in Unicycling

Vietnam Conclusion

So I’ve been back in the states for some time (nearly a month now). How was the trip? Was it hard to readjust to American life? What happened on my flight back? Let’s see!

The Trip Itself

Riding in a FieldThe short version is that the Vietnam unicycling trip was absolutely amazing. I’m glad I went. To be honest, I was a little worried in the run-up to leaving: Had I trained enough? Could I really do this? I really started to enjoy myself after the first few days of riding when I realized, yes, of course I can ride 300 miles across Vietnam.

The longer version is more multifaceted. The trip, at some point, was the the most fun I’ve had in a long while, the easiest thing I’ve ever done, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the most un/comfortable thing, and so on. You get the idea. Sometimes these feelings were even simultaneous. When saddle soreness was its worst, you could still look around at the beautiful landscape and still smile when children come running up to say hello. Even when things were hard, I could still find myself right in the middle of the Vietnamese countryside.

The People

One of the great things about the trip was the people who went on it. It turns out that the kind of person who puts their life on hold for three weeks in order to unicycle across Vietnam is the kind of person who is also awesome. Everyone was different, but there was a certain mindset that we all seemed to share. It’s like we all managed to experience the world on our own terms, not the world’s. After all, simply accepting how things are “supposed” to be in life is not very conducive to unicycling.

So Why Do It?

The View BehindI made an in-flight post, leaving America, where I wondered about the purpose of the trip. There are the obvious reasons for going–seeing sights, learning more about the world, etc–but what’s the point of the whole thing? I didn’t really have an answer then, but I’ve thought about it quite a bit since.

I think we choose to do hard things because it makes other things easier. “Hardness” is relative, of course, but that’s exactly the point. This tour was very hard for some people, but quite easy for others. For instance, the multi-mile uphills killed me, because I haven’t done anything like that before, but compared to something like Alps Unitour the hills were actually very minor.

If you boil everything in life down to a single easy->hard scale, doing something on the hard side of things will make everything below it seem easier later. Compared to unicycling across an entire country, other things–starting a business, finishing a project, saying hello to the girl across the bar–are going to seem less daunting. I noticed this same sort of effect years ago when external pressures appeared in my life. After it passed, suddenly other things didn’t seem so worrying (most readers probably know what I’m referring to).

Adjusting to America

I didn’t actually put any thought into adjusting to American life. Obviously I was thinking about adjusting to Vietnamese life on my way there–food, attitude, culture, etc. But for some reason I didn’t consider the adjustment period in coming back.

The first thing that happened was actually a traffic incident at LAX. I was about to cross from the shuttle stop to the terminal, which was across three lanes of traffic. Cars were stopped at the curb in the one lane, another lane was completely empty, and there was a single car beginning to pull out from the curb in the other lane. A totally benign situation. So I started crossing, eager to get to the terminal. If the one moving car hurried up, there might be a conflict, but of course I’m completely visible with my gigantic unicycle bag.

What I didn’t account for was the traffic cop, whistle in mouth, vividly gesturing for cars to keep passing through. He freaked out when he saw me step into the road, practically running towards me, white gloved hands extended, palms outward, with a desperate “Sir, stay back!“. I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, I’m back in America. We’re totally retarded here.” After waiting just long enough for me to get the message, he began gesturing my way and let me pass.

(I missed my connection anyway, as my Taipei flight was late, and stayed in the night in an overpriced LAX hotel so I could shower and eat. It was lame.)

The other thing that struck me, over the next few days, was just how damned lazy Americans are. It’s like we gave up. Maybe the country wasn’t actually this way, but in school they paint the picture of the mid-20th century as a time of action. Americans were eager to prove themselves to the world as a dominant force: militarily, ethically, and intellectually.

Now, though, I feel like the majority gave up. Today Americans seem eager to watch the next American Idol and get fat.

What’s Next?

I haven’t been riding much since I’ve been back–although mostly because I’ve been moving in with Crystal–but I am eager to hit the 36″ before it warms up. My legs are itching for some action, and I feel like I could do a nice multi-hour ride with minimal soreness at this point. Looking forward to it!

I put down a deposit on the Africa unicycle tour happening next June. The adventure continues…

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