Just one week ago, on February 13th, 2013, Mary Thompson and Peter Root, the authors of one of my favorite RTW cycling blogs, both died in a car accident while cycling just outside of Bangkok. Their site, Two on Four Wheels, is full of an abundance of information they’ve accumulated over their long cycling trek. I’ve turned to it many times in deciding to embark on this adventure, and the news of their deaths struck me with a resounding quake. I haven’t been able to ignore its echoing resonance in my thoughts for the last few days. Honestly, I’m scared.
It’s incredible how morning’s bold exuberance can fall apart when faced by evening’s lapping nightmares. For every fifty places I’ve pointed to on my wishful map, I’ve imagined a hundred ways that I might be harmed doing this trip. I read about Mary and Peter, or recently about Sarai Sierra, and I feel a wash of cold dread drip throughout my body cavity, chilling every brave organ with its heavy rain. I hear the tiny voice whispering, “It’s really dangerous, you shouldn’t go.”
But this is not fair. This is not fair to the Two on Four Wheels and the work that they put out for others to use and learn from. In fact, while it’s a very understandable human reaction, extracting fear and doubt from the news of the death of fellow travelers is downright selfish of me.
Worrying about my own possible death or injury because I’ve heard others have been hurt washes away the brave and joyful example that they have impressed on myself and others. I’ve been focusing more on an inevitable and unpredictable event (made no more so than before hearing terrible news) than on the exhilarating and (somewhat) mapped future between me and that date. Ending my fledgling journey because another’s was prematurely cut short is a cheap excuse.
Thinking about it, what’s most scary about this story is what I’ve always known- that one of these days, I’m going to stop being. Most days lately, that thought terrifies me to my marrow. But what makes it especially gripping is the possibility that I won’t be ready when it happens. The fear of having last regrets sticks just as potently as the existential, afterlife crisis aspect. Will I have told my parents recently that I love them? Will I have been honest about my feelings for someone? Will I have thought to tell my sisters how beautiful they are, today and every day? Will I have created or shared anything that will continue forward without me?
The big, “infinity is too long,” “what’s after this” fear is too unwieldy for most mortals (myself definitely included there). But, the fear that I won’t be ready is more or less up to me. I have the choice of moving through my day making sure to do what I want to finish before I’m done. The question tonight, just as I’m crawling into bed, is: If I were to die before tomorrow’s dawn, what did I do today that would make that okay?
From what I can tell of Peter and Mary’s blog, every day and new sight answered that basic question. They seemed to really enjoy their journey on the road together, and they passed that on through their blog to many people like me needing guidance and reassurance. I want to take the time to thank them for their legacy and courage, and to put aside creeping fears that want to strip away the dream. I don’t think I celebrated them first.
I apologize to Mary and Peter’s family and friends if my thoughts seem to exploit the loss that they are experiencing. My heartfelt condolences go out to them in this difficult time.