This is the third draft of this post, but I was sitting by myself at lunch and finally realized what I wanted to say.
(Sunset my first night in San Agustin)
As I biked into Neiva I wanted to quit. As I biked out of Neiva, I wanted to quit. 200km later, after getting chased by a guy with a machete and sleeping in a ditch (without a tent, in the rain, not actually sleeping), and pedaling another 60km STFU, I wanted to quit. But here I am, I’ve been on the road 650km and eight days. I am now convinced that I can do this. I have no doubts that if I needed to bike to Patagonia, I could do it.
I’ve been honest to admitting my doubts on this blog, but after a conversation with my brother and a close friend in Portland this morning, I realized that my doubts are not about the challenge or logistical problems. I realize that a while back I made a plan and that the plan said “travel abroad, alone, somewhere new, and love it.” When it came time to execute that part of the plan, I never allowed myself to ask the question- “what do I really want to do next?” “Do I have the energy to do what the original plan says?” “If this is the last time I have to be unemployed for a while, is this how I want to spend it?”. Of course, some of these questions cannot be answered without trying, but in the course of action, ignoring these questions aren’t the same as answering them.
I realized too that it is unreasonable to think that traveling here will simply “make me happy,” but that it is more important that traveling here will resonate with my inherent happiness in a new way. If it’s not, then there is nothing that says I must do this. The failure would be in “shoulding” myself (not my own phrase) to do something that isn’t the thing that resonates with me most strongly. I will need to find employment before I run out of money, and the only failure would be to get to that point and look back only to be unsatisfied with how I’ve spent my time (oh I “should” have done this).
What is failure? What is success? I pedaled up this monster hill without stopping but now my knee hurts. Failure or success? As with most things it depends on how you define it, but in the most objective light- so far I’ve covered road miles quickly, learned a lot, and had quality interactions. If I got on a plane to San Francisco tomorrow, it would be unfair to call my time here a failure.
I got to Mocoa yesterday, which is the end of civilized country in southern Colombia. The next two days will likely be some of the hardest riding on the continent if I am to believe what I’m told. 5,000 vertical feet of climbing in about 80km, mostly on dirt roads. Yesterday I got to town early and went for a very relaxed hike along a beautiful river. I noticed that today was the first time I’ve been hiking or swimming since I’ve been here. Today I opted to rest as its pouring rain and if I’m going to climb 5,000ft I want to see the view, so perhaps tomorrow will bring better weather. I’m riding through this place, but I’m not really exploring it- frankly I don’t have the energy. I find familiarity in the intensity of the riding, of fighting the hills, of racing the daylight, but on my hike I asked myself the question: am I having fun yet (does this resonate with my happiness)? And maybe so far it hasn’t.
Am I doing this for the wrong reasons, or is it that I just don’t know what my reasons really are? For now, I suspect I need the patience to see if the right reasons unfold, or if some of those questions about the plan need to get re-visited (and that’s okay!).