Good day and greetings from the land of snow and taxes, as my father put it. As some of you have rightly pointed out, this post is definitely a touch on the tardy side. I’ve been back in Ottawa for four days, and owe you all at least a few paragraphs to sort of close off this adventure of mine. I suppose part of my reluctance to write this final blog post had to do with wanting to absorb everything before writing my parting thoughts. Of course, on the other hand, getting back home was a bit hectic, as I was anxious to get settled back in and come to grips with the return to my ‘routines’. On that front, I definitely have a few things I can share with you all, as well as tell you about the last leg of my return journey. So if you’re ready, kick back, polish up your glasses, and I’ll try to entertain you or at least enlighten you on my brainspace for one more time 🙂 Be patient, as it will likely be a long post, but I suppose I have to do a bit of reflecting in this, the final chapter of my New Zealand adventure.
To close off on the actual transportation aspects of this trip, when last you checked in with me, I had paid my 85USD to get my beloved bike and associated gear loaded onto an airplane with me, and was off on the 8 or so hour flight to Toronto from San Francisco. Toronto would be my first point of entry back onto my native soil, and as such, I’d have to clear customs there before the final short 40 minute jaunt to Ottawa. The flight to Toronto was running a little bit late, so we left about 30 minutes late. Something about the flight crew not having arrived until recently, and not checking into the plane. This was also a very full flight, but I was fortunate enough to have an empty (middle) seat next to me. Of course, it wasn’t really empty, as the fellow in the aisle seat was traveling with a 22 month old, who didn’t have to pay for a seat, so after takeoff, the middle seat became the ‘crazy zone’. This little fella was screaming, and being a generally typically ill-behaved 2-year old for the duration of the flight. I was incredibly glad that I had my in-ear headphones which block external noise, otherwise the sky marshals might have ejected me with a parachute somewhere over the US mid-west 🙂 However, as it was, I was able to enjoy another couple movies and TV shows, as well as my purchased food. Yup, even on an 8-hour flight, Air Canada in their wisdom has deemed that we plebs must buy our own food. However, for 10 bucks, I got a Quiznos sub, some pringles, and a couple chocolate chip cookies. Not terrible I guess.
Arriving in Toronto, I had about an hour and 40 minutes between flights, which should be okay if I got through customs alright, and located my baggage. I was happy to get off that plane and my seat-mates, and even happier to see the familiar ‘Welcome to Canada signs’. Hard to believe I’d been away for 4 months. I got in a relatively short customs line, and soon enough was face to face with a customs officer. She asked a few questions, including my employer. When I said Government of Canada, she responded about my ‘4-month government vacation’ knowingly, as we share the same work benefits. She cheerfully stamped my papers and welcomed me home. No fuss no muss, and I could tell by the card that she hadn’t singled me out for a detailed search or anything. Sweet.
Next step was picking up my luggage to re-check to Ottawa. As I was clearing customs, the bags weren’t able to be checked all the way through. After waiting for a while at the oversize luggage area. I realized there was a second such area further in the baggage hall, and a quick walk revealed that this was actually the place where my bike box was waiting. Whew! Although it would’ve been okay to not get it right away, I felt better knowing my gear was with me once again. I passed through the final customs checkpoint, and was re-checking my bag in no time. All that was left was to head upstairs and catch the connecting flight. I gave Jody a quick call to let her know I was in Toronto, headed to a fast food joint for some supper, then waited at the gate for the flight. Last flight was short and sweet, and I was soon descending to the dark, snowy terrain of my nation’s capital, Ottawa. I was actually nervous about seeing Jody again after such a long absence. I’d even bought a box of Altoids, just so that I’d have fresh breath. Weird, eh? But she later admitted she too was a bit nervous.
Upon emerging into the waiting area. I scanned the sea of faces for Jody, but couldn’t spot here, surprisingly. I walked around the baggage area for a while before finally seeing her, sporting a new red coat. I tried hiding from her while I approached, and finally popped up just a few feet from her. Huzzah. Reunited at last! Hugs and smiles all around, and it was time to collect my stuff, and beat a trail back to out humble abode. All the bags made it, and we were driving home within about 15 minutes. On the drive home I got my first sense of the amount of snow we’d gotten over the winter, and it was mighty impressive. However, the most impressive was pulling into the driveway, with the snowbanks around me over my head, and the road a very narrow version of its usual self, due to all the snow. I was floored by the snow quantity. Thus ended the journey, at the same place where it all began, with me lugging the big bike box back into our cozy house.
