Saturday, June 7, 2014

Full Circle

Two years have passed. We began our worldwide two year trip on June 8, 2012 and it feels like both yesterday and a lifetime ago.   More coincidentally than planned, we have finished it on June 7, 2014. On our last night, surrounded by an old friend and new ones from four different countries, we watched the sun set over a meandering river in Bangkok.  During our two year journey, we hoped to learn with humility and give with grace as we answered the question "How do we continue to grow?"  Our hope was that the 7 billion souls and the lands they occupy would become our teachers. Each of the 365 days in the following two years was filled with new lessons and experiences.  We sought to learn as children do, with few preconceptions, with wonder, with excitement and with passion.  We knew some lessons would be harder, some would frighten us, and a few would bring us to tears.

In the end, we underestimated how special the journey would be. We have cried tears of wonder and tears of pain. We have stood in absolute awe before some of the greatest sights on earth.  We have felt the earth tremble as glaciers rumbled across its face.  We have watched volcanoes smolder and have seen the footprints of invisible snow leopards in fresh Himalayan snow.  We have gazed across salt flats and tundra plateaus possessing unearthly beauty. As we drifted through the darkness deep within the earth, Glowworms lit our way as did the stars of the milky way on the top of Chilean mountains.  We stood below the rooftop of earth, not once, but twice, gazing into the
dangerous crevasses of both the south and north faces of Mount Everest.  We have hovered above giant cuttlefish and whale sharks as they swam lazily below us.  We have stared mother grizzlies and orangutans in the eye.  We have gazed on the faces of deities in over a dozen countries, some living, some surreal.  We have walked bare foot through piles of dung and blood-red betel spit in respect for the customs and cultures of those whom we visit.  We have been burning hot, achingly cold, and every state in between in almost 20 different countries and on four different continents.   In each place, our hearts have been forever changed by the people who shared these sights with us, some leading us to them, others discovering them by our sides.  New friends and one special old one have accompanied us in our odyssey.  And some of our favorite new friends were not human, rather animals that touched our hearts and souls.

We are both smaller and larger than we were when we left our jobs, our friends, our family, and all that was comfortable and familiar.  While we have learned much about the world, we learned the most about ourselves and each other....and we are not ready to stop learning.  In fact, we hunger for greater lessons and new opportunities to grow.  The first will come as we seek to help others realize their dreams.  We did not know where we would "land" after we sold our house and most of our possessions and began this journey two years ago.  Interestingly, we have come full circle and will return to our professional passions and to our community in Gunnison, Colorado, the place we call home.

For six months a year we have been given an amazing opportunity to participate and teach within a new community of learners.  This summer, Western State Colorado University opens its doors and hearts to an inaugural group of graduate students seeking a masters in environmental management.  As we have traveled the world, we have seen so many needs and have realized there is little time for humanity to change its path of global annihilation.   We grew up in the nuclear age, ducking and covering, afraid of weapons of mass destruction.  What we did not know to fear were the consequences of the daily cumulative actions of seven billion people.  A stunning percentage of the planet is stripped of its resources, laid bare to the ravages of changing climate, with little local life remaining on the land beyond the poor who have no other place to go.  Everywhere we travel, including in our own "backyard" we see environmental challenges that must be met.  We are humbled beyond all measure to have a chance to help educate those who are stepping forward to meet these challenges with new voices, important projects, and increasingly sophisticated ideas about how to address our past mistakes and create new futures.  For six months of each year, we will be face-to-face with this emerging community and for half a year we will continue to travel, connected to our newest community and building bridges to additional ones in distant lands.

We named this blog "One hundred stories" and hoped to write at least that many during our two year adventure.  We have written only sixty so far.  It is not that there was a dearth of stories; each day was typically filled with several.  We simply found that we were often consumed with living the stories rather than writing them.  We hope to continue this blog and plan on finishing a blog posting about travel tips soon!  This adventure has finished, but the next one has already begun.

Posted in Los Angeles, California. Images are of a Nepalese woman telling Sally about her woes, the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia, and of a poor family trying to catch small fish in Cambodia. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Wow. Such power in your stories. I feel as if I have been with you for much of your travels. Thank you for writing! Congratulations on the new teaching opportunity. The world needs your leadership.
    Stuart and I are going to Cambodia next fall, to visit friends....your story makes me want to study how the people of Cambodia keep going, in spite of such hard-handed leadership. Welcome home!