Who Moved My Cheese?
How do you write about the transition from adventurous traveler to urban dweller? What do you say about the bouts of sadness and depression, the feeling of a loss of purpose, the way time just disappears without any sense of productivity? How do you describe the intense missing of the way you used to feel so alive on a daily basis?
After tackling great heights and fears, we find ourselves flailing a bit. The irony of our very-unstructured trip is that we had a definite set of daily routines (not to mention a great big umbrella of a goal that propelled us forward). These days, as we effectively start over, routine is hard to find. And we have bumbled around a lot, trying to reconcile this stationary chapter of our lives with our self-identification as travelers.
I remember watching the TV show “China Beach” when I was younger. Nothing stands out to me now about the series, except for the final episode when they all leave the war and go home. I felt an immense sadness for the characters then, and now I feel like I kind of understand that experience. What do you do next, after the end of something completely life-changing? It has given me new respect for the ways in which Peace Corps volunteers come back and re-integrate (Lynn, if you’re reading, I’m sending long-distance hugs as you get re-acquainted with the US). These kinds of big transitions are hard.
When we were nearing Boston, and coming to the end of our riding time, Russ would often lament the end of the trip. I put on my optimist hat and tried to spin it as a much-needed break. And, truthfully, I needed to rest, to sleep, to take some time away from the constant movement. But you can’t really mourn the end of a part of your life experience and smile at the same time. And so I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a daze for the past several weeks. Time has passed, but I can’t really remember what I’ve done. I’ve made and sent out orders, but I’d have to look through my records to know what all I did. Like novocaine wearing off after a dentist visit, the sting of the end of the trip is hitting me hard now that I’m waking up from my fog.
And fog is really the only way I can describe it. Everything around you seems familiar and you know you should know how to interact with it all. But the edges are dulled, because it’s hard to comprehend that this is who you are now.
In the excitement of leaving on a grand adventure, you never think about what it will be like at the end. Which is probably good, because if you knew how sad and out-of-sorts you would feel, you might never experience the grand adventures that life has to offer. Would I give up all that we’ve done and seen, so that I didn’t have to deal with these very difficult days and weeks? No, not at all. I would say that I wish I had been better prepared for this crash and burn feeling, but how do you prepare? No, I think we just have to recognize that big life transitions are really difficult, and mourning the end doesn’t disrespect the experience.
And, then, somehow, we need to make sure to not entirely lose that part of ourselves that we found out on the road. The other day, as I was riding down a street that I’ve ridden many times since we’ve been in town, I noticed a whole block that I hadn’t seen before. A big rusted metal building, covered in graffiti, with a vacant lot next to it, entirely covered in weeds. This is not the sort of place that just fades into the background. Except that I had stopped seeing with my traveler’s eyes. I disappeared into the sadness, instead of finding a way to remain a traveler-at-heart. And maybe that’s the key… being gentle with yourself and looking at your new surroundings with the same eyes you had before the transition… until one day when you realize you’ve just magically adapted.
Note: We haven’t written anything about Portland, because it’s not fair to Portland to judge it from this strange place of fuzziness and sadness. But we will, soon, we promise.
Get exclusive supporter videos and benefits! www.patreon.com/pathlesspedaled