Fairbanks to Tok, AK. 225 miles of riding over 3 days.
So it’s been nearly a month since I’ve left Seattle on two wheels to wander the globe. What have I learned? What have I gained? I can sure as hell feel what I’ve lost. But am I living the fulfilled life I’d longed for while ‘bound’ to Seattle? Is this experience so great as to be worth all I gave up to have it? The most honest answer so far, is not yet.
I sit in my tiny damp tent in solace from the downpour I’ve ridden in for the last 155 miles, procrastinating the inevitable embrace by this deluge that awaits when I get up in the morning. So how am I? I’ve not taken the time to ask this question much in the week since I headed South from Prudhoe Bay. At this point:
– I am coughing and sneezing and my head feels like it may implode: I got sick after my ride down the Haul Road and can’t seem to kick it (I’m sure riding for extended hours on a bike, in the rain, isn’t helping). But since I don’t really have a home to retreat to and don’t want to stay anywhere and get anyone else sick, I’m still going.
– My tiny little one man tent is filled with dead mosquitos. I foolishly jumped out of it the other morning to escape the hundreds of little black fighter jets which had found their way under my fly, waiting for me to open the mesh door to my tent to attack. When I leapt out I couldn’t be bothered with closing the zipper behind me, so they all swarmed in. The trouble was once they were in there was no getting them out. It was a thick cloud of them both inside and all around the tent and it was only getting worse. Needing to get the hell out of there, I just rolled up the tent with them in it. There are literally hundreds of them laying on the tent floor all around me and it’s pouring rain too much to lift the tent up to shake them out. They’d just get stuck to it. There’s just no real convenient way to clean out a tent in the rain. So I just have to sleep with them for tonight, and that’s pretty gross.
– I am deeply missing the comforts and pleasures of my life in Seattle. I miss morning walks in Lincoln Park. I miss Sita, my beautiful and loyal pup. I miss Stephanie, the woman who moved to Seattle to be with me, but whose deep love and dedication I was not able to take in despite this. I miss my clients, with many I had deep connections and feel that I was truly helping. I miss how much freedom I now see that I had in that life, despite feeling so confined by it this Winter.
I have all the freedom that anyone in the world can have right now. I can go in any direction I want. Nothing is holding me in any place or experience. Right now it feels like too much. It’s like floating in outer space, but having no reference point to tell if I’m moving towards anything. I know I’m riding my bike South. I know I prefer sunny days to rainy ones. I know I can push myself on the bike for consecutive 12 hour days, and I know that when I do this I don’t have much space left for reflection. I know that I want to feel more of a sense of purpose behind this journey than I have been feeling. I also know I want to feel more joy in it. I can remember how important felt to choose this journey a few months back, but it doesn’t yet feel so clear like I’d hoped it would. I still have hopes that this may shift, that I’m just getting my bearings and warming into this new phase of life. I’m also afraid that I’ve made a mistake, that this isn’t what I want anymore.
All in all, I know I need some more time out here to feel the experience. I know I’m not yet ready to decide anything about what these feelings mean.
Tok, AK to Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada. 180 miles of riding over 2 1/2 days.
The inner climate of this journey has again shifted. Largely resulting from a great conversation with a good friend in Seattle which shifted my perspective on some things and a deeply inspiring ride through the mountain tops between the Alaskan and Canadian borders. A few important experiences have done well to remind me why I’m out here, and what I’m trying to accomplish beyond just riding my bike around the world.
I was in front of a grocery store yesterday, and two people were looking at my bike setup and asking me about it. They were First Nation locals who’d grown up in Dawson.
I have met so many interesting people since entering Dawson that i regret I forgot their names. What was most important however was the beauty of the interaction. Standing outside that general store, I told them where I was headed and that I would ride until the money ran out. The man on the right reached into his pocket and pulled out a two dollar Canadian coin and gave it to me. I tried to refuse, clarifying that I was NOT in any way asking for money from them. But he insisted.
I was reminded of the theme I’ve been thus far challenged to manifest on this journey: documenting random acts of kindness. So I asked him how he’d like me to pay forward his gift, energetically, to the world as I carry his offering with me. He spoke of how important it is to just sit with someone and give them your attention, to just listen. I loved that. The woman offered her perspective that sometimes you just need to offer someone a hug when they need it. Also perfect. In a moment, the inspiration of exploring this and other deep aspects of what connects us as humans flowed back into my awareness… I’m getting excited again. We all hugged one another deeply, and parted ways. Those 15 minutes shifted things profoundly.
The phone call with my Seattle friend also ramped things up. Sometimes it feels like it’s important to acknowledge that I’m lost and confused, to not make the experience look pretty or exciting when it’s not genuine, so that I can move forward from a place of honesty. This is all too easy to forget. Together we became curious about how best one could engage a stranger to share with me some aspect of what makes them feel most connected, engaged and inspired. Given my interest in generosity/kindness, I came up with a question in that domain. Ben offered another question around significant moments in one’s life that led to frame shifts in perspective, to fundamental turning points. It also occurred to me to just ask people point blank what makes them feel most alive. Ben’s answer to the generosity question:
When he had to put his dog down many years back, a good friend showed up at the vet with flowers, a candle and a pillow for his dog, to make the event into a comfortable space to feel into the significance of the moment. She had to drive a long distance on a work night to do this, but did so without hesitation. She held him while it happened. These moments are ones we never forget. They are also the moments that feel soooo good to offer someone.
So I’m working on how to present these questions to other people I meet, and how to share the answers I receive.
I was given an immediate chance to do this not 20 minutes later when I stopped at an ice cream shop for a cone. I bought the cone with the 2 dollar coin that man gave me, and sat outside the ice cream shop on the quiet main street of Dawson City (it was 10pm by this point). A woman walked by with her dog and we started chatting. She eventually sat down next to me as the conversation got more and more interesting about travel, about her job in the outdoors. We ended up going for a beer around the corner and talking for 3 hours! Among the interesting topics covered, I asked her the above question about kindness and generosity. She said she couldn’t think of a major moment that was really profound but said she asks herself for 5 things she’s thankful for every day. The more she does it, the more answers she receives. I could see her face light up as I asked her the question, and as she felt inside for an answer. I love seeing people in that space.
I think this all may lead to something very interesting….
On the way back to my campsite, at 1AM, I had to take a short ferry across the Yukon River to get there from Dawson. I was treated to this view on the water. Somehow it felt like it was the universe saying, “You’re onto something”.