I've been off the trail for a little under a year now...
I'm still bikepacking. I still teach women's clinics for bikepacking. I still try to enable others. But what I'm also doing is being more aware of other people who are on epic journey not too unlike my own.
I've never been much of a follower. When I decide to do something, I almost never read other peoples' accounts of it, because I don't want to ruin the surprise. (Caveat: i will read copious amounts of gear reviews to try and figure out gear setup.) When I did my tour, I wrote a lot, and was always surprised when people told me how much they liked reading the stories.
But I get it now. Living vicariously through someone else doesn't have to mean we're not living full lives ourselves. It can just mean that we experience joy by feeling connected to and virtually supporting people who are also living very full and present lives.
When I say virtually, I don't really mean "on the internet". I mean "that feeling you get when you wish the absolute best for someone, and no action or gift or word can convey this feeling". You can't touch it, you can't give it, you can only feel it, and hope that in some intangible way, the other person feels it too.
Since completing the GDMBR last year, I've been connected to people deciding to do epic journeys. Whether through the Blackburn Ranger program, my friends from Philadelphia, or people I've met through the internet community of bikepacking, I've gotten to follow other people's trail voyages. It only makes me feel a little bad about myself that I'm not #outthere too. It mostly makes me thankful that I had my time, and excited for those who are also getting that time.
Trail time is different than "non-trail" time.
The other thing I've noticed is how relatively fast the time goes while not on the trail. I've watched Christian Ayoob complete the TransAm in what feels like a few weeks, my friends Meghan and Taylor do the GDMBR in what seems like a few breaths. I remember how long it seemed to take me to cycle from Canada to Mexico. And now having been on both sides of the story, I can say that time seems to move more slowly on trail. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I think we are a bit more present and aware of every passing moment when life is less busy, more singularly focused, and full of physical exertion. I guess it seems obvious, but I never fully believed it until I had lived both realities.
Trips that remove us from everyday realities really do have an impact.
I've had a year to reflect. It has become obvious to me that while I didn't think that trip would change me much, it did. It brought me out of my life so that I could look at it from a third-person view, and make decisions with less fear and anxiety. It gave me perspectives on humanity and the world I couldn't get when I was spending my energy on chores, spreadsheets, or bills. Most importantly, it gave me really kick ass tan lines. Just kidding. Kind of.
I think we can get micro-doses of this everyday... #adventureiseverywhere Like in the morning, before most people are awake, or on the weekend when you find a new trail. A longer trip is just an amplified version of this. Seems obvious, but I didn't really believe it until I lived it.