It's the beginning of day 23, which means that I'm at the halfway mark of my trip. By now, I've seen and done enough to have some thoughts on this journey. I wanted to memorialize some of them (even though I have to hit the road!). Here are rambles on fear, nature, and journeys.
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In a way, part of the challenge of this trip--and part of what makes this trip so great--is that I'm confronting, and overcoming, a lot of my fears.
At the outset, I had so many fears. I feared that I'd get lonely traveling by myself; I've found my time alone incredibly valuable. I feared that I would get mauled by a bear; I've avoided that (thanks to my bear bell and bear spray). I feared that I'd get exhausted from driving and running all day, every day; I've found this routine surprisingly refreshing. I feared the bugs would invade my tent and swarm me; they've gotten inside, but I've learned to peacefully coexist with them. I feared that I would get lost on the trails; I have, but I've always found my way back. I feared I would twist my ankle; I've gotten close far too many times to count, but I've always regained my balance. I feared that I'd get bored; anything but.
And that's the beauty--none of my fears have taken control of me. Instead, I've conquered--or begun to conquer--them, day by day, step by step. Indeed, I've made it a point on this trip to follow what Eleanor Roosevelt advised people to do:
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Each day on the road presents a new opportunity to follow Roosevelt's advice. Last night, for instance, I ran through a secluded redwood forest after the sun had already set, with nothing but the light from my headlamp to show me the way out. It was scary, and I had goosebumps for the majority of the run, but I made it out safely, and life went on just fine.
One of the songs I've listened to over and over again on this trip is "All in a Day's Work" by Dr. Dre. Jimmy Iovine, founder of Interscope Records, opens the song with a short statement--one that I couldn't agree with more:
Fear, fear's a powerful thing. . . . It's got a lot of firepower. If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you, that's very powerful.
Think about how many times we spend our lives letting fear block us from pursuing our dreams. It really doesn't have to be that way. If we confront those fears, we quickly learn that they can push us even closer to those goals. This trip is showing me that.
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I'm a city boy. I've spent most of my life growing up in the world's major cities (i.e., New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore). Although there are some exceptions, cities and nature don't do well together. As a result, a city boy like me never really had the opportunity to be immersed in nature, as I've been for the last few weeks.
Let me just say--it's important that every city person spend some time in nature. My time in the wild has taught me a lot. Most importantly, it has shown me that we are just specks. As I've cruised across the country, and trodden miles of wilderness, I've finally begun to get the sense of just how vast the natural world is, and how, in the grand scheme of things, each of us is just a tiny part of the world. It's been entirely humbling. But it's good to be humbled.
Living in the bubble of city life also means that you're shielded from thinking about the consequences that humankind can have on the natural world. We live a lifestyle of consumption--we constantly use up and discard things, even if we don't actually need them. That way of life is not sustainable; the time I've spent in our parks has heightened my awareness of this issue. At some of the primitive campsites I've spent time at, I've been forced to change my lifestyle to adapt to the limited resources. I thought this would be a hardship. But I've surprisingly found that life is okay, and sometimes even better, in a world of constraints.
This trip, in other words, has helped me draw a clearer line between my needs and my wants. I know what I need. Food, shelter, warmth, and direction(s). These needs need to be satisfied. My wants, on the other hand--well, they're just wants. Many of them (e.g. daily showers) are frivolous, and life is perfectly fine without them.
I hope to preserve this distinction when I return to my regular "city life". Simply put, I want to live in a way that best preserves this beautiful country and world for future generations. Such a lofty goal would seem to require serious sacrifices. But I've learned that I don't need to engage in heroics to do this. All it takes is little steps, little tweaks to habits. It takes a conscious decision, and I'm choosing to make it now. Hold me to it.
Life is a journey (obviously). But it's better to think of life as a series of journeys, through different phases of life. We can have bad journeys, and we can have good ones. But no matter how you define your journeys, it's important to always seek them out.
Each new journey is an opportunity not only to experience the world, but to do so through a new lens. I'm only halfway through, but getting to see this beautiful country, and to feel beneath my feet the shifts in landscape as I've headed west, has been an important journey--one that I'll cherish forever.
I'm on the Pacific coast now (in northern California, to be precise). Over the next few days, I'll be making my way down the coast before I begin the return journey east. I hope the journey back will teach me as much as I've learned on the journey out.