It was with more than enough skepticism, worry and fear, that I went on my first organized group trip. I’ve never hesitated to hire local guides, but I’ve always chosen to travel solo or with friends/family with a flexible itinerary and open mind. So why, might you ask, did I choose to go with a group of strangers to Patagonia? Hopefully, though the cathartic experience of writing this blog, I might just discover the answer myself.
Here’s some obvious reasons WHY:
- Though I had plenty of friends that wanted to go with me to share experiences and costs, none could make the commitment, and I couldn’t wait. So it became a solo or group decision.
After spending three weeks of hiking (135km in total) in the spectacular Patagonian landscape, traveling when my body said eat and eating when my body said sleep, getting up early daily to lurch from one must-see destination to another, and then spending over 17 hours sitting next to a guy on the plane half my size but seemingly requiring twice the space - I was a bit crispy by the time I got home. My wife was traveling elsewhere, so no one was here to greet me, but a friend did pick me up at the airport (past midnight) to provide door-to-door service on a wet slushy night in Toronto.
Coming home after a big trip has always been a bit tenuous for me. I'm happy at home and happy to be home, but I struggle with the instant nostalgia of where I've been. The contrast of leaving sunny and hot Buenos Aires and arriving in damp grey Toronto wasn't helping. My friend told me about the freezing rain in the forecast. Nice.
With my lower lip protruding, I headed to bed. My own bed. Not a lumpy bed that isn't long enough for my frame, in a crappy and noisy hostel. My own bed, my own pillow, in my own (quiet) neighbourhood. Needless-to-say, I fell into slumber pretty quickly.
And then it began. CRACK. At 4am it started. Trees and tree limbs were starting to fall. I got up to take a look but couldn't see anything. Despite being woken up a number of times, I decided to stay in bed until I could at least see what was going on. I did manage to sleep in but decided to get up when I heard knocking at the door. A group of neighbours were walking around clearing branches from driveways and checking in on people. This, my friends, is community. This is Eden Mills. In future blogs you'll get to know this place more, and why after a spectacular three weeks AWAY, coming home - even to an empty house - is good too.
When I started writing, my obsession was courage. I had a company (InCourage) that existed to help individuals generate the courage necessary for organizations to be sustainable. I wrote essays about courage in an organizational context that were targeted principally for my clients. I amassed enough of them to assemble them into a book (Our CouerAge). Alas, after 15 years, InCourage died a natural death when it become quite evident that courage was not part of corporate DNA, and individuals within them felt stuck and chose to keep their head down and swallow hard.
That was then this is now. InCourage is being reborn in this blog and I will exploring the tension of "the pilgrim" - wanting nothing more than exploring his/her world: the unfamiliar landscapes; the history we need to learn; the tolerance that comes from learning cultures of other, and "the homebody" - who yearns for everything that represents familiar surroundings they have created, their valued relationships, their community. What is more important to you? It's a trick question.
Often our choices are looked at as either/or decisions – like: either take care of the economy or the environment; be creative but don’t make mistakes; and that tired old chestnut anyone working in a corporation knows all too well, do more with less. It was a profound shift in mindset for me to look at the “polarities” of life as a “both/and” opportunity rather than an “either/or” choice.
Hopefully, after reading a few posts you will find Home and Away is another polarity, and the answer of living a full life is not to lean into one at the expense of the other - but to lean into both.
No sooner than four days after arriving back from Patagonia, a good friend of mine here in the village sent out an email to his list, asking us to sign a petition he signed pledging not to fly for “recreation” in 2014. I hardly had my laundry done and was just starting to organize my photos. Talk about buzz kill. My first reaction was confusion. Glenn has been asking me to talk about my trips at our community hall, and now he’s telling me not to go anywhere? And please, define “recreation”. There’s plenty to unpack here.
To begin with …
A little context is required. Glenn is a self-professed doomsayer when it comes to our global climate change issues. He believes it’s way too late for us to do much about the mess we’re in, and the fact that precious few care, he’s pretty sure we’re toast. Glenn and his wife are also among the most intelligent, articulate and well-informed people I know. There's nothing worse than having reality shoved in your face by people that know what they're talking about. They started (with some others) the Eden Mills Going Carbon-Neutral initiative here in the village, they built their own energy efficient strawbale home and they live very simply. I have a lot of respect for Glenn, for what he has done, but also because he’s outspoken – he’s not shy about telling it like it is.
And on most points, I don’t disagree with him. I too am frustrated by the despondency, and lack of will to meet the climate challenges facing us all. I too have built a strawbale home, drive hybrid cars, created a company and spoke to advocate for organizational sustainability, am concious about the food we eat and all our purchase decisions. My wife and I now sell ourselves as “green realtors”. So, I get it. And yet I travel to far flung places.
How can I live with myself?