It's always a bit intimidating to get back on the ol' computer after a week or so of biking and try to find a way to express and summarize what we, I, experience on this Inventure. My fellow cyclists have been encouraging me to, rather than go off into philosophical tangents and metaphorical imagery, perhaps write in bullet points, list form, or be short and sweet in order to help dissipate some of this overwhelming feeling I get when I approach the screen.
But dear reader, no matter how hard I tried, and despite all the best intentions to be succinct and "to the point"in this post, again I will not tell you a specific story (though I have many). Rather, I want to share with you a broad, sweeping, overarching statement I have that rings true to our Inventure every single day..."People Are Incredible".
Very often we are asked the question, "So where do you sleep at night? Do you camp? Do you stay in hotels?"
In all honesty, there's no need to hide the news, we have camped only once since our departure from the east coast on June 9, over a month ago. Now whether that's an accomplishment or simply is the nature of this journey, it doesn't really matter. What does matter is how open, caring, giving, and genuinely inspirational each and every host and friendly passerby has been and how much COLOR is added to our story by the people we meet.
As you can gather from above, we've entered many, many homes and each one is unique in design, decor and architecture: some streamlined and new age with surround sound speakers and heated flooring, some full of wonderful nick knacks and family photos. There are those homes that choose to eat local and organic foods, having grown and preserved their own vegetables and fruits, and there are others who keep kitchens stocked with power drinks, energy bars, and sweet cereals and candies that bring back warm memories of my childhood.
And yet, despite all of this variety, no matter which way I slice it, each unique home is successful in creating a similar feeling of security and comfort for me. I could have never, in my life, predicted the amount of times we have cooked together with our hosts, standing in their kitchen preparing an evening meal while laughing, chatting, and getting acquainted with where they store their utensils and glasses (and peanut butter :), or the number of gatherings we've been invited to around a dinner table laden with foods such as salad, pasta, bread, drinks, and fruit.
We have had the privilege to be taken in like family continually and often are found in the midst of familiar family dialogues at dinner with folks who were, only an hour ago, strangers (it's always nice to yell, "Thanks Mom!" or "See ya Dad!" as we bike out of the driveway in the morning). I take great comfort each time I find that we're simply "chilling" together afterward in the living room, gently entering into people's calming evening routines while we journal and joke, just talking, relaxing and being goofy together.
It may seem like an easy thing, to give us a towel or two, offer a shower, invite three more mouths to the table, or provide a bit of floor space, but for us it means a gratitude beyond words.
Now though it may sound strange, in addition to having already offered us a safe place to sleep, it's challenging for me to, on top of that, accept further blessings from a host such as a box of cereal, bag of nuts, Gatorade, or a homemade pie to take for the road without having something to offer back in return. And while I may always struggle with this, I begin to realize more and more that it's not the physical act of giving back that matters. What I mean is, it's not necessary to leave behind a replacement roll of toilet paper or to re-fill the half jar of salsa we devoured (though that would be lovely).
Rather, what seems to matter most is the sentiment and the spirit with which we receive these gifts. What seems to most matter is the fact that I can live a life that can embody and appreciate and HOLD ON to the gratitude I feel.
If energy is neither created nor destroyed, then I take faith that the $15 dollars given to us by a stranger at the post office will become a home-baked loaf of bread that I will have the privilege to gift to a hungry passerby someday or that perhaps the carton of freshly-picked strawberries gifted to us by a sweet woman at a gas station will become a cool glass of water I can give to a tired traveler. I take faith that we riders will have the privilege to open our hearts to other bedraggled wanderers and offer a meal and warm place for them to sleep on a rainy or buggy night, making their evening a bit brighter. I take great faith in knowing that we will be able to have our chances and times to "give back."
The biking is magnificent, challenging, and inspiring. It teaches me about myself and what my body, mind, and, spirit are capable of. It is a path that I must follow. And the sights and sounds we are privy to each day are memorable and magnificent. Yet most often, I find that it is in the moments before we get on the saddle in the morning and once we get off in the evening that make me quickly scramble to get my journal out to try to capture the experiences of the PEOPLE Inventure brings our way.
Pancake breakfasts, lasagna dinners, jumps in backyard pools, and warm nights in soft beds...we are more fortunate than I often can believe. And that is why I tend to find myself, upon hitting the pillow at night and waking up in the morning, just saying "thank you, thank you, thank you" over and over again.
..and I know there are many more people to meet.
(Thanks for following along...perhaps next time I'll have just ONE real winner of a story for you ;)