What Does It Mean To Finish A Journey?

“So comes the end of another adventure, and a return to daily life.” This would be an easy way to wind up the story, now that my Arctic trip is over. But I want to examine the idea more closely: What exactly is meant by ‘adventure’? Does it really end so neatly? And should ‘daily life’ be entirely different?

Aegean sunset

It is true that I will no longer be getting up every morning, packing away my tent and riding my bicycle through ice and snow all day. And it is also true that I will be returning to a more temperate climate, comfortable circumstances and a less stripped-down existence.

But my adventure is set to continue, and that is because I have come to view adventure and daily life as one and the same. The word adventure describes an internal consciousness; a way of looking at the universe that remains the same when riding the remotest stretches of Lapland road as wandering streets of London.

It’s a fascinating thing to gaze upon all that once passed you by with new eyes, your homeland and its inhabitants set in the vast context you can’t help but absorb when living for years in unfamiliar, ever-changing surroundings that were made comfortable by a growing realisation of universal human values — and made unnerving by globally-proportioned issues of ecological stability.

Originally this was all forced upon me by the exposed and vulnerabe nature of my early journeys, and slowly it incorporated itself into my consciousness. And now, I’m beginning to find, it’s impossible to switch off. I can’t even meet old friends or walk down the main street of my village without speculating semi-consciously on how the experience of doing so compares and contrasts with myriad moments at other spots and instants on the globe. I can’t walk into a Lebanese takeaway without interrogating the two young Egyptians working there and speculating on what brought them and their Sudanese employer away from their home countries to feed grilled meat and falafel sandwiches to drunk students.

At times I’ve felt like an outside observer looking upon the most absurd examples of human behaviour, confused and frustrated as to why this should be so, but unable to engage with the situation because of the futility of doing so. It throws questions at me which I am entirely unable to answer, and bears observations which make sense to nobody but me.

It changes my attitude towards everything I see and do. So while I was riding through that stark snowscape of Scandinavia, I wasn’t questing for adrenaline, for a chequered flag, for an opposite extreme to a humdrum lifestyle ‘back home’, or for blog comments and Facebook ‘likes’. The trip was one facet of an unfolding adventurous existence; a trip in which I gathered new skills and knowledge — as well as actual experiences and stories — in a particular season, land and moment in time. And all of that is now to be digested and assimilated while I press on with another unfolding adventure: revisiting and reconsidering all that has happened for the writing of my first book.

This is becoming a complicated justification for a simple bike ride. I apologise. But the truth is that it’s devilishly difficult to explain that a trip like this is not an absolute thing, defined by facts and figures, kilometres and degrees, beginnings and ends. It cannot honestly be thus packaged.

I find that by far the most commonly-asked questions about my travels are of this nature, and I know that by giving the corresponding answers I am telling the asker very little about what the experience means to me. Indeed, I have learnt more about their worldview through the nature of their queries than they have about mine through my replies.

All of this fuels my belief that everyone who is able to do so should embark, at least once in their life, on an open-ended, unguided, disconnected, non-institutionalized adventure — alone — at whatever individual level of scariness and duration will push the naïve wanderer so far out of their zone of comfort that they can no longer remember where that zone even lay, nor of what exactly they were afraid.

Because the questioning, searching voice that such an experience awakens gives life almost unlimited colour and intrigue, even during its inevitable mundane periods.

That alone should be reason enough to go.


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6 responses to “What Does It Mean To Finish A Journey?”

  1. Love it, man! I’ve become a huge fan! Hope to meet you (on the road?) one day!

  2. Loved the stories and the pictures. You make people dream. Please do keep travelling and writing, it got me on the bike. Very inspiring.

  3. I suspect that this might be relavant to your worldview, and search.


  4. Andy Welch avatar
    Andy Welch

    It does seem like you are justifying something. Indeed in the past I have found myself feeling the same way- justifying to friends, family, although really just to myself. And you know why? Because inside me is a part of my being, probably my ego, which has been conditioned to act in a certain way… I think it’s the super-ego, the idealist guilt inducing part of the brain which also comes into play setting massive tasks with spectacular ideals which are impossible and then inducing feels of guilt.
    At least with some kind of awareness of social conditioning and how that percolates into any activity we may do, we can take a step back from it and choose not to follow these predefined ways of being, and instead to follow something else– back to this whole personal experience, unfolding of life, process type thing.
    Zizek in ‘The Perverts Guide to the Cinema’ is talking about the film the Matrix and says that there needs to be a 3rd pill which allows people to recognise the symbolic fictions upon which everyday reality is constructed.
    This is an extremely difficult process and involves a lot of effort to become more aware and more conscious of self and observing the behaviour of others. However, I think that the reward is that of an ability to rise just a little out of the subjectivity and see things a little more clearly.
    It is the motto of the adventurer that anything is possible. Why do adventurers have to usually escape to do this? It’s because they still have the solid foundations of the social conditioning and this fictional ‘reality’ embedded into themselves. I am pondering of course my own experience here. When you go away you already have a sense of this displacement and objectivity that I previously describe by being a foreigner in another culture and seeing the strange ways people behave and the differences between the cultures and societies of different countries — it becomes easier to compare and contrast.
    Anyway, with enough meditation on these kind of ideas, which it’s seems like you and others in their own ways are doing, adventurous behaviour transcends all environments. It no longer matters where you are as long as you have the knowledge.

  5. “I have come to view adventure and daily life as one and the same … a way of looking at the universe that remains the same when riding the remotest stretches of Lapland road as wandering streets of London”

    “I wasn’t questing … for an opposite extreme to a humdrum lifestyle ‘back home’. The trip was one facet of an unfolding adventurous existence”


    That, right there, is the nail on the head.

    I’m sure this idea has been around for a long time but it feels like right now there are a few folk trying to ram home this same message: Adventure is a state of mind that applies just as well to a daily routine as it does to overseas expeditions.

    Keeping shouting about it Tom. Great work.

  6. Tom, you have become a great writer and philosopher. I really enjoy your posts.

    “…gives life almost unlimited colour and intrigue…” I read your blog largely in an attempt to re-capture that feeling. I recall after a month-long cycle tour of Europe in which each day’s direction was decided on that day, that I returned to my hometown of Montreal with new eyes — eyes wide open. Unfortunately, it seems that I fall back into semi-consciousness far too quickly on returning to what passes for regular routine in between adventures. How do you keep the feeling alive during the mundane periods?

    Thanks again.

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