I write my story…
I write it in the beach sand,
So the waves will take it into the oceans,
Until they become legends that sailors tell while drinking.
I tell my story to the wind.
May it carry through the seasons,
drop it in a canyon far away.
Will put it in a piece of paper and roll it tight,
So it fits in a bottle that the tides will carry away.
May them inspire someone I will never meet.
I write my story with blood on the asphalt,
Scream it out loud before the rain washes it away.
Push my voice against the wind,
Move forward against my deepest fear.
Life is not worth anything if you don’t have a good story to tell.
…until they know how much you care.
That is the case with all kinds of service, from telephone companies to restaurants, from car washes to politics. Nobody cares how much you know about something until they feel you care about them.
One recent example I found in my massage therapist. From day one Anastasia proved not just to be friendly and accommodating, she also showed in many ways that she really wants to help and cares about your well being, as a client and as a friend.
She went out of her way to learn about my long distance running, to figure out what would be the the points more affected, the muscles that would require the most attention, the methods that would yield the most results. She took the time to run with me, to learn barefoot running herself, to figure out how to make her massage sessions much more effective than they would be otherwise.
That is a quality, a human quality, that we should bring to every aspect of our lives: Kindness. That is the one quality that will make you a better professional, a better friend, better at anything you put yourself into.
Anastasia has been stalking me… ughhhhnn… welll… hum ham… she has been following me online during these four months I have been on the road and her support, encouragement, and good humor have been fabulous.
I seem to have an amazing capacity to locate and connect to the best people, the most generous and loving ones, and they always become great friends. Here is one of those great beings!
I saw a documentary about the origins of surfing and in that video they explained that the first Polynesians that had their culture wrapped around surfing believed that the final goal of a man was to surf. That was the ultimate goal in life.
Sometimes I think that in the world of travelers something very similar can be stated about their lives. If you press them hard enough for a purpose, reasons, or motivations that keep them on the road you will see a common pattern in most cases:
Travel is freedom. It’s a fantasy and an escape from routine.
It is also not expensive. Oftentimes spending more money will only build more separation between you and the places and people you travelled so far to see. Most of the amazing experiences you will find will be on the streets, at the houses of people you will meet, at witnessing how they will open their doors and their hearts to you.
Connecting with people intensifies the experience. Extroverts have more fun. Your attitude will set how you feel about it more than the experiences themselves. If you don’t enjoy a place it is probably because you don’t know enough about it. Give every culture the benefit of an open mind. Be positive and optimistic at all times and you will notice that your attitude will also be contagious.
Traveling can make you happier. It will break many of your assumed truths, it will challenge your previous knowledge about other people and places. You will start to make up your own mind about other cultures instead of adopting other people’s opinions as if they were your own ideas. It’s humbling to travel and find that other people don’t have the same dreams, don’t watch the same news, don’t have the same concerns and priorities. They also wouldn’t trade places with you, even if they appreciate and like who you are. Traveling you will learn new ways to measure quality of life.
Becoming a traveller destroys xenophobia and other forms of prejudice. It will make you understand and appreciate other cultures. Rather than fear diversity you will celebrate it. The most valuable souvenirs you will bring to your final destination will be the pieces of different cultures you will choose to absorb into your own character.
With a little over half-way done I think I can make a pretty accurate comparison between what I thought it would be like to run across America and how it is going so far.
Better than planned:
I believed that camping would be detrimental to recover and that every time I camped it would be more difficult to run the next day than if I stayed indoors, ideally sleeping on a mattress. That prediction was completely wrong! I sleep very well camping, there are fewer distractions, the timing is more adequate, and I usually wake up refreshed and get on the road sooner than when I couchsurf. So camping is great!
Ice baths, massages, pain killers, special diet… I thought I would need all this to keep up. But in reality I am not missing any of it. The massage sessions were decisive during training, but now during the run they would be a luxury. The level of physical stress I am experiencing does not require any special care other than sleeping well for at least 8 hours, ideally 9 or 10. That is all I need to be good as new in the morning.
To keep a 27 mile average I would have to often run more than 30 miles on a day and would complete the run in 100 days. That is proving not just difficult but undesirable. I am having a much better experience, socializing much more, and enjoying my days a lot more at my current 24 mile average. That will mean finishing this in around 112 days plus the days off. So be it, I am liking it much more this way.
I used to think that other than by people interested in running I would be pretty much alone. I didn’t think I would make so many friends that are not into running at all. But to my happiest surprise I have been contacted by people from all walks of life both on the road and in the cities I go through, and I am making many friends among them.
Worse than planned:
I used to think that many people would try to locate me and run along a little or a lot. It has happened a few times but not nearly as often as I imagined.
Attracting attention of the press to this was very easy in Florida, where I thought it was going to be difficult, and has been very difficult since I left Florida, where I thought it was going to be the easiest. That part perplexed me.
I believed running clubs, running stores, would be interested in meeting, having impromptu runs and Q&A sessions. But the few running clubs we contacted made no effort to hide their indifference. I got some sponsorship from a waste management company, a catering company, but after contacting dozens of running stores without success I gave up on that part.
The running clubs are so indifferent to it that if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of some individuals, runners that brought me in anyway, I wouldn’t have any contact with any running club anywhere, both during training and during the run. I also noticed that I never find doctors or any healthcare organization maintaining or running or promoting any running club: It is always a running store, which ultimately does it because it is good for bu$ine$$. Weird, huh?
Update: The story was different in Phoenix, where the stores and the running clubs were receptive and welcoming!
Taking county roads is an invitation to get lost and end up in farmer’s backyard instead of where Google Maps tells you to go. Rural counties do a poor job of updating Google about which roads are not open to the public.
Just as planned:
- Middle of Florida was the most difficult part of all.
- Louisiana was the hardest state to go through.
- Texas has been the friendliest place.
If you see the hashers running their trails, if you pay attention to their extravagant clothing (or lack of it), if you focus on the large quantities of beer consumed, or even the occasional lewdness and frequent potty mouths, you may actually miss the point.
Hashing is a mixture of athleticism and sociability, hedonism and hard work. But most of all, it is an escape from “normal” life. An opportunity to behave like a child, to vent your frustrations, to behave outside of the norms you are used to and do it all in an environment where you are confident nobody will be judgmental towards you, and all that is said and done can be just blamed on the beer.
I think many people that hash are there to relieve stress. And what a good stress reliever it is! After participating in some of their trails and circles and parties I am very sure I found one of the tribes I can feel part of.
The hashers also have shown a great amount of hospitality similar to what you find among couch surfers. They have been hosting me, assisting in every way imaginable during this challenge, and I have been making lots of great friends this way.