I am writing from my hometown in Australia and I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back! There is the smell of Australian flowers, the sounds of birds and the bush (unlike anywhere in the world) and the sights of twisty gum trees, open space and a friendliness i’ve secretly been longing for. Heading to England in December 2012 was the first time in many years I’d been in a country where English was the native spoken language. It felt really good to understand conversations in the street, ask for exactly what i wanted and the simple delight to engage in conversation!
It was love that led me home. I wish there was other words in English to describe it but there isn’t. It was the love for my family, for my friends, for my self and the love for a beautiful woman that helped me to see things I previously couldn’t. It was a difficult but cherished process finding the ‘end of my rope’. As the famous poet Kahlil Gibran puts it, “your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”. There was a lot of pain involved, anguish even in this process of being ‘broken open’. But I feel the more richer for it – in mind and spirit – something I could never have understood unless it happened to me.
The first beautiful thing was relief – because I realised how futile it is trying to be strong all the time (that’s the ‘letting go’ part). The second is there is an incredible amount of vitality in a broken and open heart (I now know this is where real, unshakable strength comes from not to mention a good dose of humility, grace and self compassion).
With failing health, a traumatic Norwegian winter approaching and a good deal of inner anguish about letting go of dreams of the heart, I decided to embark on a new adventure – to be there for the ones I love. Some things I thought so important only the day before, seemed completely silly, ridiculous even, while others came sharply into focus. Simply put, there are other, far more rewarding adventures to be had. In the back of my mind those parts of the world I haven’t seen still stir my imagination and when the appetite grows again and the road starts whispering in my ear I may yet pick up the bicycle again.
The third great thing about going through this process is that you get faced with a choice, a decision actually, which of those gems in the ashes to bring forward and which parts of you to leave behind! There’s this great quote by Audry Laude, i recall, who says “the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house!” It’s sort of like that. The best part is how funny I think it all is, after i’d been broken and no looking back. I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign!
The physical side of the expedition had always only ever been only a shadow of the inner journey taking place over the last 4 years. The physical side has taken me to three 3 continents, allowed me to marvel sitting at the base at some of the worlds tallest mountains, it dragged me through some of the worlds wettest and most mosquito ridden places and sent me venturing across some of the largest deserts on earth, but the inner journey has always been what drove me. It inspired me to seek out who I thought I was, unconsciously pulled me along when I wanted to give up and gave me strength in ways that I have never known and yet, still never understood. It feels like the inner journey that is now where the path leads.
With the onset of a Norwegian winter and having just been through the mill, I decided to put a halt to the cycling for a while. I have been struggling with my health for some time and the thought of a punishing Norwegian winter on a fragile Australian wasn’t appetising. Some beautiful friends took me in for a while to a cabin in the Swedish mountains and I decided to head to England to see a friend from home who I hadn’t seen in a while. She was going through a rough time as well and was the best company. It was there I realised I needed to be around those I loved. My mother had just finished chemotherapy, my cousin was in the middle of his, my sister had a 18 month of baby boy I never had the chance to hug and I felt like I needed to be with my Dad for a while who has been ill for some time. I managed to find enough money to get a flight to Australia. Sydney was far too expensive to fly to and I ended up with a ticket to Brisbane! About 1000 kilometres from where I live. I like this part: In the spirit of the adventure I manged to hitch hike home with some locals, beg for a ride from some hippies headed to Byron Bay and got a lift with a truck driver heading south. I spent a rain filled night sleeping under a bridge and arrived home to surprise my family for Christmas!
It was wonderful returning home. I remember listening in awe to the sounds of birds, the smells of the eucalypt trees and everything being green and warm. On the flight home I had no idea of any future plans and so I made a pact with myself: Go home, spend time with the family, nurture my spirit and just to give or myself, of my time and energy to others. I was thinking soup kitchens and volunteering. A week later my friend who I’d just visited in the UK returns home with a rare form of cancer and in need of help! (Let that be known – be careful what you wish for!).
There is this great quote by JR Tolkien: ”You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not know the strength of your heart, and you cannot forsee what each may meet upon the road” (Anyone who truly know knows these few words would lend a smile).
I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to many of you who have inspired, encouraged and guided me as well as all the others who made the last adventure possible! I feel deeply indebted and look forward to the next meeting, full of hugs and more tales of adventure!
In salute, Chris.