I am five weeks into a six week adventure through Mexico before I return to my bicycle in Malaysia to continue a worldwide bicycle tour. I wanted to show that Mexico is not the dangerous place that is portrayed in the American media. To do this, I hitchhiked over 2,000 miles through Mexico and then traveled through beach towns, remote pueblos, and larger cities. The only thing I found was kindness, hospitality, and a little bit of fear from the Mexicans because they have an equal fear about Americans.
For me, adventure is not something that I go out and do sometimes. I see every day as an opportunity for a new adventure; for a way to face my fears, to challenge my beliefs, to push myself to try new things, and to accept change and impermanence.
In many ways, I love and crave change. It makes me feel alive. All of my senses are turned on when I am in a new situation and a new environment. All parts of me —-physical, mental, and spiritual are turned on. That is why I have chosen to be a nomad.
And YET, there are certain things that I become comfortable with. In the beginning comfort is a fantastic feeling. I hold on to it and try to figure out how I can make it permanent.
However, I have learned that to be “comfortable” in my life slowly turns to numbing and depression.
Recently, I watched a short video by Jedidiah Jenkins, a fellow cyclist. He argues that “routine is the enemy of time. It makes it fly by. When you are a kid everything is astonishing and new and your brain is always turned on. Once your brain learns a routine—the alertness goes away.”
I know exactly what he is talking about. I am constantly reminded of just how much a can do with I create and participate in my adventures.It makes me a better person and better partner. See my earlier blog On Being Good to Yourself for more on this.
.A recent example. After hitchhiking over 2,000 miles, I arrived with my partner in Zipolite, Mexico on the Oaxacan Coast. I stayed for 2 ½ weeks. This was not typical for me—to settle down and relax. The majority of the year I spend on rigorous cycling or trekking journeys.
This small beach community offers the exact simplicity that speaks to me. I stay in a hut on the beach made of wood, palm leaves, and bamboo without air conditioning or hot water. It is a nude beach which provides a more relaxed, open environment.
Days are spent on the boogie board, beach walking, swimming, writing and working on promoting Rachel Yaseen Worldwide, and human climbing (a new activity my partner and I are practicing). I am also inspired by the local food—simple, very inexpensive, but delicious.
I have fallen in love with the beauty, the energy, the unspeakable magic of the fierce sea on this beach. The tremendous sound of the giant waves as they come crashing down can sound like an explosion. I am drawn to their force and magnificence.
After a little more than two weeks, my partner says it is time to move on. My heart feels like it is breaking. I am usually the one who is ready to move on. I love the journey. I love knowing that I will be constantly surprised. But i have fallen in love with this place. Truly fallen in love. It is holding my heart. How can I possibly leave?
I suppose it is how many of us feel when we are on vacation.
I will never be ready to leave this place. Yet, while I love this little microcosm, I know in my heart that I am called to adventure. This is my job but also my passion; it is what drives me.
I must remind myself that this is how I am. Before I came to Zipolite, I spent some weeks trekking in the Sonoran Desert. I hiked great distances, I slept in my tent under the stars, I purified my water, built fires, made food, enjoyed an amazing wild flower season, navigated abundant water flow, swam, and lived a very simple life. I fell in love with the Sonoran Desert all over again. (This had been my home for 25 years). Like my experience in Zipolite, I did not want to leave. But I knew I must.
Now it has been 3 days since I left Zipolite. I am out in the remote Oaxacan highlands trekking from village to village. It is the Mexican version of the Camino de Santiago which is a pilgrimage in Spain that I have done three times and has had a tremendous impact on my life.
There is very little information available about this trek. It was a leap of faith that has turned out to be extremely rewarding because it is so challenging—both physically challenging and mentally challenging because the route is virtually unmarked.
Now we are on day three. The crisp alpine air, the extremely rigorous hiking in high elevations, the kindness and generosity of the local people, and the primitive food create an entirely different experience from Zipolite.
I will spend the next week on this pilgrimage—village to village; up and down these remote, pristine mountains. I will fall in love with them because that is what usually happens when I can be at one with nature. And again, I will have to say goodbye.
But this is my life. In June I will walk the Oregon Coast Trail with my son, Wexler. In July I will go back to my bicycle in Malaysia and continue my tour through Indonesia—a much more affordable place to travel.
My life is one of change. It is one of goodbyes. These goodbyes break my heart. But I know that I am on to another adventure. I am going to fall in love again. Over and over. I will need to keep saying goodbye.
Each time I learn that it is possible. That I can do it. And each time I am rewarded with something great and I fall in love again.
It is not comfortable to leave a place that you love. It is not comfortable to go into the unknown. But this world is too fantastic to miss.
DISCLOSURE: The nomadic lifestyle I live is based on hard work. Most of the time, I am on a rigorous physical journey either cycling or trekking off the beaten path around the world. I spend a lot of time on the blog, making videos, taking photos, and putting out a bi-monthly newsletter to share my adventures, and motivate and inspire others. I live very frugally off a tiny savings in an attempt to live a nomadic lifestyle based on adventure. I have tried the more traditional lifestyle for over 25 years and I know that it does not work for me. This is not financially sustainable in the long run so I am working hard to identify how I can best serve others through this journey. I am passionately committed to make this dream a permanent reality.
I have spent the last 48 hours in some sort of personal torture to meet my self imposed deadline to complete this blog post. In this time I have threatened to not only cancel the entire blog, but to abandon my larger project; a year long labor of love.
“You have nothing to say.” “You are not good enough.” “Why would anyone want to listen to you?” Even though I know that these voices are not my friends, that I have vowed so many times not to listen to them, I let them bring me down.
