Several hours of my day have been spent walking in the rain, looking down at the sidewalk while puddles accumulate in the cracks.
I haven’t biked for more than a few miles for the last two days. As is my routine in most cities I have visited, I have been spending my time intentionally off-bike. This time, though, there is not a date in the near future when I will be resuming bike life.
Throughout the last few weeks in Canada, I have been struggling to remain in the present while going through the stages of grief. I denied the end, contemplating what biking to Nova Scotia, or into Poughkeepsie, NY would look like. I’ve experienced an anger that has been misplaced towards bureaucratic institutions, like Detroit and Windsor, for the hoops they’ve made me jump through to continue my journey. I bargained, adding extra days here and there, making excuses to stay in a place longer than I needed to.
I have been running through the emotions I think I am supposed to feel, and then throwing them away because I’m not sure that I really need them.
In reality, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for my ability to get here, for the support I’ve received from friends, family, hosts, strangers, and for the cheerleading I’ve gotten along the way.
I have been continually reminding myself of this: There is no finish line.
Nothing has ended here in Montreal. I am still a bicyclist. I am still a touring cyclist. I am still a politicized solo brown woman traveler and nurse.
Perhaps the physical reality of how I move through the country is changing, but nothing about how I experience the world has to inherently change by returning to off-bike life.
I have collected skills throughout this journey: fixing parts of my bicycle that used to intimidate me; confidently talking to strangers; saying “Yes” to the offers of kindness I’ve received; leaving situations that are uncomfortable with grace; being hyper-organized so as to streamline the way I bike; easily navigating cities that I’ve never been to before.
I have also learned to write again, a skill that isn’t frequently utilized by hospital nurses, and have learned to read, diving into the books I’ve found along this trip.
I have learned to talk slightly slower, to make more eye contact, to care about people’s stories and lives.
I have been forcefully disconnected from the internet, phone service, and other humans, and have learned the power of listening to the voice in my head as it sorts out my experiences–but also to rely on my friends to keep my grounded, even when I am away from them.
I have learned that yelling alone somewhere no one can hear me is a powerful act.
I have learned to not be sarcastic all the time, and that “tent time” and campfires are as entertaining as television and computers.
I have learned to focus my energy on consuming media that feeds my soul, rather than numbs my mind.
Most importantly, I have learned to learn again. To be open to the lesson, to allow myself to listen to other people and to myself, and to mindfully process even the mundane experiences. In the last six months, I have learned more, at such an accelerated rate, about how to live than any other time in my life.
This is what I would like to take with me: to keep learning in ways that I may have been closed to before. And to share my passions, my joys, my struggles with those who want in.
The “end” of my 2014 bike tour is not, then, the end of this blog. I will continue to look for the spectacular, the interesting, and the beautiful in the every day, and thus will continue posting daily photos. I’m not sure what this blog will look like in terms of writing and photography, but it’s likely that the next month will be filled with emotions and photos that I haven’t had the time or space to post. (I’m super unemployed.) Get. Ready.