I am finally home. I’ve actually been here a couple days now. I’ve spent a gentle twenty minutes unpacking my saddle bags and placing my one outfit in the laundry hamper. Lolita arrived today in a large and streamlined bike box. I’ve become teary-eyed at my closet and its overwhelming selection, and I have thoughtfully and conscientiously prepared a meal using techniques more complicated than adding things to boiling water. Some parts of all this are still strange and surprising to me, and that’s good. I want to hold that feeling of wonder at the urban world for as long as possible. Given how competent the human brain is at adapting to the new and unusual, I probably won’t get to keep the sense of awe for long.

The period of time immediately proceeding a trip is generally referred to as re-entry. I remember re-entry for my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike being quite easy. This time I expect it to be a bit harder. I’ve come back to Seattle, a city teeming with anonymous life, whereas after the PCT I went and lived out in the country for a year and grew vegetables. Vegetables are benign and loving compared with some Seattlites. I went to Pike Place Market today and swam upstream through throngs of busy people and no one stopped to ask me where I started my trip (Capitol Hill!) and where I plan to finish (also Capitol Hill!). Which is fine, because the answer now is not nearly as satisfying to say or hear.

A beautiful thing happens when a person and their bicycle embark on such a long and focused journey. Things simplify: the crucible of the trail boils off those cluttering irrelevancies until only the basics remain. And the point of all tasks narrows and deepens until, I suspect, the singular sense of purpose carried by the traveler is visible to others. I loved ascribing my life to this sense of purpose. I will miss it terribly. How often in our lives do things become so simple and so focused?

Traveling alone is hard, harder than having company (which is hard in it’s own way). But many of us need more solitude, probably. I would advise a person thinking of doing this trip to go, even if it means going alone. You will find the tangled expanses of your inner solitude as wild (wilder, really) as the terrain you travel through. It is a rewarding place to go explore. So go explore it! However you can, go walk in the woods or ride a bike or climb a mountain or sit quietly somewhere and keep your own company. Mirroring the inner exploration with an external one is powerful.

Now that I’ve returned to Seattle, I will start tutoring and looking for work. And to keep me busy, I’ve been talked into signing up for National Novel Writing Month for the month of November. The challenge: to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch over the course of the 30-day month, which works out to 1,6667 words a day. I don’t even know what I’m going to write about yet, but I have until to tomorrow to figure that out.

Thank you all for your readership and your kind and supportive comments over the course of this trip. Keeping a blog was a new step for me. I gave a list of things I’d left behind on the trip a little while ago, and one thing I did not leave behind was my sense of shame (which is just as well, since scientists think this is the one emotion humans have that no other animals do, so in a sense I’ve kept my humanity). Writing a blog is a weird and exposing thing to do on a trip, so your support meant a lot to me.

Thanks for reading!

 

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