“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.”
-Jeff Johnson, 180 Degrees South
In May, I came out here to Chamonix, France. I came for a 3-week writing workshop, but also to ride bikes, write stories, and satisfy some wanderlust. The plan was simply to stay for a couple of months, and see what happened.
As it turned out, everything did.
As a teenager, my first magazine subscription was to seventeen. Each month, when the newest issue came, I’d run to my room, close the door, and lie on my stomach reading from cover to cover.
The section that I always looked forward to most was the Letter from the Editor. I’d drink in every word of this well-written little ditty and wondered what it would be like to be the person holding the pen. Running my finger down the names on the masthead, I’d try to picture the tall building in New York City that matched the publisher’s address, and all the people who went to work there every day. What was it like to be that lucky? To get to write and make magazines for a living?
It was the only thing I ever knew that I wanted to do. But it took me about 15 more years and a few different careers to actually try and do it. When I left my 9-5 this past February to freelance full-time, the plan was to build a body of work for a year or two, then eventually try to find myself a place on a masthead, too.
Last Friday, I found myself standing on a street corner in Verbier, Switzerland after an 8-hour bike ride, still sweaty and covered in mud, clutching a borrowed French cell phone to my face.
It was Bicycling magazine, and they wanted to know if I would like to come and work for them.
Their HR manager had other things to tell me, too: the salary offer, the benefits, my paid time off, and other details. I listened, tried very hard to pay attention, but all I could hear was the rushing sound of my life changing course.
I start my new job as the Gear Editor at Bicycling in September. There, I’ll be helping to put together one of my favorite publications, and I’ll also be working with some of my heroes—people who have been a huge inspiration for me in my own writing. I am humbled and excited to get to know them, and get to learn from them.
This also means that nine days after I get back to the US, I’m moving to Emmaus, Pennsylvania, where Rodale—the company that owns Bicycling, Runners World, Men’s Health, and Women’s Health—is headquartered.
It won’t be easy to leave Colorado. But adventure is an attitude, not a place. I’m looking forward to exploring all that my new home has to offer, including all the tech-y, rooty, wooded Pennsylvania singletrack I’ve heard so much about.
When I got off the phone in Verbier, I sat down and put my face in my hands. I thought about how many times I’d imagined getting a call like that. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, so I did a little bit of both at the same time.
Some sad news comes with the good. Steve and I broke up.
It was mutual. We’ve spent four happy years together, and we are best friends. But our dreams are taking us to different places. He has an amazing gig in Colorado fighting wildfires. I got the opportunity of a lifetime on the other side of the country. Neither of us wanted to slowly grow apart over the course of long years doing long distance.
I say with all sincerity that I always believed we would be together forever. But I am also learning as I get older that some things are just too important to sacrifice.
Be happy, I say to him over Skype, tears streaming down my face. Everything we ever wanted for our lives is happening for both of us.
We let go of one another with nothing but the deepest respect and love. It’s the only way we could part, I think, after four years that overflowed with laughs and joyful memories. I write this with his blessing.
Steve made me a fundamentally happier person than I was before I met him, and I maintain to this day that he saved me, pulled me (sometimes kicking and screaming) into the light, all while smiling that contagious, unforgettable smile of his. He has been a profoundly positive, healthy influence on me, and I am whole today because of him.
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
I like to think that I was smart enough not to have come to France with a lot of expectations, but that’s not true. After three tough months of being holed up in my apartment in Boulder all day, pitching stories and refreshing my inbox constantly, I was hopeful that being in the Alps would give me fodder for travel, mountain bike, and adventure articles. I wanted it to be the catalyst I needed to jumpstart my career as a journalist.
And it did, but not in the ways I expected. The most inspiring part of this trip was not the scenery or even the adventures, but it was the people I’ve met. I’ve been fortunate to fall in with a group of talented creatives—writers and photographers—who also happen to be kind, fun, interesting people as well. When I found them, I found friends who could relate with all the different aspects of who I am. We could talk art, work, love, travel, bikes, and life. And then we could also head off on an epic road trip or adventure in the mountains together.
Watching them hustle and gun for their dreams like we all had just one shot at this thing inspired me to push harder and take more risks, too. We held each other accountable to producing our work every day. We celebrated every win. And on the days when good news seemed few and far between, we took turns reminding one another that our perseverance was our strongest asset. In this environment, I gained confidence in my own work, and in the idea that if we all busted our asses, stayed smart, and grabbed every possible opportunity by the horns…these crazy dreams of ours might just work out.
For many reasons, as strange as it sounds, I don’t think I would have gotten this job in the US had I not come to live in France. Or really, taken that trip to New Zealand just four years ago. I trace the twists, turns, doublebacks, and full stops my life has taken since then, and I am filled with gratitude and wonder at the strange way in which a dream comes true.
When I left Colorado in May, I didn’t know that my life would look completely different on the other end of this trip. But that’s the beauty of a journey like this.
And I guess I’m setting off on a new trip soon. On August 21, I will say a tearful goodbye to Chamonix, a place I didn’t know would feel so much like home, and to people I never expected to feel so much like family. I’ll hop on a plane back to Colorado, and put my life into boxes, put those boxes in my car. Go for a few parting rides in the Rockies, have some parting beers with friends. And then I’ll drive across the country, leaving all of it behind.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the past week contemplating the losses I’ve already sustained, and the losses still to come in the next few weeks. But more than that, I am beginning to look forward to my fresh slate of a future. The many things it has to teach me, and the many ways it will unfold to change me. Its mystery is its beauty, the fact that it holds no guarantees but one—to be very different than the past.
Because life is full of loss but also wins, full of sadness but also joy, rife with irony but bursting with surprises. And if you embrace all of these truths with courage and open arms, it is first and foremost always, always, full of possibilities.