This Winding Road
Things did not go as planned this year. Our lofty, yet attainable, goals just seemed to slip through our fingers. And, while I’ve long felt that I should just make peace with the way things turned out, I have been incredibly frustrated about it all.
Ironically, the hardest part has been this weirdly nagging feeling that there’s a reason why everything worked out the way it did. As if someone else had other plans for us, possibly better plans, and we had to stop trying to control it and just go along.
I have been struggling for weeks to put this into words somehow. To find a way to express this frustration, while also recognizing that, somehow, we’re exactly where we need to be. To explain how much we have been focused internally this year, and where it has begun to lead us, without sliding down the hill of pessimism and blame.
And then a weird thing happened. It was late afternoon on the second day of our recent train journey from Oregon to Los Angeles. I looked out the window and suddenly recognized a road that we had ridden on a trip nearly three years earlier. We reminisced for a moment – about the beautiful riding, being passed by a farmer driving a tractor, having to hitch a ride in a pick-up because we had blown our timing and needed to cross a small mountain pass in the dark – and, suddenly, it clicked in my head.
Anyone who has ever traveled has, no doubt, experienced that moment when, suddenly, everything is right with the world. As I watched the small town of Guadalupe drift past the train window, the anxiety and petty frustrations of daily life disappeared, and in their stead was a firm understanding of why I live this non-traditional life. And, somehow, as the train wound around the hills, I finally realized what I have been trying to put into words about where this year has led us and what it means to be a veteran traveler.
Being a traveler means being equal parts dreamer and businessperson. We have to envision grand things and leave a lot up to serendipity. At the same time, we have to dot all our i’s and find a way to keep the books in the black. It’s a tricky balance of roles that becomes more important the longer we travel – because, at a certain point, traveling diverges from vagabonding, and it must become sustainable if we want our experiences to be bigger than just us. In other words: If traveling full-time is to be our lifestyle and livelihood, then it must also be our business.
That may sound cold and calculated, or conjure up images of schmoozing with suits. In reality, that change in thinking moves us away from an all-consuming, once-in-a-lifetime endeavor, and toward a model that can nurture more than just our immediate personal needs.
When we think about the future, we don’t want to build a house somewhere, we want to build a world full of bicycle travelers. It’s a goal that requires both strategy and fun, smart planning and adventure. And it’s an enormous opportunity for our travels to mean so much more than just our own gratification.
Things did not go as planned this year. As it turned out, we needed the space to shift our identities and our narrative away from a simple extension of our first big trip. We needed to step into bigger versions of ourselves, and start building something that will outlast the stories of a single journey.
A few weeks ago, we officially became a small business, focused on publishing content that promotes bicycle travel. We’re excited about this evolution and look forward to wherever it takes us. We’ll soon have some exciting news about our next travel destination – and we hope that you’ll continue to follow along as we continue to travel and inspire a bicycle-travel-friendly world.
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new 2012 calendar or some of the fun zombie apocalypse shirts we’re designing.)
Kevin Sweeney November 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm
Nice post. If you guys ever come to Europe make sure to visit Ireland, lots of quite back roads, beautiful countryside, friendly people and great music and arts. I look forward to it.
Jason Brune November 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm
Laura and Russ. One of the great things about following your blog is seeing the evolution of your lives. Keep up the great work.
Chris Williams November 28, 2011 at 11:42 am
Fab post guys you need bad days to appreciate the good ones. You have been an inspiration for our travels and you may have no idea how many people you have touched with your thoughts and refections. Thank you Chris on the BIG trip
Clayton Pauer November 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm
What you’re doing is exactly right and will lead to exactly where you want to be. The two of you inspire me everyday. In June I transferred my job from Michigan to Southern Oregon. I sold almost everything I own including my truck. I purchased a bike when I arrived in Medford. I travel by bike and public transportation only now. Medford (Southern Oregon)is not a bike friendly area, but I do it anyway because it’s right and the lifestyle represents who I am. I don’t have a lot of local encouragement, so it helps me to visit the two of you via facebook and blog now and again. Stay the course! What you’re doing is important.
Julie November 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm
There’s this great quote by Zora Neale Hurston, from “Their Eyes Were Watching God”: “There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.” Keep working’ it out! You guys are still on to something amazing!
matt picio November 30, 2011 at 11:59 am
I had a similar issue, since I’d planned to cross the entire US from Pacific to Atlantic, and ended in all places, Cleveland. It wasn’t what I expected, and had I made different choices along my journey, I may have made it all the way across. In my case, the decision was whether to go for mileage or to relax and enjoy the ride. I decided to enjoy the ride, and unfortunately, I ran out of “year” before getting to the east coast. Sure, I could have tried to extend another couple of weeks, but part of the trip is learning to listen to the ebbs & flows in your life and to recognize when reaching a particular goal might take more than you’re able or willing to give. It definitely sounds like the two of you made some tough choices and decisions this year, and I expect that they’ll pay off next year. You both have amazing skills to create and market your wares, and you’ve built this wonderful community of people who follow your travels and care about where you go and what you do – and about you, in general. That’s a rare and wonderful thing, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring to the both of you. I’m really looking forward to reading about adventures in the wilds of the world, and it sounds like next year won’t disappoint!
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“Anyone who has ever traveled has, no doubt, experienced that moment when, suddenly, everything is right with the world.”
I have travelled here and abroad though not in bicycles and experienced a similar epiphany.
“We needed to step into bigger versions of ourselves, and start building something that will outlast the stories of a single journey.”
It’s a great moment of self-discovery.