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Journey’s End

One of the hardest things with any long journey is coping with the end – you feel amazingly free at first, but this quickly turns to boredom. Worse, you may find yourself changed in many ways, perhaps unexpected, and accepting this can be quite difficult.

P10507497This is the fourth time in the last year I’ve gone through this, each time different. In November, 2009, I returned from one of the most bizarre and thought-provoking vacations anyone can imagine, where I rode a mototaxi thousands of miles across South America (I cannot recommend this type of experience enough). I had already made plans to quit my job, but I think everyone I worked with secretly hoped I would change my mind when I returned – unfortunately for them, this experience solidified my need to experience life at a different level.

4316354814_a5a7814000_bImmediately after my final day of work on December 31, 2009, I set out on a road trip across the US with the goal of getting the few remaining states in my “all 50 states” merit badge. Sleeping in a minivan, driving thousands of miles through snowstorms, and visiting some of the most beautiful US National Parks re-assured me that I had made the right decision. I had an epic amount of fun learning to snowboard (aside from the multiple-times-dislocated shoulder) and returned to DC invigorated and ready to head out to Asia days later.

P1100214 (2)[7]My time in Asia was absolutely amazing, and if it weren’t for the crushing loneliness that unexpectedly rode my shoulders in Thailand I likely would have stayed there. I learned a very valuable lesson about keeping oneself engaged constantly – there was simply too much downtime during training in Thailand where I sat alone in my room resting and not doing anything (I came close to experiencing the same ennui in Whitehorse on this last trip). Regardless, the return from Asia was by far the worst experience of the year as I suffered a mental and physical withdrawal on many levels – going from the intense daily experience on many emotional levels of Nepal to my boring leather couch and big-screen TV at home tore me up inside.

Coming to grips with the return to normality ended up being almost too much for me and within a very short period of time I found myself craving activity, needing an overarching goal to drive me – ennui had found me, even at home, surrounded by my friends and the abundance of city life. In barely a week, I put together skeleton plans to ride a scooter to Alaska and hit the road. I found the fulfillment I was looking for on the road again, but I wondered if it was slightly misplaced.

95 days and 16,291 miles of riding (plus a thousand or so hitchhiking or in a rented truck) later, I’m back home in DC. It’s a very different feeling of return this time, thanks to a lot of careful mental preparation learned from my previous experiences. I’m struggling with the ultimate decision: do I continue my current lifestyle and risk being unable to return to a “normal” career, or do I return to work and put further plans on hold for a few years?

The advice of my friends and peers is quite interesting – I can’t help but feel that some people recommend I go back to work out of a certain misplaced negativity that my current lifestyle is unfair or inappropriate, yet others genuinely feel I’m “at risk” in my career (personally I’m not worried too much about this, if I don’t work for ten years I can still go back to work at a lower level). On the other hand, many people obviously want to continue to live vicariously through me, and more importantly they believe I am good at sharing and inspiring others.

As such, I’ve reached an internal compromise. In the year since everyone has known I would be unemployed, I’ve had many, many people reach out to me to discuss career opportunities. As a whole, I’ve put all of these off until last month when an amazing position at a company I very much respect was suggested to me. I’ve begun talks with them about it, and although it appears I may have gotten into the queue a bit late, I’m giving it a shot.

If we decide we’re a good fit for each other, I’ll be back to working 80 hour weeks and pushing myself with different goals – and probably not taking a real vacation for years. It will be an exciting challenge, even if I’ll have a lot less freedom.

On the other hand, if this position doesn’t work out, I expect I will be going to the opposite extreme. If I stop paying rent and bills at home and live carefully, I can continue to adventure about for another year or two on my current savings. I may even be willing to work a bit at obtaining sponsorship or writing travel articles to help fund things a bit more. This would allow me to fulfill my dreams of riding around the world’s longest national highway in Australia, exploring Nepal, China, and Eastern Europe more, and even spending half a year cruising around South America.

So, the lady or the tiger, eh? We’ll see what’s behind those doors soon enough…



bigdad381 said…
you'll make the right decision. it'll just come.

philip mccaleb
bigdad381 said…
you'll know what to do. I'm confident.

philip mccaleb

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