I regularly hesitate to post my real feelings because I know that they might not be popular. Because the shame I feel might be familiar, but also unacceptable to say out loud. But I also know the hesitation feels like all of my adventures—crossing a seemingly impassible river, cycling alone in the dark, getting lost, the list goes on and on. So here goes....
Children are a burden; a responsibility. But also our greatest teachers. I am so grateful for everything my son Wexler has taught me. I would not be the person I am today without him.
It was not until I faced the challenge, instead of resisting it, that I was able to be the parent I wanted to be.
This was not always the popular road, but I have learned to cherish my own values as opposed to relying on those of others.
I did not know shit about being a parent. My 12 year old son has a life of his own. There are a couple things I have learned. The more honest I am to myself and take full responsibility for myself, the stronger and more present I get as a parent. And the stronger I get, the more willing I am to give more severe consequences.
I have such great sadness about the parenting thing.
Freedom as it turns out, is all about being willing to take risks. I am cycling around the world with my partner. But we give each other a lot of freedom and independence on the journey. By riding alone most days, I give myself the opportunity to go my own pace and stop when I want.
When I am alone, I am more alert to everything around me. I need to be completely responsible for myself. Cyling in Asia, the people are so helpful and friendly and absolutely willing to assist if needed—especially because I am cycling off the beaten tourist path. I am such a rarity, they are thrilled to see me. Even though I feel like I have this underlying support, it just feels different to be on my own rather than cycling with a partner.
It is also excellent for the relationship. It is really exciting to reconnect and learn how each of us managed. We are both on the same (or at least similar) route and yet separate
I have never won a gold medal. I have never even won a medal. I have never stood on a big stage. But when I am riding my bicycle through Asia (currently Sumatra) and am greeted by hundreds of people with waves, smiles, and shouts; the only way I can describe it is as a professional athlete earning a gold medal might feel standing on a stage in front of thousands of people.
Over the years I have heard travelers say, “I loved X or Y country because of the people.” “The people made it.” “The people are so friendly.” As someone who is not particularly social, I never really understood. Plus, how do you communicate with people from another culture if you do not speak their language?
I did not understand because it is more of a feeling that it produces. It is nothing particularly intellectual. There is rarely a transmission of dialogue—except incredibly remedial. It is the smiles and the enthusiastic shouting and the thumbs up that produces such joy.
Today was my second day riding my bicycle through Indonesia. I am in Sumatra. An island of about 50 million people. This is part of a longer journey around the world.
It was a really hard day. So hot. So much traffic. My mind was torturing me. “Why are we doing this?” “We should have gone somewhere else.”
But I have been doing this long enough to know two things. First, great things come out of discomfort. There is always an end to the tough times. I was right.
I have not seen a single white person since I started riding. This does not seem to be a tourist destination in any way. But that was the point of the trip for me. To myself in a situation where accommodation, resources, and communication were limited. This is a way to test myself. To learn.
It is also a great way to meet the local population. I find that when I arrive in an area in an unexpected way, people are joyfully surprised.
When I decided to ride southern Myanmar, it was because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to push myself into an uncomfortable place.
I had all kinds of ideas about how this could be challenging.
Myanmar was just reopened to tourists in 2012 after years of violence. Many restrictions are still in place—foreigners are only allowed to sleep in “foreigner” designated hotels. Wilding camping is strictly prohibited as is providing any sort of accommodation for a foreigner.
While cycling through remote villages in Asia (currently Thailand and Myanmar), I see people living in very primitive situations. Homes are made out of bamboo and palm leaves. Sometimes a bit of wood. No insulation, no running water, no electricity.
In these little villages, the residential, commercial and agricultural are all somehow merged into one. The home is the business and is also the place where you might find some pigs or cows or chickens or all of the above. The children, parents, and grandparents all live together.
I am on my way back to America. It is an extremely long journey. One that would have seemed impossible three and a half years ago. It will take nearly 72 hours.
I can remember many trips to Florida from Arizona that could take up to 6 hours. I remember thinking to myself—that is absolutely unbearable— how will we do it?
But traveling is like any endurance activity that I do—whether it is swimming, backpacking in high elevations, cycling long distance.
Like endurance sports, there are ups and downs; highs and lows. There are hours that go by seemingly instantaneously while others seem to feel like I am crawling to get there.
There are times that I can feel motivated to work and write and feel happy just looking out the window. And then there are moments that I am overwhelmed by the inhuman scale of the trip as well as the airport itself.
I am currently bicycling through Southern Myanmar with my partner Rene. We started in Bangkok, Thailand, rode to northern Thailand, and then cut south. We are headed to Indonesia.
I chose to cycle through Southern Myanmar because I knew it would be a challenge. For 50 years, Myanmar was a military dictatorship completely cut off to foreigners. About 6 years ago, it was re-opened. However foreign travel is still highly regulated—isolated to “tourist” designations.
But our trip to is NOT about seeing the countries “highlights.” It is more about getting off the beaten path. I am seeking the unpredictable, unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable as an opportunity for adventure.
I am a passionate meditator. I do not meditate because I am good at it or because it is easy. If I am truthful, then it is torturous. It is brutally hard. Way harder than biking or climbing the hardest hill. But, like climbing the hardest hill, you know it will end. And like climbing the hardest hill, there is a reward—a beautiful view, the feeling that you accomplished something, knowing that you are working and training your body.
The reward for meditating comes in many different ways. A new view of yourself—a broader, more accepting, and compassionate view.
These stories are about my inner and outer journey as a nomad with no address, a citizen of the world. My journey is about challenging myself by embracing the unpredictable, uncomfortable, and also joyful moments. My hope is to inspire, motivate, and entertain you.