Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Adventures

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
-Blaise Pascal

For the past week, when not at work or on my bike, I've had my nose buried deep in a book of interviews with travel writers.  This is dangerous stuff for me.  Not only am I reading about travel and adventure, but no one, I mean no one, can spark the little curious child in me like a good travel writer/writer who travels (really, most preferred to be called journalists--one going so far as saying "he'd rather slit his wrists than be a travel writer who plans trips for others.").  In a way, going to sleep at night, with a travel book, is like having a "blankie" of sorts.  It soothes the mind and soul and helps me dream.

Over dinner last night, my husband and I reminisced about previous trips/adventures--something I swore I'd never do, but I guess this happens when you a) turn 40 or b) don't have enough vacation time to create new adventures.  I suppose I shouldn't really be shocked by this behavior since our first date was essentially a two month trip to Southern Mexico and Central America.

Stepping back a few years, after my first trip to France while in high school, the thought of European travel nauseated me.  It wasn't that I didn't love France--I did--it's just that it was too easy or too Western for my liking.  I wanted to go to Peru, Central America and the Arctic.  I wanted to be thrown into a completely different world in which I was used to.  Needless to say, none of these grand ideas included the bicycle.  They were all based on foot travel and were much more about culture. Now, after talking about my "wish list" for travel with my husband, I realize most of my ideas not only include a bike, but are also quite far from "third world nations".  

While riding solo or in a group for winter rides, there is a lot of quiet time to ponder warmer weather riding.  Sure, in groups there is chit chat but it's short and choppy due to ears and mouths being covered in a layer of synthetic material and also the ever present sound of studded tires.  Essentially, we are all deaf.  We may nod and smile pretending we hear things but the most common word is "huh?"  After awhile we just give up and find pleasure being in the presence of others while we ponder upcoming adventures.

For me, the list is ever growing--one trip marked off means two or three more added to the docket.  Some may see this as a good thing, I, on the other hand am getting a bit antsy to start checking some more of these trips off.  Yes, I'm a dreamer...but first and foremost I'm a doer.  I pour over maps because I want to go places, not just because I love maps.  So instead of declaring my resolutions for the new year, each year I declare the trips I want to take.  Sometimes they happen, sometimes they morph, and sometimes they die an ugly death (I used to have a dream about riding around lake Superior--that one bit it completely and is now thankfully filed in the recycling bin).  

What I really find amusing, and a huge self realization, is how few trips in third world nations are now on my list.  Sure, I still want to go to Ethiopia and travel throughout the Middle East, but those are more for volunteer/job experiences which I don't consider "trips".  Nope, a quick glance over my list and it's something my 25 year old self would have balked at.  This is where my opening quote comes in.  Of course I can't go day after day sitting quietly in a room (although I do find it pleasurable from time to time).  Instead, I take this quote figuratively.  I see the United States as my "living room".  Unlike my 25 year old self, I am now planning more tips in my backyard vs. abroad.  I have also thrown in some long distance solo trips making a nod to the silence (aside from those silly little voices in my head that is).  In fact, I currently have a bike tour planned for early 2016 which I will most likely do solo and it will be in a part of the country I would have rolled my eyes at just ten years ago.  Essentially, I have grown up.  Grown up, not grown old.  I see this shift in me as becoming more settled and comfortable in my mind/body/space.  Although I'll still throw in some thrill seeking adventures from time to time to shake the cobwebs off, I foresee most of my upcoming travel as mimicking more of a trek vs. mountain climbing.  Moving slowly, taking the sights, sounds and smells in, and studying others with their daily rituals--at the same time of them watching me.

Travel is transition, and at its best it is a journey from home, a setting fourth.  I hated parachuting into a place.  I needed to be able to link one place to another.  One of the problems I had with travel in general was the ease and speed with which a person could be transported from the familiar to the strange, the moon shot whereby the New York office worker, say, is insinuated overnight into the middle of Africa to gape at gorillas.  That was just a way of feeling foreign.  The other way, going slowly, crossing national frontiers, scuttling past razor wire with my bag and my passport, was the best way of being reminded that there was a relationship between Here and There, and that a travel narrative was the story of Here and Back.
-Paul Theroux (one of my favorite travel writers)

So with the new year, I wish you all many adventures.  Whether it be taking a different bike route to work, going to a new restaurant, or planning a trip of a lifetime.  If you think about it, each day can be an adventure, it's just how you choose to perceive it.  Cheers!

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