In the spring of 2012, a series of circumstances conspired to put my life onto the path I'm currently traveling. I'd spent a year and a half at Groupon - a pittance of time, really - and was already on the lookout for more exciting opportunities. My job was easy and mostly unfulfilling (though the people I spent my days with made it more than worthwhile), and even now I feel like an ingrate for typing those words. I was lucky, truly, but I wanted more. I AM lucky.
So, when my manager - a woman whose intelligence and focus I admired greatly - quit to pursue what amounted to both a personal and professional passion, my desire for a more satisfying station in life was renewed. Barely 25 years old and mostly debt-free, I turned my attention to what I considered a reasonable undertaking - a thought that had loomed in the basement of my brain for some time: riding a bicycle from Alaska to Argentina.
Propelled by the enthusiastic reinforcement that my friend and committed adventure-partner Mark provided, the idea for this trip never seemed too extraordinary to become a reality. Why shouldn't I bike from the top of the world to the bottom? What was stopping me?
Once Mark and I answered those questions - Can we afford this? How long would it take to bike 15,000 miles? How will this affect our careers? What IS my career? How would we feel if we DON'T do this? - the wheels were set in motion. We'd travel to northern Alaska the following summer. We'd save and plan and dream in the meantime.
Free from the gravity of deep debt or a serious, committed relationship, we spent our time lost in a reverie of the road to come atop our bikes in the Pacific Northwest and the high plains of Peru.
Things change, of course. A year is a long time, made longer when its end promises the culmination of everything you've worked toward. We each somehow wound up in relationships with women for whom we care deeply. Still, our passion for this adventure persisted. Navigating these relationships from the road is just another part of the journey.
And here I am, writing from a cafe in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. We're 4,000 miles into this journey, yet the adventure has hardly begun, it seems. Mexico looms nearly a month away, and all that lies beyond its border is unfamiliar territory.
As of now, though, we've biked the length of Alaska; we've encountered stiff heat in the Yukon Territory. We've traveled hundreds of miles by boat; we've ridden the farmlands of British Columbia. We've crossed mountains to spend time with friends in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. We've returned to Chicago to spend time with girlfriends, good friends, and family. We've traveled great lengths with friends old and new.
I don't know what I've learned so far. I'm still figuring that out. I have few expectations for the road ahead; I have fewer regrets from the path traveled thus far.
We'll keep riding for now. I'll keep sorting the rest out as I go.