It is the middle of the night. I am in the tent at a campground on the Oregon Coast. It is cold and I do not want to get up. But I have to pee. I open the zipper of the tent. There is a flap from the outer cover where it is possible to keep our backpacks while we sleep. Our backpacks are gone.
I step outside into the moonless night. In the distance I see what looks like my pack. As I get closer, I realize that it is open. All of the food has been eaten. Even the sealed peanut butter packets. Everything. All that is left are the wrappers. It is a mess.
I walk around a bit more and find Wexler’s bag in worse condition.
We had an extra large stash of resupply because we knew it would be a long walk into the next town and we might not even make it until the following day.
What kind of creature could drag the bags, open zippers, and ravage our things in this way? I was up for the rest of the night trying to figure it out.
It was definitely not a human because of the way the food was eaten. Was it a monkey?
We take a bus from Portland, Oregon to Warrenton and start walking. It is a dark day and it beings to rain. After about 6 miles, we stick out our thumb and a nice gentleman gives us a ride to the campground. People are incredibly friendly here.
We find out where the hiker/biker area is. But before we set up our tent we need to make our way 4 miles north to the northernmost point of the Oregon coast. A young woman at the campground registration offers to give us a ride. We accept with gratitude.
Perhaps the greatest thrill of being alive for me is the element of surprise.
I did not always know this.
I spent most of my life trying to control everything so that each day resembled the day before. Routine was my modus operandi. Wake up, exercise, eat breakfast (the same thing each day), work, maybe work out again, eat lunch (the same thing each day), work, eat dinner (with a small bit of variety). My thoughts did not vary much either. Mostly, they revolved around body image, food, and making sure that I followed the routine.
Please do not get me wrong—in many ways I lived a fantastic, sweet life. I had an amazing, loving husband, I was financially stable, I lived in a beautiful environment. I appreciated all of these things. It was that secondary layer, my inner world that was in so much pain that created an unconscious need to order and control everything.
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.
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.
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.