On August 27th I leave for the next great bike adventure.
This time I will be traveling with my partner from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA and then on to New Orleans, LA. We’re not in a rush. We don’t have an exact schedule. We’re not racing. We are out to see the country.
The United States is huge. For the first 18 years of my life I barely traveled outside of my home state of Pennsylvania and the few surrounding states. Even then, I only saw a fragment of each new location – that is what you get when you drive everywhere. Inside your big protective hunk of metal you feel safe – but isolated. Cruising along the highway at 60mph you feel fast, but blurred. I have since learned to slow down. Now I travel on two wheels. Human-powered, at human speed. I bike.
In just a few days I will hit my three year mark in Seattle. I like the place – it reminds me a little bit of Copenhagen and it’s definitely more appealing than my hometown in PA. But there is backstory here:
I broke my travel-light streak when I went to Spain with my high school Spanish class. Two weeks in a foreign country was mind-boggling to someone who had probably never spent two weeks outside Pennsylvania.
From that point on I knew I wanted to travel. No, I needed to. I chose a college where study abroad was a core part of the curriculum and over half of students spent at least 1 semester away from campus. I went to the Dominican Republic a Service Learning trip during one spring break and to Maine with Habitat for Humanity for another. But the highlight was hands-down the semester I studied in Copenhagen, Denmark.
There is so much to say about my study abroad experience, but this is not the place. What is important is rather than satisfy my travel curiosity, traveling Europe put bellows to the flame. I committed to doing something big after graduation and spent the summer of 2013 raising over $9,000 for young adults with cancer while riding my bicycle for the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 4K for Cancer Program.
My team of 28 riders rode from Baltimore, MD to Seattle, WA in 70 days. Talk about getting to know people and our country! Before I even left I I knew that when I finished I couldn’t return home. It’s not where I belong, at least not now. So I set out to find a job, an apartment, and build a new life for myself 3,000 miles from home.
Seattle has treated me well. Very well, in fact. I went from no job, two friends, and invading someone else’s home to a cushy job, living with my partner, surrounded by our friends. Along the way I lived in six places, held seven jobs, and volunteered or engaged with dozens of organizations. I worked my way from the wrong job field to the right one through a series of odd part-time gigs and a lucky break that landed me on a major political campaign. And more than just my job and home changed – my lifestyle became healthier and more sustainable as I grew to value food, cooking, and human-powered transportation. I’ve learned to care less about stuff and value people and experience more. I’ve embraced a love of the outdoors like never before.
By many measures I have achieved exactly what I set out to do and I should be content to continue on my path towards higher education and a higher career. At this point many people envision saving money, buying a home, and settling down. A nice home, a nice car, a nice family, a steady, well-paying job. It’s the American Dream. But it’s not my dream. No, I dream of adventure. I dream of exploration. I dream on two wheels.
When I leave Seattle, I am not giving up a good job with good opportunities. When I leave Seattle, I am living my dream.