When I was twenty years old, I fulfilled a lifelong dream: I left my comfortable life behind and moved out of the country. I gave the middle finger to every single reason I shouldn't, or couldn't; all the nagging fears and doubts and thoughts of "what the hell are you doing moving halfway across the world by yourself," and I spent much of 2003 living in New Zealand. I lived mostly in my 1983 Holden Commodore station wagon with the steering wheel on the right, my kiddie crib mattress squished to one side of the behemoth-like land yacht and my skis and climbing gear on the other side.
This experience changed my life. When I returned to the US, I knew I wasn't done. The unknown was now the known, and my deep-seated desire to wander the world in search of adventure and experience was firmly cemented in the core of my being. Despite the junkshow misadventures I had that year that inevitably come with being a rookie traveler, I not only survived but thrived, and I was hooked on hurling myself outside my comfort zone, on testing my resourcefulness, creativity, and courage, and on the exhilaration I felt from being completely alone in a strange place.
I knew that travel would always be a part of my life. I made it a priority to put myself in situations where I could take off for long periods of time, alone or with a companion, and I had incredible experiences all over Europe, in Thailand, and in British Columbia. Every two years I would go on extended vacation, vagabonding across some far-off part of the globe that usually involved some sort of outdoor adventure, living in cars, eating, sharing deep belly laughs and intense conversations with strangers who were so different yet so similar to me, and random wandering through city streets and over high mountain passes, eyes wide with wonder and adoration for the incredible world we live in.
When I made the decision in early 2012 to put everything else in my life on the back burner to pursue professional bike racing, I knew that travel would have to be included in this. No more leaving a job or taking a sabbatical from life for weeks or months on end to become a vagabond. When I make up my mind to do something, I don't half-ass it. I'm all in. All of my extra time, energy, money, and other resources were going to be devoted to this pursuit.
In the back of my mind, my goal, though it seemed so far away, was to someday find a way to combine mountain bike racing and international travel- to find a way to combine my passion for wandering the world with my passion for racing bikes, and make it sustainable in a way that wouldn't find me scrimping and barely scraping by in life in order to go on a trip. I also wanted to do it in a way that wouldn't be for me alone, but that would inspire other people to find that thing, that secret passion that shows up in their dreams when they're not constrained by reality, that thing that makes their heart sing and their world set on fire, and go after it. (You know, that thing.)
And finally... three years after I shelved one passion for another, things have come full circle. I have finally worked myself into a position where I am lucky enough to combine the two. I just booked a flight to Guatemala (!!!!!!), and in less than two months, I will board a plane to fly over the big drink for the first time with my bike, for a race. Just like my first time over ten years ago, I will travel alone.
It's funny how my fears and doubts about stepping into the unknown as a thirty-something woman are so different than the ones that I had as a twenty-something girl. My five year hiatus from travel has taken a toll on my free-spirited nature; it has been interesting to observe the complicated dialogue in my brain happening now that was not there when travel was a consistent part of my life. My safety as a woman traveling alone is a concern. Entering a multi-day bike race where I have to perform at my best in a completely foreign situation is a concern. Logistics are a concern. "Will I succeed?" is a concern. There is an element of fear within me that has never been there before. I close my eyes and try to remember the feelings that I used to have, in my twenties when I would excitedly jump across the globe into the unknown at my first opportunity, without hesitation or even a second thought. Though the memories are faintly there, the feelings have faded.
Still, there is this: something I have always believed, something I have found to be true throughout my life. Something that has always inspired me to jump, even though I may not really know if I will land on solid ground:
"Until one is committed...
there is hesitancy...
the chance to draw back...
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans...
That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising on one's favor all manners of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and materials assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it: boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
So, once again, a little older and maybe wiser this time, I am heeding the words of Goethe. I have committed. All in, one hundred percent- the only way I know how. I am so excited to have my passions come full circle and to have my dreams of traveling abroad to race my bike become a reality. Though the road hasn't always been easy, I am finally accomplishing what I set out to do.
I am incredibly grateful to so many people for supporting me in this adventure, from the beginning stages to now. Especially Donny, who "met" me just as I was making this unconventional commitment in my life and has never held me back from pursuing this path. And Alison; without her influence in my life I wouldn't even be racing a bike, much less successfully. I am grateful for my few and true friends who stuck with me four years ago when I decided to uproot my comfortable life, get on the crazy bus and leave "normal" far behind- you know who you are. I am grateful for all those who told me "you can't, that's stupid, why would you do that, what are you thinking?" There is nothing that makes me more fiercely determined than telling me I can't. Guess what? You were wrong.
Finally, I am so grateful for my racing sponsors whose support is making it possible for me to go out on a limb, to take chances, to create, to fall in love over and over again with what I have the privilege to do, to live this life, and to share it with the world. Thank you, with all of my heart.
I leave for Guatemala in less than two months. I hope that this is only the beginning- the first of many experiences wandering through the world racing my bike. Thank you all for your support in following, and taking part in, my adventures. I can't wait to share it all with you!