Spinning My Wheels

I read an article in backpacker magazine this morning that told the story of Renata Chlumska and her quest to find herself though 11,600 miles of road and sea. The Swede’s history is packed with high adventure and endurance, but this was a new type of challenge for her. Chlumska is a racer by nature; comfortable only when bounding down mountains or pedaling her bike at high speeds. This journey was slow and torturous, though. For 439 days, she circumnavigated the United States of America with only a kayak and a bicycle.

The story is amazing in its detail of her tribulations. The author of the article put it well when he compared her trek to that of Hercules facing his twelve trials. Through her epic journey, she was tossed against the shores for hours at a time, hit by a car on her bike, forced up 18 degree inclines for miles on end, and forced to land to avoid the devastation from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The pitfalls seemed endless, but she persevered.

The most fascinating part for me was her reasoning, her driving force that made her get up and force herself forward. I was surprised to find that I had it backwards. The expedition wasn’t an adventure, it was an escape; a long, painful escape from the pain of losing her fiancée and her brother.

I put myself in her shoes (or kayak) and wonder if that strength is in me. Could I do what she did? With training and time, maybe, maybe not. I think I give myself over to the world in different ways, though. Her technique to find herself was to go looking, to force herself forward, though the next wave, over the next mile, up the next hill. For me it is a matter of stripping away each piece until there is nothing left but me. When I am most alone and empty, I am most me.