Monday, February 24, 2014

A Milestone: Six Months on the Road

My fellow CC Gracia members who rode with me on the first day-August 23, 2013

Six months ago today, I set off  from the Gracia neighborhood in Barcelona, where I religiously met my bike club every Saturday morning for that past 4 years for the weekly group ride.  This time, however, it was a Friday morning, and I wasn’t going to return home to Barcelona, I was going to keep riding to my other home, Eugene, Oregon, 14 months and 30,000 kilometers down the road.

The last breakfast I had with them on the Maresme

Today, February 23, 2014, it marked the sixth month anniversary of my trip.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been on my bike for six months.  In a way it feels like I just set off yesterday, but on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been living on my bike for the past 6 years!  I can’t believe I’m not even at the halfway time milestone yet- I’ve got 8 months to go, at least that is the plan!  Distance wise, I am a bit further along than I anticipated, just shy of 16,000 kilometers.  I haven’t gone six months without having an official job since I was a teenager and although I know many of you think that I am on one big vacation, bike touring can be hard work! 

Six months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had an image of myself riding my bike day in and day out, but I didn’t really know that meant as a lifestyle, nor the stories and experience it would bring.  I was excited but nervous, stressed and worried.   Had I done enough preparation? Was I ready?  The thing is, you can never be prepared enough to embark on a journey like this, you just have to throw yourself into it and start pedaling and you figure out a lot as you go.  Today, I’m  euphoric about my trip.  I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or known myself better as a person than now.  Each day is filled with surprises and adventures that continue to make this trip amazing.

What a fun last night I had with friends on the Costa Brava, Spain

Today as I often do on the road, I played a little memory game.  I tried to recall where I was a year ago and what I was doing.  Ironically at this time last year, February of 2013, when The Loong Way Home became a reality, I was at a major turning point in my life. I knew I had reached a time in my life when I needed to shake things up.  I always said I would leave Barcelona when I got bored.  That wasn’t the case, because “bored” just doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.  However, I could slowly see my motivation and ambition disappear the longer I stayed in Barcelona.  I needed to change something, but I couldn’t identify exactly what that was.  I asked to switch grade levels and started teaching fifth grade rather than second at BFIS.  Although I enjoyed the older students, it wasn’t the change I was looking for. I spent my February break at home in Oregon as I do every year, only this year I was also there for a job interview. The principal at a “dream school” on my list in Portland invited me to apply for a primary Spanish teaching position.  The job really excited me, but my bike trip was also equally present in my mind. 

It was hard for me to justify taking a year off from my job to foolishly cycle around the world.  It wasn’t the “normal” thing to do.  Maybe it would be a valid excuse if I were 10 years younger, but I was at a stage in my life when I was suppose to be 100% devoted to my career.  Deep down inside I knew exactly what I wanted, I longed to do the bike trip, but I looked for every excuse to follow the “normal” path.

I had prepared an engaging demo lesson and knew I’d be perfect for the Spanish job.  The thought of teaching Spanish really did excite me and giving Portland, Oregon a try sounded enticing. However, I walked out of the job interview knowing that it wasn’t the best representation of my teaching.  I had a big “what if” in my mind for weeks, What if I got the job,….Was I going to take it or do my bike trip?  You see, the previous year I had applied to a third grade homeroom position at the same school and was beat out by another teacher.  I was devastated.  This year, when I got the email that they gave the Spanish position to the other candidate I started jumping up and down.  I was ecstatic, relieved…..I had no excuses for not doing my trip, it had been decided. And so The Loong Way Home was born.

A lot of people ask me how I decided to do my trip and what is the hardest part?  To their surprise, I tell them it isn’t the consecutive days pedaling my bike, rather the actual decision to do this trip.  I am passionate about my career.  I LOVE being in the classroom, I LOVE teaching.  I am excited to grow as a teacher and l explore different pedagogies and collaborate with my colleagues.  I didn’t want to be disconnected from the classroom and the world I love.  Normally you don’t give up a job, especially at a time of an economic crisis in a city that I, as well as many others, consider paradise.  I LOVE living in Barcelona.  The sun shines year round.  In fact, it is rare not to be able to go for a bike ride due to bad weather.  There are plenty of places to run and hike in the foothills, beaches and boardwalks.  Winter sports are plentiful in the mountains, water sports are popular on the beach, and Barcelona is a city that invites you to wander, explore, and discover new places even after living there for 10 years. 

My second year teaching Grade 2 at BFIS

The decision to leave all of this wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to do my trip because even with the wonderful life I had made for myself in Barcelona, I wasn’t completely happy or fulfilled.  I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I finally gave in and listened to my heart and took the plunge.  Upon being denied the position, I was overcome with relief and a feeling of freedom.  All of a sudden I was confident and reassured that The Loong Way Home was soon to become a reality.  Had I been offered the job in Portland, I still don’t know if I would have accepted.  I like to think I wouldn’t have; that I would have had the courage to follow my dreams rather than what society says we should do….Doing what I want to do has always been a challenge for me.  Instead I do what I think I should do, or do something to please others.

My first flat tire on the trip.  No I didn't hav ea smile on my face changing the 5 to follow....

Ironically, the school contacted me 3 weeks after they gave the job to another person to offer me a fifth grade position.  I denied this opportunity, explaining to the head of school that I was adamant now about following my dream of cycling and she seemed to understand.  However, it didn’t stop her from offering me another position a month later, to cover a last minute sabbatical. Proudly, and to her surprise, I stood my ground.  There was no turning back.  I had made up my mind to do my trip and there was no turning back!

My happy pose-high on life

Click here to see just how happy I am on the road, it's a downhill.....

So here I am on the road, just about a year after making the decision to set out on The Loong Way Home.  Never once have I regretted my decision.  Never once have I looked back, in fact, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner!
Here's to 6 months on the road and the random acts of kindness by strangers (who are no longer strangers)
Did I celebrate my 6 months on the road?  You betcha! That is a whole other story....I ended up meeting some lovely tourists from the Bay Area who invited me to dinner before I could even wash-up and change.  I ate with them in my sweaty bike clothes, and didn’t make it to the campsite until 11pm.  What a fun celebration!

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