Friday, September 11, 2015

The Final Countdown


We are finally within the 24 hour countdown to crossing the Mexico border and thus the beginning of our adventure. It seems like a long time ago that I propositioned Ben the idea to take bicycles down Central and South America. We agreed to go even if we had to work crap jobs and pick up extra shifts to make it happen; knowing we would be leaving friends, families and, at least temporarily limiting our access to ‘comfort’, ‘stable incomes’, ‘cell phone plans‘, ‘good night sleep’, ‘careers’. A.K.A. ‘normal lives’; we thought we knew what to expect and figured our intermediate college level Spanish would see us through.

Quite honestly, not a lot has changed a year later on our departure date. We left Iowa the day we planned on, the route is more refined but nonetheless the same, and we are still filled with the same amount of hopeless optimism and reckless disregard for our professional futures (maybe not Ben, he has a job when he comes back). Kai Ashland joining the trip was a surprise, but one we are grateful for.

Now that all of the big trip planning details have been made, I can start working on the decisions that I am actually good making. The little ones that don’t really matter if you make the wrong call. For example, do I resupply with toothpaste before I run out, or wait until it’s gone and mooch off of my friends until I find more? I’m looking forward to six months of decisions that don’t really matter. We can’t get lost because we don’t have a specific route, only decisions that maximize the access to good views, safety, comfort, fun, and learning.

Somehow this trip has come together; we have learned a considerable amount since day one of planning and will continue to learn until we are back. I am looking forward to exploring new places, meeting new people, and getting past obstacles. For me, this trip is exactly what I want to be doing at this point in my life. Even though it has been hard to leave, I am excited to go. We will be thinking of our friends, family, and loved ones back home, which will certainly help us get through the difficulties of our trip.

- Jon


It’s a bit of an indescribable feeling beginning this adventure. After a literal year in the planning, we are finally starting what we set out to do. It feels so strange to say that we’re “beginning” because it seems like we’ve already accomplished so much. We weren’t stopped by a full senior year work load (although, sure it was a bit lighter) or summer job to afford the trip. Instead, we refused to use our business as an excuse and made something incredible happen. Not only did we somehow figure out how to accumulate enough gear and look into travel logistics, but we raised over $5,000 for Habitat for Humanity. Not bad for a few crazy kids with a basic plan to ride a bike through some Spanish speaking towns. If nothing else, I am leaving the states incredibly proud of what our little trio has already been able to accomplish and confident in our ability to remain focused.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway for me so far has been the absolutely insane and unrelenting support from our family, friends, and even complete strangers. Having our sendoff event in Decorah, or as Jonathan liked to call it “throwing a party for ourselves,” made me realize just how many people we were bringing on this trip with us. People traveled from states away to spend an afternoon with us and businesses offered their support without blinking an eye. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by such kindness and generosity, and is something I hope to continue to both share and experience throughout our journey. Thanks to all of you who have asked the same questions about our trip over and over, donated to our cause, or even just clicked through our site, I truly feel like we are not alone. I will be thinking of all of you often, especially while my hammock is strung up next to a beach with a cold beer in my hand and Kai and Jon singing softly in the background.

I have no idea what to expect from this experience, but I expect to be changed for the better. There is no set agenda or any scripted goals besides taking in as much as possible, learning what I can, applying myself to the people and places around me, and living out the adventure of a lifetime. In the words of Terry Pratchett, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Thank you all for everything already, but now it’s time to ride!

- Ben

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