It is a bit of a bummer to return to an east coast winter after the warm early summer in NZ and the tropical heat of Tahiti, but we’re slowly getting used to it. Central PA welcomed us back with a couple of ice storms in our first week back, which I wouldn’t say was a terrific way to get us excited for our post-peripatetic phase, but as they say in Papeete’s roughest neighborhoods, "c’est la vie mofo."
Looking back on all the experiences we had and the awesome (a terrible and overused word, I know, but whatever) people we met in our year of traveling, we can only say that it was absolutely worth the cost and effort, and if we had to do it all over again, we definitely would. On a second run we'd obviously be a bit hipper to the scene, but then again, the discovery and new experiences were what made the trip as great as it was. We'll miss NZ, our year of unscheduled randomness, writing the blog, and sharing our trip with the internet, but are looking forward to our next adventure: reintroducing ourselves to gainful employment.
Before leaving America, I had some anxiety about various facets of our trip – would I be miserable without the familiar cultural touchstones of the US for a year? Could we make the trip without going broke? Would we be able to stand each other’s company nearly all day, everyday for a year? Would our lack of pre-defined plans leave us stranded or unable to figure out what to do next? Fortunately for us, we found we could live without much US pop culture or sports (NZ rugby filled in quite nicely), we were able to be frugal while still eating reasonably, Becky only went slightly nuts at times due to the intense amount of quality time together, and finally, through luck or skill (probably mostly luck) we were usually able to smoothly transition between places and activities. We attribute most of our luck to our travel karma, which is not being repaid at the moment, but which we fully intend to do, perhaps when we get an apartment.
The other day, I was thinking about our trip, the things we did, and how it’s been difficult for me to sum up our experiences to people who’ve asked “So what did you do?” without chastising them for not reading the blog, or offering some answer that didn’t seem to fulfill the question. And when I thought about it and tried to answer, sometimes I'd feel defensive because I wasn't able to make everything sound like the most amazing thig ever - even with all the things that we did do on the trip, you could argue that a good deal of time wasn’t really productive, and so why bother? But then as I was reading through the section of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where Pirsig is expounding on his definition of gumption, a passage seemed particularly applicable to our experience:
You see it often in people who return from long, quiet fishing trips. Often they're a little defensive about having put so much time to "no account" because there's no intellectual justification for what they've been doing. But the returned fisherman usually has a peculiar abundance of gumption, usually for the very same things he was sick to death of a few weeks before. He hasn't been wasting time. It's only our limited cultural viewpoint that makes it seem so.
I don’t pretend to know exactly what he’s talking about all the time in the book, which I think is a typical reaction, but the above paragraph resonated with me, as it didn’t feel like we were wasting our time at all, even if we weren't doing huge things all the time. Even without being able to adequately explain it, it was the trip we wanted to take. And in the post-game analysis, it was really satisfying to me, which I think is what’s most important.