Photo by akshay moon
“I would love to do what you’re doing!”
“I so wish I could figure out a way to quit my job and travel like you.”
“You’re living the life of my dreams!”
I used to get messages like those on a regular basis. Nearly every day I got an email from yet another person who looked at our life as though it was the ultimate – the pinnacle of aspirations.
And it WAS a good life! Together with my husband and children, I was riding my bicycle from Alaska to Argentina. All told, we pedaled 17,285 miles through fifteen countries. Our journey took nearly three years.
I loved our life on the road. I loved our connection to nature and each other. I loved that we were working together, as a family, toward a common goal. I loved the idea that we were striving toward a goal and not giving up.
There was much to love about our journey, but after a few years on the road, I found myself tiring of it all. As we cycled the highways and byways of South America, I found myself dreaming of having a space of my own. The artist in me dreamed of being surrounded by my lovely bead collection. I dreamed of modern conveniences like a stove that got hot with a simple twist of a knob, a washing machine, and that most miraculous of all modern inventions – running water. HOT running water was way too decadent to even dream of.
How does one reconcile the two? We were living a life so many dreamed of. People around the globe aspire to travel full-time, and we had figure out how to make it happen. We had done it! We had figured out what so many could never quite reach. And I didn’t want it any more.
Our arrival at the end of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina, was one of the most remarkable days in my life. After three years of working to reach that goal, we did it. We screamed and shouted. We hugged and kissed. We threw our bicycle helmets in the air in jubilant celebration.
And then we faced a vast void of… nothing.
For years, we knew where we were going. We knew what we were working toward. We knew – with crystal clarity – exactly what our goal was. And then, in the blink of an eye, we had nothing.
Should we keep going? Bike through Africa or Asia? After all, there was tremendous pressure for us to keep our wheels turning.
Or should we listen to that voice inside that told us it was time to change gears?
The next couple months were a blur. A blur of confusion as we tried to find our path and a place to live, figure out what to do about school for our sons, sort out all the conflicting emotions we felt, and think about what the future looked like for us. I likened it to sticking my brain in the blender turned on high. Brain puree.
Then one day I had one of those EUREKA moments. I remember the moment precisely. I was talking with a friend and realized, suddenly, that my message had never been about biking the length of the Americas. It never was about the travel. My message – what I had tried to convey through 1018 daily blog posts – was that we all need to pursue our passions and follow our dreams. Wherever they lead.
And that meant me too.
The important thing is that we run after our dreams. We need to chase rainbows and find our pot of gold at the end and shake hands with the leprechaun living there. It’s okay to leap out of the box and grab life by the horns and live it on our own terms. We don’t have to live the way anybody expects us to live – we can live the way we want to live!
And if that meant living in a small house in Boise, Idaho, surrounded by my beads, then that was perfectly okay. It’s my life to live, and I can live it the way I want.
It’s all about waking up every morning and knowing that what we do with the next 24 hours is what WE choose to do – not what somebody else chooses for us. It’s about making conscious choices and living deliberately.
If we live that way, we’ll always be content. We’ll live a life without regrets.