Someone asked me the other day how it came to be that I was on this journey biking from Alaska to Argentina with my husband and 12-year-old twins. Indeed – how did I arrive at this point? One day I was just your ordinary, everyday wife to a wonderful man, mother to incredible twin boys, and Special Ed teacher at a local high school. The next day I was standing on the northernmost edge of the world, about to cycle south 18,000 miles on a quest for a world record.
Twenty years ago I never would have dreamed I’d be making this journey. It never occurred to me at that time that I would one day have two sons, and it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me that I’d be out cycling the world with them. And yet, here I am – in Argentina after having been on the road for more than two years. We’ve cycled 14,000 miles, with only around 4000 more to go until we arrive at the southern tip of the world.
How did that happen? How did it come to be that I had the experience and knowledge I needed to embark upon this journey?
As I look back upon my life, I realize that each experience I’ve had and every decision I’ve made all pieced together to make who I am today. Being stranded in the Himalayas due to a blizzard… Figuring out how to live in a remote Honduran village… Cycling over my first pass… Getting lost in Kaohsiung, Taiwan… Each piece of the puzzle has ultimately led to my being right here, right now.
Life is like a great big jigsaw puzzle. Each experience we have contributes one piece to the puzzle – when we party at Carnival, join a throng of devotees climbing toward a shrine, witness a baptism in the ocean… When we get caught in freezing cold temperatures in Wyoming or sweat like fevered pigs in Central America… Each time we face a new situation, we add a piece to our knowledge base.
So I guess it’s fair to say that my whole life has been preparation for this journey. When my big sister took me backpacking in the mountains of Idaho when I was a teenager and everything that could go wrong went wrong, I learned a thing or two about coping with hardship. When my college buddies and I headed out for a canoe trip and woke up to a foot of snow the day after Thanksgiving and saw the white stuff still coming down by the bucketful, I learned to be resourceful and creative in looking for solutions. When I found myself in an operating room in Honduras, breathing for a patient while the anesthesiologist tried frantically to breathe some life into a stillborn baby in the next theatre, I learned sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and do it.
And so it was that the day came when John and I made the decision to take this trip – knowing we had the skills and experiences we would need. We knew how to choose gear for a journey of this magnitude. We knew how much and what kinds of food we needed. We knew how to plan our route and deal with traffic. We knew we had the mental strength to get us through long stretches of nothing and the physical strength to get us up and over the Andes Mountains.
And now – this journey, itself, is yet another piece in my jigsaw puzzle of life. I’m learning things about myself on this trip that will shape my life to come. I have no idea what the final picture on my puzzle will be by the time I take that final bike ride into the sky, but I know I’ll have a lot of pieces in it – interesting pieces at that!