Each time I’m on the spot to explain why I’m doing this, I find myself giving a slightly different answer – and nothing I say, once it’s hanging in the air, ever sounds to me like it’s more than 20% of something complete and accurate. Anything that actually explains why I’m about to leave behind everything and everyone I know, all to spend the next year of my life riding my bicycle alone to the far and uncertain reaches of the Earth – from my hometown of Seattle, to Tierra Del Fuego.
I can tell you how I first explained it to myself. It was four-odd years ago. My time in college was about up, I was full of loathing, and I’d only just started hearing about the Mayan Calendar and its implications of a monumental tipping point between two phases of history. The world’s great ridiculous people had begun to warn us that on December 21, 2012, either the sky would come crashing down on our heads, or the Singularity would finally arrive to elevate us into new and ecstatic astral planes of consciousness. As for me, I had two thoughts:
First, could the idea of 2012 be useful? What I mean is, everybody knows that we should “live each day as if it’s our last”. It’s the epitome of bumper sticker wisdom: it sounds absolutely dead-on until you think about ever putting it into practice. It’s hard to imagine a way of life that works if there is no tomorrow – but what if the question could be broken down to a more manageable size? Assume, as an experiment, that the cosmos will go out like a light – not in 24 hours, but in five years, on 12/21/2012. My answer was that I’d spend the first four of those years chasing the joys of mundane life, saving up, gathering what I needed – and unless I really found I couldn’t ask for anything more, I’d spend the last year seeing as much of the world as I could.
Second, you hardly need to believe in any ancient astrology to look at the state of things and think we might be headed for a catastrophic tipping point – and if there is really some new phase of history looming over us, it seems all the more vital to see as much of everything as I can. Vital to get some perspective. Vital to see it while it’s still here.
Life in Seattle has had its miserable patches, but everything has finally become so comfortable. The Summer arrived two months late, but it’s beautiful. I’ve had a good job, a good place to live, a couch, health insurance, all the ice cream I want. Friendship and love. All these things I will sacrifice, or at least suspend, for the sake of this weird and dangerous vision quest. But like one of the fathers of rocketry said, one can’t stay in the cradle forever.
And like my uncle said, it’s not an adventure until you wish you were at home in bed.