it is soft or hard.  

 How many opportunities slide past us, unrecognized just beneath the surface?  How many lifetime moments have we missed by not standing ready, and not having the courage nor the drive to create them and to undertake them?  I am not arrogant enough to make a recommendation, but I can't help but feel pity when someone rots in routine, and is eaten by years, and has neatly defined the small horizon of their world, and is superficially satisfied in it.

 I will not do that.  God help me never to do that.