So, what to tell you from this point? Well, the weekend itself was spent mainly reorganizing all of my equipment and gear, as well as doing my laundry and re-assembling and tuning up my mountain bike as well as one of my road bikes for use on the trainer. I figured I should try to get back into training as quickly as possible, as already, the overwhelming feeling I was getting was one of laziness. I have the feeling this was mainly a reaction to the emptiness I was feeling knowing that I wouldn’t be climbing any new hills in the next little while, and that the adventure was over. I won’t say I was depressed about it, but there was definitely a set of emotions within me that had me a little down.
So just how else could I cope with these feelings? Well, after months of living an active life, and of learning just how little one can live off of, and claiming that consumerism is a tool of boredom to all who would listen, I went shopping!!! Yup, as the final pictures on flickr will demonstrate, I wasted no time in heading to FutureShop and picking up a brand new television. Not just any TV though. It was a behemoth of a set, at 46″, the Samsung 4669F is an LCD HDTV thing of beauty, and I bought it without even batting an eye. I felt like there had to be a few changes in the house for me to not feel I was returning to the exact same thing I left, and this was my response. That, and re-arranging the bedroom a bit as well.
Another problem I have to deal with is the lack of any clear focus or goal for my training. I haven’t decided to do any races in particular yet this year, and don’t know how things will go for me on that front. The knee problems I alluded to in a few posts are very real, with my left knee in rather acute distress anytime I run anything over 5km at the moment. I know that I need to get off my but and schedule a consultation with a professional, but I’m rather concerned what the outcome will be. However, rather than fretting too much about this stuff at the moment, I’ve decided to just sort of ease my way back into training, and try to get into some sort of routine with biking, running, and swimming. I may take a much more laid-back approach to all this stuff this year, and just focus on fitness, so that I may be able to come out even stronger for next year’s race season. After, all, I still need to run a Boston qualifier marathon, and plan to do more Ironman races in perhaps some more exotic locations, not to mention do some international adventure racing as well. These are all in the dreams, but there is nothing carved in stone at the moment. Hopefully I’ll rediscover my focus.
As for final thoughts on New Zealand and the trip in general, that one is hard to put into words or think about. The big question I’m getting these days is ‘What was the best part?’. There simply is no answer to that question. The whole trip was the best part! Every day brought new challenges and rewards. I discovered a few new things about myself and the world around me, and also learned a lot about a wonderful part of the world that I plan to return to a few times in my life. This was an incredibly challenging trip, and I think I met it head on and conquered everything it threw at me. I can’t tell you just how refreshing this was for my soul. Yes, I work in a little cubicle overlooking Ottawa for a living, but that’s definitely not who I am. A person is defined by the sum of their experiences I think, and this trip perhaps gives a bit of insight about me. I love freedom and independence, discovery, and hard work. That’s what makes me tick. Some of this flies in the face of my methodical, detail-oriented engineering persona, but I’ve learned I’m also very open to whims and spur-of-the-moment decisions. After over 8 years in the working world, this trip came at a good time. Although it took 2 months to fully decompress from the accumulated stresses of years working (and/or being out of work!), the overall benefit to my mental well-being can’t be measured. I’m completely relaxed and content with my place in the world. I hope I’ve come out of this a slightly wiser and more relaxed person. I feel like it, but only time will tell. One thing is for sure. I hope I won’t be waiting another 8+ years before doing another similar trip.
Here ends the final entry of my tales from New Zealand. I’d like to thank all the people I met along the way for their friendship and insights, as well as all the people who either posted a comment on this website or sent me an email along the way. Sorry posting comments to this site has been so tricky. I know that ‘captcha’ thing makes commenting frustrating sometimes, but without it, my site would be overrun by spam. I know several of you have tried posting an failed, so I’m sorry. However, now that I’m back in the land of reliable Internet, feel free to drop me a real email using stephanrm -at- gmail -dot- com. Writing these stories every day of the trip was a challenge in itself, but it was great knowing people were following along around the globe, and now I have an amazing travel journal as well. My father is actually putting it all into one PDF document as well, and with this post, I think we’ll be at about 205 pages. Perhaps I’ll put that file up as well, should anyone wish to have a single document with all the stories. Thanks dad! That’s it for me for now. Who knows when the next post will be. I think I’ll be taking a bit of a ‘blog break’ until I figure some things out. Till then, don’t forget to dream big, and then go after it!