All dreamers talk about critics. We complain about how they bring us down. We complain about how they just don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that they are speaking out of fear, or jealousy, or lack of knowledge.
But what if they are right?
What if we are wrong and they are right? Then what?
The trouble with this whole dream stuff is that it’s unknown. We have our own little visions for what we think it’ll be like. We have our hopes. We think *this* is what we’ll learn from it all. But truthfully, we don’t really know.
As John Higham, author of 360 Degrees Longitude said, “The proof will be in the pudding.” He spent a year traveling around the world with his two children and doesn’t assume to know the long-term effects of those travels. Was the journey beneficial? Harmful? No difference at all? Ultimately, who knows? And how can we know?
I often say, in regards to my children’s experiences and takeaway, that there is no control group. There is no “Davy and Daryl who did not ride their bikes to the end of the world.” We have no way of knowing what effect our travels did or did not have on our sons. We have only conjecture.
But let’s pretend, for purposes of argument, that they’re right. Let’s say that all their concerns are accurate and that, ultimately, what they fear actually happens. Let’s assume that Grandma and Grandpa were right when they said we should have stayed home. That our friends were right when they said we were crazy. That those strangers were right when they told us we were hurting our kids.
You know what? They might be. How can we know?
Maybe there is a reason more people haven’t done it? Maybe it shouldn’t be done?
Way back in 2008 when I was packing my bike to head out on the PanAm, I remember thinking about that very idea. My sons would be the very first kids to cycle the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay on the shores of the Arctic Ocean to Fairbanks 500 miles away. They would be the very first kids to ride bikes from there to Argentina.
Was that because nobody had thought of it? Or because there was a very good reason? How do I know?
This is what I wrote in Changing Gears, “Even after so many months of planning, preparing, stewing, fretting, and organizing, I wondered if we would actually make it. Could we actually make it? The odds were against us – how many ten-year-old kids had ever cycled the Dalton? None. The Alaska Highway? None. The Pan American? None. We were drawing blanks as far as examples to lean on. We would have to be our own example.”
In the end, I had no choice but to go with my gut. Did I know it would turn out okay? Nope. Did I know my kids would enjoy the experience? Nope. Did I know at the time that all four of us would look back on our experiences and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was a good thing? Nope, not at all.
It could have been different. We could have hated it. We could have been injured (or worse) in an accident. We could have been kidnapped or gotten very ill. There are a million things that could have gone wrong.
They didn’t, but they could have. We’ve talked before about the what-ifs. Ultimately, we can choose to what-if ourselves out of our dream, or we can choose to do it anyway.
In the end, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight. We don’t have the benefit of that 20/20 vision before we leap off the cliff. All we have is what we know right now – and that’s where that gut feeling comes in.