Things Move Forward
I remember the cold nights in the desert. To keep warm and keep hope, I envisioned our return to Long Beach as a sort of triumphant homecoming, a chance to hang out with old friends, share stories and catch up on what has been going on. There would be drinking and laughing – and that moment shivering in the tent would be nothing more than an anecdote between beers inside a warm pub.
Getting off the Metro Blue Line in Long Beach and riding my old bike through my old stomping grounds, through streets that I had once known so intimately, I was overwhelmed with a strange sadness. I was at home, but I felt homesick. Things were different, it was as if the furniture had been rearranged while we were gone. “Home,” I’ve learned, isn’t a place, it’s an emotional warmness that you feel when there’s just the right combination of friends, family and familiarity. It’s a shared past and sense of place with others, but it’s also the promise of a shared future.
We have been gone for a long time – a year and a half. Its not like coming back from a weekend in the country or a two week vacation or even a three month backpacking trip in Spain. It is some serious time. Long enough for the delicate unspoken emotional shifts and mental reorganizations to occur.
A friend, who is a great traveler himself, accustomed to disappearing and reappearing, once told me that “one should not disturb the bee’s nest too often.” What he meant was that it is hard emotionally to come in and out of peoples lives. It is unfair to them to return and ask them to open themselves up to you if you only plan to leave again. Sometimes a Facebook status update is all our hearts will bear.
This, we are learning, is one of the hidden costs of long-term travel. You give up your home to be at home anywhere. You give up those intimate deep-rooted friendships to have new friends across the country. Nothing is without its costs. I think of the late Ian Hibell and Heinz Stucke, some of the most traveled bicycle tourists in the world, who travel for years at a time, and wonder what dark thoughts must sometimes fill their hearts. There must be a saturation point. An instant when it feels infinitely more difficult to stand still than it is to keep moving. After that point, the momentum and the movement is what keeps you sane.
I feel that we’ve traveled just enough to have a taste of that reality, but not enough to where we’ve emotionally let loose of all the moorings. It is a difficult place to be – to be neither here nor there.
So we are setting our sights on what comes next. The new year is almost upon us. We have plans for more travels and adventures to share with you all. We are greatly looking forward to the new places we will see, the new people we will meet, and the new stories we will tell. And yet, while looking at the bright future that has yet to be formed, our hearts feel a little bit heavier this time around as we pass through Long Beach. Everything, we are reminded, marches on to an unfaltering cadence. It is easy to be heartbroken for what is no longer here, but I remind myself to look at it all through our wise traveler’s eyes. I think of the time we had here and the people that graced us with their deep friendship and my heart swells with gratitude. I think of the people we’ve met on our travels and through the website and I know we’ve had a charmed life. I think of the paths yet-to-be pedaled, the seductive lines on the map, calling us into the new year.
Happy New Years to all of our friends, old and new. We hope adventure finds you.
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