When Amazing Becomes the Norm

I was sitting at Overland Oasis in Tule, Mexico one afternoon last August, listening to two travelers, Jason and Toby, discuss their travels. Both had been through South America already and were headed north — Jason and Lisa on BMWs, Toby and Chloe in their Ford F150 camper. They both seemed to be suffering from some version of sensory overload, I suppose. They were somewhat lamenting what life was going to be like after the trip was over. I think it was Toby that said he had arrived at the point during their South America expedition that even the most majestic mountains and waterfalls became “just another mountain” and “just another waterfall”.

Then he said it. The line that hit me like a brick to the head:

“You see and do all of this incredible stuff and you get to the point where amazing becomes the norm.”

Wow. Mind boggling. Dangerous. I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie. What will life be like after seeing all of these amazing sights? Then what? Can you accept a daily routine in one place? What will it take to keep you happy? What will provide the adrenaline rush?

I’ve attended seminars and presentations held by people who have traveled the world by car, motorcycle, bicycle, boat, or on foot, and often there is the question of how to adjust to life after the trip ends. Most of the time the answer I’ve heard is the same: they don’t. They go back to work for some time, always with the goal of going again. But are they happy to be doing that? Or has it become a necessary drug to feed an addiction?

After seven months, I’m still fairly new to this, but the thought of how you handle life after amazing becomes the norm has me a little bit nervous.

But not enough to pass up the amazing.

Just a few days ago, I was sitting at a campsite on the beach with Daniel and Joey. They’ve been traveling together for 22 months now. When we last spoke in El Calafate, they were uncertain of what was next for them. They were discussing shipping the bikes home to Germany from Buenos Aires, and taking some time off from traveling. They were facing difficult decisions about starting a family and settling into a “normal” life.

Joey spoke up over dinner at the camp north of Rio Grande, Argentina: “Well, we have some exciting news.”

This sounded a lot like the introduction to “I’m pregnant and we now know which direction we’re headed”. Turns out it was quite the opposite.

She said, “We’ve decided to ship to Africa!”

Wow. Didn’t see that coming.

They said they were basically broke, and didn’t know how they would afford Africa (remember, this is the same Daniel Rintz that left home six years ago with no money to start his journey), but they were going anyway.

And then Daniel uttered a line that became the second time this trip that I had to immediately jump up and write something down:

“The thought of going back to a regular life is more terrifying than facing Africa with no money.”

Truer words have never been spoken.


Note: When I first drafted this post, one month into my trip, it was difficult for me to see beyond the amazing sights that I anticipated over the next several months. However, since riding the length of South America, and seeing some truly amazing places, I’ve come to realize that there is enough amazing in this world — even in your own backyard — to last more than a lifetime. If and when this trip ends, I believe there will still be amazing weekend trips to local places that I have yet to discover. 

And that’s more than enough to keep me going. 

I’ve had this fortune cookie slip of paper in my wallet for years. You can see why.

12 thoughts on “When Amazing Becomes the Norm

  1. The “normal” becomes abnormal. Work, a cubicle, you have to be kidding. You adrenalin junkies are all the same. This your life now. You have jumped and you won’t land until you decide it’s time. That marker can only be in your heart and spirit. Accept it. It’s you. You have joined the ranks of Ulysses and Odysseus.
    Time is now.

  2. Fantastic, and simple at the same time. I watched Daniels documentary last week, by the way, and thought it was great. After watching, I realize most people think of riding the world on a motorcycle is just that and only that. He puts it into this perspective: my motorcycle gets me to new, unknown experiences that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. To me, that is true freedom. It got my gears turning for sure.

    • Exactly. The bike is just the mechanism to take you between experiences. And a fine mechanism at that….much better than the bus that most of the backpackers I see are riding. But that’s just my opinion, of course. However, at times, the bike can also create many of the experiences; whether because it allows you to access places you would otherwise not go, or because it attracts people to you, beginning conversations, or at times perhaps because it causes you to spend more time in a location that you previously didn’t intend to spend time. In the end, what might on the surface seem like a “problem” or “delay” almost always evolves into another story or memory.

  3. Great post, Pat. Last night Will and I were talking about you and the amazing people you have met and he said how backwards Americans have it. I’m glad he has some of your spirit and that not all of my bad habits were passed down to him. By they way, both he and Charles have joined a boxing club in Avondale and they want to compete. They have been training every night with some coaches. So they have a little adrenaline junkie in them.

    • Glad I could lend a hand in tweaking Will’s thinking towards “backwards Americans”.
      Actually, he’s way ahead of me, and us. He has the right outlook, and I’m sure he’ll use it well.
      Boxing? Wow. I wouldn’t have seen that in Will. Charles maybe. Pretty cool. When I get back we’re going to have to find an adrenaline junkie trip to do.

  4. This is great. I have been in business for myself 17+ years now, primarily because I wanted the freedom from having to deal with the cubicle, the bullshit commute, and having to ask for vacation. I have said numerous times that I would rather clean toilets for a living than go back to a real job. I get it. Now, my job may allow for us to sail down the coast to Mexico and still make a living. People say I’m lucky, I think “hell no, I did this on purpose.”

    I’m betting we have some wandering pirate somewhere in our ancestry.

    • Amazing you should mention this. Just last night as I sat on the beach in the middle of total darkness and solitude, I saw the Southern Cross for the first time. The sky was amazing, the Milky Way very bright, and the cross easily identified.

  5. I’d say just enjoy ur free time exploring while u can and when ur time or money or will ends, then come back and continue that other journey in life that doesn’t include the daily new scenery and new people, etc but brings u da daily new sharing from close family and friends. For u definitely will have lived countless lives that 99.9 % of da world will never know past their village or town. And be content that “if not now, when” doesn’t apply to u anymore.

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