Looking Back

Sitting here at my desk in Fresno, CA, I’m staying still for a moment and taking a deep breath. 

It’s been quite the ride since touching down in Miami on December 16. After two days in Miami I spent four days at Sigma Nu Fraternity Headquarters in Lexington, Virginia, my former place of employment. After seeing my old friends and colleagues I spent a night in Washington, DC, walking past the White House and watching the ballgame in Adams Morgan.

After being delayed for eight hours the next day I finally caught my flight to San Francisco, where my dad and brothers were waiting to pick me up. I spent a few days over Christmas between my dad’s in Stockton and my mom’s in Sunnyvale before picking up my friend and fellow traveler, Maciek, from Poland, at SFO on December 27. From there we drove straight to my house in Fresno, CA, my first time home in over 11 months.

Seeing my house again was a special feeling, but short-lived as the X10 crew had assembled for an early-morning departure for Lake Tahoe. (X10 was the 10-year anniversary of our annual new year ski/snowboard trip, this year with 25 people for five nights in Tahoe, which Maciek flew in for).

SONY DSC

After five epic days in Tahoe it was the homeland tour. Back to Fresno for four days, including a trip up to China Peak for a splendid ski day on absurdly soft snow under cloudless skies. After Fresno we stayed with Lindsay and Nate in San Diego, met Jake for lunch in Los Angeles, cruised through Santa Barbara and had a night on the town with Diego in San Luis Obispo; then up the California Coast, touring the Hearst Castle, through Big Sur, to Monterey for fish and chips, back to home to Sunnyvale and then finally San Francisco, staying at Parker’s over a playoff football weekend.

After finally sending Maciek off to New York I spent some family time in Sunnyvale and then in Stockton, then heading up into the Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne County where I was born and raised. I took my little brothers skiing for the first time at Dodge Ridge and we stayed at our grandparents in Mi-Wuk Village where I lived as a small child.

Then it was back to Stockton for a week, taking my brothers to school in the mornings and hanging out with my dad. The week included a day-trip to Sierra-at-Tahoe for a blissful ski day and several rounds of golf with my dad and Mark Olson, capped off by my dad’s 50th birthday party and dinner with most of my family. And breakfast with Tubesteak.

Over the past five weeks I’ve seen almost every member of my family and dozens of friends, skied, played golf and softball, slept at my own house, eaten tacos at the Red Wave, been on campus, been all over my homeland and driven well over 3,000 miles in the process.

I’d really missed driving during my travels around the world; I’m all caught up on that now.

Alone really for the first time since re-entering the United States, only now I am getting the chance to think back and realize that I just traveled around the world for 11 months. I’m looking back at some of the pictures and I can hardly believe it’s me sometimes. It seems so long ago that I was still living out of my pack, on the daily grind.

Now I’m just living out of my car.

So I’ve done just a bit of looking back at the year 2012. I’ll save some reflection for later, but here I want to recap the four core values I established for the Chris Healy World Adventure 2012: Service, Growth, Connection and Fitness.

Service

As you’ll recall, I added a service element to my trip around the world with the intent of making a contribution to the places I visited during the year.

My first project was the Gap Fillers in Christchurch, New Zealand, followed by It’s Not Just Mud in Ishinomaki, Japan. Then it was the Mountain Cleaners in Dharamsala, India.

After that – well, unfortunately that was just about it. There were a couple of other things that I can’t realistically count but worth mentioning anyway: I had such a great time with the Real Gauchos horseriding experience in Argentina that I offered the operators to come back another day and help out. I ended up helping on their ranch for half a day.

Similarly, when Danny Castro and I were doing the walking tour in Cuzco, our tour guide did one of the cleverest things I’ve seen: he brings trash bags on his tours and gives them to guests during the tour, asking people to pick up trash and help keep the city clean. Of course Danny and I volunteered, and you better believe some of the old Mountain Cleaner instincts kicked right in, making sure to point out all the tiny pieces of trash the people in front of us missed, “hey don’t worry I’ll get that one.”

