Monday, November 29, 2010

That's All, Folks!

(Team Freedom29 - Day 1)

This is it - our last internet rendezvous and the post where I try to figure out what these last twenty or so weeks actually meant. To our family, friends and casual observers, please know that I tried my very best to write each of my previous posts in a way that I thought might be entertaining for you, and attempting to do so has provided me with a great deal of joy and satisfaction. This last time, however, my primary motivation is to record my thoughts before this airplane I'm riding in lands back home, so I apologize if the text seems long-winded or self-important. This will also be the first post where Kristin won't serve as my editor/conscience before my thoughts go up on the website (though she did make me promise that I wouldn't say anything preachy like "the things that you own end up owning you", which I think hamstrings me considerably...). Anyways, here goes nothing - I hope you'll indulge me this one last time. [Editor's note: the pictures below are some of my favourites from our trip.]

(Picture from The Lost City post)

(Picture from A la Cartagena post)

Truthfully, the thought of having to write this post and thereby acknowledge that this chapter of our lives has come to a conclusion has gotten me misty more times than the ending of Field of Dreams. Others certainly have travelled longer and gone further, but I can't really put into words what this trip has done for my emotional well-being and general outlook on life. We didn't do this trip because we needed to escape from our normal lives, but the distance and time away has delivered a clarity that I'm not sure I would have discovered in Calgary. Even though the end of the trip has brought me face-to-face with the realization that my future is still very much up-in-the-air, I've had ample opportunity to identify the aspects of my life that bring me happiness and fulfillment. I want to prioritize these things once I'm home; I want more of these things. It's not that I'm newly greedy or selfish, but slightly refocused. Normally, I wouldn't think of being unemployed as a positive, but in this instance it feels like a chance to find something I'm passionate about and something that accords with what I'd like for my personal life. I hope that I don't squander the opportunity.

(Picture from Cruzing for a Bruising post)

I've been asked a few times along the way if I had any regrets that we decided to embark on this adventure. I know regret - I'm the guy who put transition lenses into his most recent pair of everyday eyeglasses - but I will never regret that I just spent the last 140 days with the most important person in my life and that we have fostered an incalculable number of memories that, cliché as it may sound, we will share for a lifetime. I don't regret challenging myself to learn a new language (even if I wasn't great at it) or putting myself into unfamiliar and sometimes difficult situations. I also don't regret the opportunity to learn about cultures and people different than our own and, as a result, learn more about myself. Conversely, I have absolutely no doubt that if we had chosen not to do the trip back when we were still deliberating, I would always have felt some regret. I know Kristin feels the same way.

(Picture from Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail post)

Kristin spoke of being rejuvenated in her last contribution. Like her, I feel that the novelty and challenges of the trip melted away stress and left me feeling young again. Has the trip fundamentally changed who I am? Probably not. It's romantic to think a trip of this nature could set in motion a string of life-altering epiphanies (though, probably less "romantic" to my mother-in-law, who feared the trip would turn me into a globetrotting hippie who'd stay on the road forever and never give her grandbabies), but the changes I notice in myself are more subtle (or maybe it's just that I'm finally maturing). The trip also strongly reinforced the importance in my attempting to see life as a journey instead of a series of destinations. It's a lesson I find myself often losing sight of, but I think the times when I have it dialled-in makes me feel like a more attentive and empathetic person - someone I like better.

(Picture from With a Terrain of Salt post)

As for my beloved blog, I'm sad to report that it has provided us with neither fame nor fortune - the stated goals in our first post - and our coveted endorsement deal with Icebreaker never materialized. But Kristin and I already find ourselves rereading the posts constantly, so I know we've created something that we'll be able to enjoy for years to come. We also wanted the blog to help us stay connected and I think it's done that. We've received emails and Facebook messages from so many friends along the way who've wished us well or expressed excitement for things they saw on the site. What I didn't expect was that the blog would stir up something creative in me and help me realize how much I enjoy writing. I'd like to figure out a way to keep writing in some capacity when I'm home, as well as try to find some other outlets for my creative energy. In that vein, if you see me one year from now and I haven't learned to play whatever the guitar equivalent of Hot Cross Buns (the first song we learned on the Recorder in elementary school) is, you have my permission to slap me across the face. Just don't hit my nose - it's been through enough already.

(Picture from Paying it Forward post)

For those that haven't fallen asleep yet, let me start wrapping this up by saying that I feel very lucky. I feel very lucky to have been born in a country where it's possible to enjoy a seemingly endless list of freedoms and luxuries that are far too easy to take for granted. I feel lucky to have the backing of amazing family and friends in all of my endeavors. More than anything else I feel lucky to have Kristin. With the possible exception of her evil right foot, I couldn't ask for anything more from the person I get to share my life with or from a travel companion. I'm proud of the person that she is and I'm proud of the person that she was on the trip (true to herself, but full of pleasant surprises). I wouldn't have wanted to do any part of this adventure without her (and never would have gone on a trip like this if we hadn't met), but, with her there by my side, I could have stayed away indefinitely. Maybe most importantly of all, she believes in me so strongly and supports me so completely that I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. Ultimately, that's all I really need to be happy, wherever we might happen to be.

(Picture from Falling for Floripa post)

A couple of blogs I've seen capped off their final post with an impressive quote from a historical figure, philosopher or poet. Unfortunately, I'm not so well-read as those bloggers, but I like the concept. In any event, I can't think of anything more fitting than what I've reproduced below, courtesy of the late, great Dicky Fox:

Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I've failed as much as I've succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.

Thanks for reading.

(Team Freedom 29 - Final Day)

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