We’ve started to tell people about our plans, and most have been overwhelmingly supportive, after recovering from the initial shock.
But there is definitely a sub-group, thankfully a minority, that I don’t think get it. They’re having a hard time wrapping their minds around what we’re setting out to do. Or more importantly, why we’re doing it in the first place.
These conversations are frustrating and invariably leave me feeling defeated. While I don’t expect people to convert to international bicycle travel, I would like for them to have an appreciation of why we’re doing this. Almost universally, they warn about the danger.
Interestingly, nearly everyone that warns of danger has never been to the places we will travel, but somehow they are convinced of the danger that lurks, waiting for two unsuspecting cyclists. The news coverage of murderous drug cartels in Mexico is certainly not helping my argument though. However, I’m also reminded every day on the Metro and the walk home that I don’t need to go to Mexico to find the shady and shifty, we’re well stocked right here in Houston.
While these naysayers have the best of intentions, I can’t help but think that all the dangers they warn of could happen here, at home, in the United States of America. Truth is, sh*t happens everywhere, whether you’re on a bike, in the office, or in your own neighborhood. One need only turn on the evening news to learn of all the bad things that happened today, further confirming why we should never leave our house. The potential for danger is everywhere, but unfortunately our fear-based society has mutated that into a consciousness that believes danger is everywhere, particularly out there.
Home is perceived to be the safest place to be, probably a result of some sociocultural evolution to keep us from realizing and being overwhelmed by the very real dangers in our own environments. The land beyond the borders of our towns, states, country, is unknown. But everywhere we travel will be home to someone. And I have faith that they will do their part to grant us safe passage.
But this is too Pollyanna for some, so I reluctantly admit to them, danger exists and some bad things will probably happen. But what frustrates me is that I haven’t even had an opportunity to explain why we’re embarking on this journey. I’m too busy defending all the ways in which we will manage to stay alive. Rarely do we get to the part about how amazing this journey will be, how exciting it will be to meet the people in the places we travel, to have the freedom of being able to go anywhere, to experience new cultures and languages, to see the beauty of the world, and share a lifetime of memories with each other.
This is what I want them to understand. We are not minimizing the dangers; we are just not exaggerating them at the expense of losing sight of the experience. I reassure them, everything will be OK, including the parts that aren’t, because that’s the whole point of an adventure. I admit that we may realize that the entire thing was a colossal mistake. At which point we could go back to a job, the daily grind, and all we left behind.
“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” -Lucille Ball
My Dad hitchhiked around Europe, by himself, the summer after graduating from high school. He managed to not come home in a box. Granted this was in the 60s, but I refuse to believe that the world is that much more dangerous now, than it was then. I’m sure there were murderers, thieves and other evildoers in the 60s too, it wasn’t all about peace and love. Although judging by Dad’s sideburns and pants, he was really embracing the movement.
If anything, his trip had the potential to be more fraught with danger, with the whole traveling by himself and getting into cars with strangers. And this was way before cell phones and internet. Even I think this sounds crazy and I’m the one riding my bike to Tierra del Fuego.
Mom says I get this from Dad. Like my need for adventure and faith in humanity is somehow woven into the double strands of my DNA. I never had the chance to talk to Dad about our plans though. We lost him this summer to a disease that robbed him of his mind long before it took his body. I wish that I had been able to tell him about our plans sooner; I wish I could talk to him now.
I am left with the fantasy of how that conversation would have unfolded and the dream that he would have recognized this adventure for what it is. Of all people he would have got it. We are only put on this Earth for a short, indeterminate time. The proverbial sands of time will run out on us all. What we decide to do with that time is a choice. Perhaps our choice in travel and lifestyle is a bit nontraditional. But as I see it, at the end of the day, we are just two people who went for a bike ride.
“When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Pollyanna