Home is the hunter, home from the hills!
No matter where you go, there you are.
“Home is the hunter, home from the hills!” That’s the txt my dad sent me when I let him know I was close enough to the end of #MegaRoadTrip2022 to start making plans for a homecoming fête. It’s a common paraphrasing of Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Whether sailor or hunter, at the end of life each ends up in a grave. The lucky having lived a glad life, die with no regrets about how they spent their time.
As I drove around the continent, I saw dozens of cemeteries. Makes sense. Most towns have at least one. What struck me about them was understanding that most of the people buried there were born and lived their entire lives within a few miles of the spot where they eternally rest.
How important the issues of the day must have felt to them! How thrilled they were at key moments of their lives! How dashed were their hopes when things important to them didn’t work out! How invested they were in status and advancement during their working years! And, ultimately, every one of these people ended up in the same place.
We race around taking things so seriously for 70 or 80 years (if we’re lucky) just to be stuck 6 feet under along with every other person who took things so seriously for 70 or 80 years (if they were lucky).
I took to the open road hoping for a taste of freedom before I set off on my next venture (to be announced soon, by the way), but it turns out freedom is within us. We can exist in a jail of our own making in a campsite on the shores of Newfoundland and we can be spiritually and emotionally free within the walls of a prison.
In other words, we have the power to create our reality. We can’t change all of the circumstances of our situation. But we can reframe our experience of it. We can decide to live free.
I’ve done several other epic adventure trips in the past and each one has taught me as much about myself as it did about the place I visited. This trip was no different. Among the things I learned, I came to a deeper understanding that whatever annoyances and minor stresses I feel in a moment are within me. No amount of externally imposed novelty (i.e. 7-week road trips) can change who I am inside the confines of my noggin. For me to be truly happy, I need to work on what’s in there, not what’s outside me.
“I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was conscious visiting many of the places along this trip that this would be my only or last time there. This awareness led me to spend a little more time in a few places where I was tempted to “make progress” towards that day’s destination. I hope to bring that same presence back to the everyday now that I am home.
This entire trip was, in a way, a metaphor for my recent working life. I took on too much. I spread myself too thin, racing from spot to spot. Well, too much if the goal was to immerse myself in the experience of each of the places I visited and too thin given the time constraints I put on myself.
I did the same thing to myself at Zapier. Towards the end of my time there, I was responsible for 2 teams directly, plus another 2 teams via Stacie in her role as Team Lead. I had 14 direct reports at one point. I was also helping drive progress on accessibility and was co-managing a program to help people in the company transition into engineering roles.
I spent a lot of my time at Zapier doing too much and feeling like I wasn’t doing any of it particularly well. The moments when I felt most engaged with the work and like I was making my biggest contributions were when I had the opportunity to eliminate distractions and single track.
Lesson learned. I hope. 😅
Final stats 🤓
Days on the road: 49
States visited: 28
Provinces visited: 6
Miles driven: 12,989.5
Gallons of gas used: 927.9
Average miles per gallon: 14.0
Average gas price: $5.18/gallon
Animals seen since last issue: No new animals since the last issue, but I realized I forgot to mention that from the ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia I saw WHALES! Three (probably) humpbacks, surfacing every minute or two to breathe. My fellow passengers and I were all thrilled as were many of the staff! What is it about whales that is so magical? Is it a “game recognize game” situation where we know they’re probably at least as smart as us? 🐳
Everyone I met up with during the trip (thank you so much for taking the time to meet up with and in some cases host me!): Cayce, Margaret, Ranee, Val, Chris, Zane, Anna, Hoon, Nicole, Sharvari, Nick, Lisa, Dad & Erin H, Kyle & Adriana, Erin O, Arline, Emma, Caitlyn, Barbara, Ashley & Jake, Alexis & Michael, Kaushi & Tim, Jevin, Snook, Scott & Gemma, Kat, Raluca, Mel, Karl & Sara, Chels & Elissa, Kim, Todd, Max, Noelle & Andrew
More stats and random information are available on this page I put together about the trip.
Before I embarked, I estimated the trip would take 7 weeks, traverse at least 12,700 miles, and cost roughly 5 grand in gas. In the end, the trip took 49 days, encompassed a total of 12,989.5 miles, and cost $4,806.95 in gas. Pretty precise! brushes off shoulders But I wonder how much my original estimate shaped my decision making along the way versus it just being a case of me channeling my inner Cyberchase? 🤔
Finally, I want to acknowledge the immense privilege I enjoy that has allowed me to take 7 weeks to putz around North America. My 2+ decades working in tech made this financially possible, but I am unfortunately fortunate to have been able to do this trip with a kind of invisibility that others in our society would not have enjoyed.
What I mean is that I traveled through many places, both rural and urban, where it was clear to me that people who don’t look like me would not be very welcome. White guy in a Jeep™ ball cap can blend in at most campgrounds. As long as I don’t bring up that I’m a vegetarian who believes Black lives matter and thinks we should give social democracy a try, I can slip past the angriest elements of circa 2022 U.S. culture without too much side eye.
Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.
~George Bernard Shaw
Americans (#NotAllAmericans, obviously, there are many lovely people in this country) exude a hyper-masculine toxic patriotism that makes even me, white guy in a Jeep™ ball cap, uncomfortable. I had dozens of interactions where I hoped the other person didn’t bring up politics lest it get weird real quick. I tried to imagine what it must be like to be visibly different in these places. We need to make this country truly inclusive somehow, and soon. There’s so much more I have to say on this topic.
Today, though, I am just glad to be home.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ”