“She loved life and it loved her right back.”
How do you sum up a year which has changed the course of your life? A year in which I experienced innumerable acts of kindness throughout my own country as well as in India and Nepal. A year throughout which I also learned the daily hardships of many women in our world who live in oppressively patriarchal societies . A year which involved cycling over the highest passes in the world, trekking in some of the most isolated regions, and camping for weeks on end beneath the stars in the middle of the Himalayas. A year during which I was invited in by families in every country I visited to eat with them, sleep with them, and live, if only for a day or a week, as they do.
But many of you have read the stories. You have experienced the Indian weddings alongside me. You have visited the rural villages and have seen the Himalayas through my eyes. You read about when I was ambushed at night by a group of Sikh men with machetes who were just trying to protect their village, just as you remember the night I spent in a roadside slum. (And for those of you who don’t, that’s what the search button is for!) So I’m not here to tell you a years worth of stories, that’s what the last year has been for. Instead, because it’s been a year to the day since I pedaled away from home, I’m here to tell you how these experiences have shaped me into the gal I am today.
So who am I? Besides being stubborn, adventurous, and very high energy, this year has turned me into a feminist, a word my generation (embarrassingly enough including myself until this year) has unfortunately taken to mean “man hating,” “overly ambitious,” “power hungry,” and “lesbian.” But what does it really mean? Pure and simply, that women are equal to men and therefore deserve to be treated accordingly. Seems simple enough, right? Seeing the harmful effects of a scarily patriarchal society such as India, I am more grateful than ever to the parents and society that raised me to believe that I can do anything. The thought of feminism had never crossed my mind before this trip because it had always been a given in my life, the idea of being inferior had never been suggested. Seeing first hand how untrue that is in other parts of the world had made me all the more determined to prove that us women are second class to nobody.
This year has also led me to discover the beauties and difficulties of traveling as a couple. It is easy to romanize the notion of “traveling as two,” and though the reward of sharing your experiences with the person you love are indeed worth it, it is easy to forget how hard it can be to spend every single second with them. Though my break from solo travel has been a bit rough, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it at times, the opportunity to build and ameliorate my relationship with the boy I love while experiencing this life together is more than enough to make the challenges worth it.
One of the most surprising yet rewarding projects that has come to light for me this year has been my blog. This year has helped me to discover the beauty of writing, both as an outlet for my own anger, frustration, or happiness, as well as a way for me to share my passion for life and my unique view on the world as I pedal through it. Though my blog started out as a way for me to let friends and family know that I was happy and safe, it has turned into a growing project which I hope to continue improving from here on out. Though by professional blogging standards it isn’t much, I’m now at over 360 “email followers,” and I hope to hit 500 by this time next year. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting on my email after a few weeks without internet to find comments, emails, and even donations from friends and strangers alike sending their encouragement. Sharing my travel stories has grown from a passion into something I dream to do professionally later down the road.
So who am I now exactly, besides a writing-loving feminist that is. 365 days after pedaling into a lifestyle I knew nothing about, on a bicycle I had never ridden, I can’t say that I’m all that different. I still cycle in pajamas and Birkenstocks and I’m still a wanderer at heart. Throughout the year I’ve solidified the fact I’m a mountain loving small town girl who finds happiness in simplicity, and simplicity in life on the road. I’m a bit hardened and scarred from some of my experiences in India, but those experiences haven’t diminished my unquenchable urge to see the world as it truly is. I’m prouder than ever to be a girl, and the more I travel, the more I appreciate the astounding mountain town in Oregon I’m happy to call home. My experiences this past year haven’t changed me, per say, but rather they have helped me to become the person I am today, just as this next year of adventure will transform me into the person I will become tomorrow. So here is to 365 days on the road, and to the next 365 days to come.