This week I ran across the blog of Steve Fabes, a thirty-one year old London doctor who is cycling the length of six continents, a feat which he estimates will take him about five years. With no support team or companions, he relies largely on donations and the generosity of the people he meets along the way. Starting in January 2010, he has now logged over 30,000 kilometers (roughly 18,600 miles) and is currently riding through Chile, his 29th country visited. His most significant mishap to date has been a “joint mouse” (a torn bit of cartilage) wandering around his left knee which necessitated a brief return to London for surgery three months into his journey.
I hope a big “wow” is filling up your brain at this point, too. Can I just say that Steve is a perfect example of the kind of people who floor me? Whenever I get just a wee bit full of myself, thinking about how daring and brave I might be in chucking it all to join the Peace Corps at fifty, invariably I run across the exploits of people like Steve, whose absolute audacity and verve in tackling the adventure of life just stuns me. Here is a man who has already been to medical school, cycled the length of Chile with his brother when they were just seventeen and nineteen, traveled to India, East Africa, Iceland, and Eastern Europe, climbed mount Damavand in Iran, and enjoyed a side career as a popular hip hop DJ while completing his residency. All before he turned thirty. If there really is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as Steve Fabes.
I know there are some of us who never want to leave the comfort of the familiar, choosing to live out our allotted years within the same state, or county, or even city where we were born. We form deep friendships and enjoy solid connections within our communities. Buying our first house, we plant a tree, hopeful that it will shade grandchildren playing in the yard years hence. We come to know the lay of the land – or the grid of the freeways – like the backs of our own hands. A profound sense of rootedness and belonging is gained by remaining in the environs that cradle one’s history and memories and traces of people long gone. This is a lovely life to live; I do not disparage it.
But for me, I’ve spent alot of my energy tamping down the niggling suspicion that I built this kind of life from my own fears: fear of the unpredictable, the unknowable, the uncontrollable. What if I got cancer and had no insurance? What if I lost my job and didn’t have a safety net? What if the stock market tanks (again) and I lose my retirement? What if I was blinded by lightening and couldn’t fend for myself anymore? What if I trusted in the abundance of life and it short changed me? Those “what ifs” are real and profoundly unnerving and they serve to keep people like me toeing the line, hedging our bets, buying insurance, feeding our IRAs, investing in real estate, and keeping the machinery of civilization churning onward. But somehow, they don’t stop people like Steve. Or Daniel Suelo or Zero Dean.
Perhaps my time in Moldova will serve to embolden me. Perhaps this is the first baby step toward the future I once imagined for myself when my parents dropped me off in Humboldt at the tender age of nineteen, wild with imagination and audicity and verve, possessed of no friends, or family, or history, or job, or plan (I failed miserably, by the way, but had a heck of a lot of fun before I ran home.) Perhaps I don’t need to wait for another reincarnation to step boldly into the stream of life and immerse myself completely. Stay tuned, folks…