We humans love to celebrate and formally close chapters of our lives. Loose threads, relationships ending and open books need to be tied up and closed with graduations, parties and awesome drunken nights jumping off bridges into rivers. (You know who you are!) New adventures invigorate us, yet tying up a thread of the past in a neat knot is extremely satisfying. The infinity symbol, ∞, always starts anew, the mobius strip woven back to the beginning. This article is a brief reflection on our time traveling in the van from November through June, a chapter we recently closed, for the time being at least.
Tomorrow will mark eight months since we rented our house, packed our van and lit out on the open road. Our first stop was to drop off our cat Oliver at C’s parents’ up in Idaho, followed by a big, wandering loop south, east and back to the homestead just in time for my 32nd birthday. Eight years ago, I spent my birthday exploring the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia with my brother Finn. In June, for the first time in over a decade, I celebrated it in Moscow, Idaho with my family around a big table in my parents’ dining room with giant cottonwood trees framing the view. Looking back at the arc of those intervening years, it is amazing how we end up where we do! I’m exceptionally grateful to have the life I do, and even with the hard work to get here, I also realize how lucky I am.
Next up is the bike tour, another leg in the journey that will eventually loop us back somehow, logistics TBD! The first loop added eight thousand miles to the van’s odometer and baked a cake of hundreds of memories mixed with dozens of new friends, all iced with beautiful landscapes to serve up one fantastic journey. Who knows how many miles our bikes will see before we return to the comfort of the Sprinter van?
As Steinbeck said, “We find that after years of struggle we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” The initial goal of our “winter escape” was to explore the California coast and get close to nature, with lots of mountain biking and hiking. Check mark next to that…and so much more. The journey (obviously) continues!
Traveling always breaks loose blockages within me and free up creative flows. I hadn’t written creatively for almost seven years prior to departing Portland and now can’t seem to stop words from tumbling forth. I think of travel in pre-computer days when people just disappeared over the horizon with promises to call on holidays over a crackly line or send a postcard from afar. It’s so different now, with WiFi available everywhere and cell phones linking us to the world. Still, disconnecting from a place physically stimulates a confidence in me, a seething wanderlust, to pursue goals I’ve only dreamed about. Momentum is a powerful force and we’ve been flying downhill with the wind at our back since November.
How has this trip changed me? I feel my brain rewiring priorities daily as distractions and maintenance items like fixing a porch disappeared and made room for creativity and time in nature, which leads to my mind spinning as fast as the wheels on my bike. I’ve always felt tied down by possessions and now I’m also realizing that I can’t do all the activities or hobbies I identified with in the past without sacrificing true competency. Expectations for who I should be or how I should live my life that don’t ring true any longer? Time to jettison those over the starboard side pronto presto.
I’m learning that the threads of judgment other people levy upon us are merely constructs of our own mind and we can choose to not be controlled by them. Powerful forces, for sure, yet our reaction to them imbues their fiery power. I’m trying to operate from a place of courage rooted in self-confidence instead of obligation to anything or anyone. It’s difficult, and I’m by no means perfect, yet clipping restraining strings one by one lets me pivot and wheel about to seek my North Star.
There’s still a little voice inside me questioning, “Hey, why are you traveling? Do something to help the world!” I guess I’m no different than most people in that I need a mission and want to be of service in a positive way. I’m considering this a sabbatical that I’ve earned, yet dealing with that internal questioning while also acknowledging that traveling is exactly what I want to be doing at this moment is a balancing act that I’ll probably struggle with for the rest of my life. In some respect, I think we all toss and turn over the best use of our limited time on this planet. So many factors tied to “best” – for us, for other people, for the environment.
For now, I’m going to continue to explore the world and share what I find. I’ve always wanted to use the syrupy cliche phrase “This road trip called life” and it’s starting to feel accurate for our existence. Where does one trip and another end if we’re on the road the entire time in an untethered ship? As this trip continues to unfold a day at a time, it’s a giant wave of nostalgia and dreams that we are lucky enough to be surfing. Who knows where this section of the infinity loop will take us or how we will change, or where we’ll cross through and return in some fashion, physically or mentally, to the beginning.
Onward we go,
P.S. More photos from Grand Teton/Yellowstone coming soon. Didn’t want to bury you all at once!