What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

I’ve been home for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to write about our trip, but haven’t been able to focus on what happened. We rode into Antelope Wells, New Mexico (which was really just a border crossing), and were picked up by Taylor’s boyfriend, who was coming down to pick her up anyway so they could start on their motorcycle trip back to Philadelphia. Meghan and I were dropped off in Las Cruces, where we hung out in a hotel, walked to Walmart and met up with Evan, and went to Applebee’s to cash in a gift certificate she’d been holding onto. In the hotel room, Meghan and I lay in our respective beds and talked about how it all felt like a dream from which we were now waking up. Not one of those real dreams that shudder us, take us out of our comfort of knowing real from imaginary and take a moment to realize that no, we did not murder a vampire and win a million dollars, but rather one of those distinctly fabricated dreams that display all of our hopes and fears and we wake up feeling more whole and yet torn apart, and completely separated from what took place in our sleepspace.

I’m still working on putting together what took place on the trail, despite what I’ve already written here and for publications. It seems like both everything and nothing. Life-changing and incidental. I do know I was changed in some ways—lessons this wild dream has taught me about myself and the world I inhabit.

  • I want to write in journals now. I used to hate journaling by hand, because of my dysgraphia, and could only write on the computer. Now, I can still type, but the computer’s blank screen is much more isolating than a blank page, which feels inviting and optimistic. I have a harder time trusting what I type, not used to focusing my eyes on a screen for so long, and much less used to organizing my thoughts in such a linear fashion. I filled two small journals on my trip I have a number of larger journals back in Pittsburgh that are half-filled with memories and ideas, but I always abandoned them. My goal is to get back into the habit of daily journaling, and to keep a planner to keep better organized. With the number of time’s I’ve hit my head over the years (no regrets!), both my short term and long term memories are very spotty, but especially my short term. I am more aware that the process of physically writing ideas down helps with putting things to memory, and that having notes to look back on is an invaluable tool as a nonfiction writer, a tool which I’ve been ignoring, due to both laziness and fear.
  • I need to value my alone time and prioritize its potential. I’ve always been aware of my inherent need and appreciation for the quietude of being alone. Over the past few years, I’ve worked in a law office more-or-less by myself, hung posters by myself, and wrote by myself. In these moments where I could bustle along at my own speed, there is the potential for so much to happen in just 15 minutes of focus, whether it’s a brilliant idea or a completely clean house. But I can also get distracted by the things I want to accomplish and by the excitement of having time to myself. On bike tour, I realized that I need to make time for myself, and having a tent was imperative for that. At home, I have the house to myself the majority of the time, but I’m not truly alone if I spend my time on Facebook or Netflix. I need to capitalize on this time where my brain can be free to do the cartwheels its dying to do, and every time I choose to distract myself I am just allowing my fear of moving forward to kick in.
  • Most of life is just cluttered distraction, and I need to be stronger than that. On the trail, I had two cycling outfits and 2 sleeping/lounging outfits, a small cookstove, and a variety of dehydrated vegetables, proteins, and starches. I had some snacks, a book for reading and a book for writing, and a phone that was used mainly for taking pictures during the day and for playing sudoku at night. I had my small, portable home that I cherished even when it disappointed me. And now, my tiny casita feels huge, and my modest possessions feel reckless, without having to pedal for 9 hours a day even my days feel so luxuriously plump with nothing but air. I’m distracted by shopping for the perfect planner when I should be focusing on the apples on the other side of the concrete fence turning redder by the day. While I should be writing, training, and planning my next adventure (hiking from Argentina into Chile in March), I watch Netflix and fret over what to sing at karaoke tonight, or whether I even like karaoke anymore.
  • Everything that isn’t wild in me feels so tame. What does it matter how strong we are if we live a weak life?

So now I’m home. I was sick all last week. I had friends over and almost passed out at my own party, then had a 102 fever for a few days with swollen tonsils and couldn’t eat anything. Now that I’m healthy again I feel strong and reckless and restless as ever. What do I do with my body without a schedule, without a destination for survival? How are there so many hours in the day and so few days in the week? I am never hungry and always want to eat? The hunger is something much deeper, that can’t be satisfied with pizza or salad.