So, even if you included those two perhaps questionable projects I would still be at only five on the year, for a total of about 75 hours. Not bad, but short of my goal of six on the year. There were a few reasons (read:excuses).

For one, I found it difficult to find easy, “plug-and-play” volunteer opportunities, things where I could just show up and work. Granted, I wasn’t actively looking for opportunities much past Europe, but I did search a couple of times and couldn’t find anything that was easy to get involved with.

Beyond that, I just didn’t try hard enough. With so much going on and just trying to figure things out and make it, I didn’t keep at it.

While it was the weakest area of my core travel values, I’m glad for the projects I did work on – and I went all in on those. Each was a great experience where I met new friends and great people, did some good work and enriched my journey.

In all I’d have to give myself a B- on service.

Now back in the USA, the importance of doing service hasn’t been lost on me. If anything I’m more aware of the need for people to help, and I’ll get involved in some other volunteering this year.

Growth

Perhaps harder to measure than others, what did growth really mean in the first place? Good question, and to be honest I’m not sure. I didn’t necessarily know exactly how or where or when, but I knew that I would grow as a person over the course of this adventure, and I was happy to wait and see how it would happen.

How did I grow? I reflected on the question in this blog post, and I probably can’t say it much better than that. It’d be hard to add much more right now. To be honest I still need to think about it, and besides I need to save something for the book. But I’ve changed and grown, and in no insignificant measure.

I’ll hold off on the grade for now, and see how these next few months go.

Connection

This one has spoken for itself. I summarized the connections I made along the way back in March, and April, and then again in September, and those don’t include anyone in South America.

How incredible has this been? Out of everything last year, the connections I made with people were the most significant part of the journey. I could have gone to each of the places I went to, and seen all the same things; but if it wasn’t for the people I met along the way it would have never been half of the meaningful adventure it was.

I’ll grade myself out with an A on the connection.

Fitness

My goal was to finish 70 weeks of You Are Your Own Gym by the time we left for Tahoe.

Despite good intentions, I fell three workouts short of completing my last 10-week cycle of the year. Over the last three days from Christmas until I picked up Maciek I just didn’t get out there and finish those last few workouts.

Minus those three, I did complete 70 weeks of the program, spanning from summer 2011 through the end of 2012. I posted fitness updates in February and in August, as well as revising my fitness page to include a couple of workout videos and links to You Are Your Own Gym on Amazon.com.

About five months since my last fitness post, it’s clear: this program put me in the best shape of my life, in terms of strength and muscle development. I lost weight but gained muscle mass and definition, even despite an oft-inconsistent diet, and I’ve never felt or looked better.

As far as my core travel values, fitness was my most significant accomplishment in 2012. Doing some rough calculations, I estimate from my departure on January 27 until December 27 I had 196 scheduled workouts over 334 days. Of those 196 workouts I missed or skipped or otherwise did not perform perhaps 12 or 15 at most. That 93% of workouts completed and 55% out of all days, meaning I worked out more days than I didn’t. Over 11 months, living out of a backpack, with three pairs of underwear.

It took a lot of dedication. There were so many times when I did not want to work out; when I had to figure out where I was going and what I was doing, taking buses and trains and flights and checking into hostels, when I was tired or aggravated or pissed off, when I couldn’t find a place to exercise, when I just wanted to take a nap. But I got myself up and made it happen. Because of those days I knew I could succeed and stick with it no matter what.

And it wasn’t just the fitness itself, but how I came to schedule my life and daily routine around my fitness program. Planning the day: workout, meals, laundry. When and where am I working out, when and how am I going to take meals, and how many pairs of clean underwear do I have.

It wasn’t quite Steve Kambs, but I kicked some ass in 2012.

Still, I could have done even better. I’d wanted to include an extra day of abs, run wind-sprints, start integrating some yoga and stretching, maybe a run or two during the week and eat healthier. I did all those things from time to time but never consistently, and as I’ve said before those are the things that will take me to the next level.

Since the New Year I’ve done fairly little in terms of fitness: some pretty intense ski days, a beautiful sunset run on Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, a boxing lesson with my step-dad, a softball tournament and couple of short jogs. But I’ve neither finished the last three days I missed at the end of the year nor started a new 10-week cycle.

This layoff was part of the plan though; after an intense year of fitness I’d intended on taking a few weeks off early in 2013, through the holidays, traveling and while all the dust settled. Sitting here today, I’m anxious to get back on track. It’s been a few weeks and I can feel the progress starting to slip. So I started it up again, beginning a new 10-week cycle yesterday, kicking off another outstanding year.

Fitness grade: A

Next Up

The last five weeks have been amazing.

Although I haven’t written much over that time, I’ve talked with friends and family about the adventure. At first I wondered if my experience would be like Katie’s, a world traveler who felt disconnected when she found she couldn’t often connect with many friends about her trip. She would chat with people, but didn’t feel like she was being sincere, or didn’t know what to talk about without overwhelming or sounding like she was bragging.

“So, how was it?”

“It was great.”

“Cool!”

It hasn’t been so much the case for me. I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me questions that I can take on more easily, answer a little bit at a time. There is the never-ending “what was your favorite place,” but a lot of other great questions that get me thinking and take me back out there.

For some people I’ll just tell a couple of stories that come to mind. For some I’ll really describe what it was like to live out of a backpack for 11 months. Some people I’ll tell about the challenges and harder times, while for others I describe what a particular country and its people and culture are like. There is no one person who I can truly convey even a fraction of the entire story; but I can share a few glimpses, a few stories, a few reflections with many.

It’s been fun, and it’s given me a chance to do some reflection that I haven’t done much of otherwise.

***

Well, this hasn’t been the most productive month of my life. I haven’t started in earnest on my upcoming projects, I haven’t done much reading, I just barely resumed my workout program. I’ve kind of just been going around. But I’ve had some very important family time, seen so many of my friends who I missed dearly, done many of the sports and things I love to do, and taken in a full dose of being home in the United States. Wow, it has felt good to be back.

It’s been worth it, no doubt. But I am feeling unsettled and anxious to get this next chapter going. I need to get to a place where I live, get into a routine, and get cracking.

And that place is San Diego, CA, where I am moving in one week. There I’m going to partner with Lindsay Barto on a business project and go all-in on writing a book about the Chris Healy World Adventure.

I’m packing a small selection of my clothes that were packed away in my rafters – which will still be 20 times the clothing I had for the past year – my bike, some athletic equipment and a few personals. It’s going to be a great feeling to move into a room, with a closet and dresser, where I can keep my things, and a bed that I sleep in every night. A kitchen, living room and backyard; a place to live.

(if you were wondering, I’m sleeping at my house in my office. It’s a strange feeling not having a room in your own house).

And it’s going to be time to bear down. As ‘ole Henry Ford put it, “you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

Updates on the book will be coming soon to a theater near you.

***

We’re going to look back and say, “2013. That was the year it all started.”

And Finally…Thanks

Having not properly capped off 2012 in the blog, the most incredible year of my life, I just want to say thanks.

Thanks to you, reader, for reading.

I really had no idea what it was going to take to maintain this blog. It was a lot. I wrote nearly 100,000 words in 2012.

There were times when I thought about giving it up and focusing on other things. But a few of you encouraged me to continue on, many of you told me that this blog has been meaningful to you in some way, and others have just silently read along. You made it worth it.

And finally, my deepest gratitude to everyone who helped me along the way. You made it the journey of a lifetime.

My sincere thanks and best wishes to all of you.

Until we meet again, think about this:

How is 2013 going to be remarkable for you? 

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