Saturday, June 7, 2008

The to do list

Something tells me there must be something better than all this . . .
Wailin Jennys, "Heaven When We're Home"

The dream: cycle in Europe, through ancient towns and valleys, past castles and monuments, amongst cultures that have shaped history. Listen to other tongues and how people express themselves; see other ways of living. Live outdoors, eat well, be well in body and spirit. Seek vocation; meet people who will show me possibilities. Write; reflect. Be open.

The reality/the nightmare: The "to do" list. My monstrous, three-page, single spaced "to do" list haunted my weeks before departure. The mystery about it was that when it got down to two pages it got stuck at that length. Every day I toiled like Sisyphus from waking to sleep, and every day lots got done, and the same amount again got added to the list. Each task was a cancerous growth, sprouting associated tasks. Eventually the list became one page for the last two weeks, the length it stayed until my last frantic day. I couldn't sleep the night before for worry about the size of the list! If I hadn't managed to kill it before, how could I now, even with my plane's departure as a deadline?

Well, I didn't kill the list; three items remained at 12:30 a.m. the morning of my departure, which was 4:15 a.m. from my house. One of them was to set up the blog site, which I could do from any computer on the internet--if I read Dutch, that is. Thanks to advice from Susan in Doha, you are reading this now.

I still feel somewhat traumatized by the preparations, so will not go into detail about all the little set-backs which caused such anguish. Just suffice it to say that a lot of it seemed to involve hanging on the phone, cycling through endless menu choices and then hearing, "we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes . . . " You know, the kind of thing that makes you want to scream when you've got lots to do.

So you're wondering, what was she doing all that time? I had to research my routes and gather information; I had to gather the things I needed for my trip; I had to get my bike overhauled; I had to rent out my house and pack it up to make room for the renters. In retrospect, it looks straightforward. I, however, am a perfectionist, and manufactured hundreds of details. I was also a Brownie, and I learned well our motto, "Be prepared." (I never went on to Guides, where I think they had more fun, putting their preparation into good use on excursions and adventures.) I decided I needed a GPS, and a solar battery charger, and a PDA and mini keyboard to write with; a mobile phone . . . and I had to learn how to use all these devices. I realize that my extensive preparations are a clear sign of neurosis. Contrary to some people's idea of me that I'm brave, I'm not. (The nurse at the Vancouver travel clinic said, "oh, you're so brave!" I was about to say, "oh, I'm not," when she finished, "I could never cycle downtown." I could only stare in stupefaction, trying to compare my familiar 20 minute cycle into Vancouver with the thousands of unknown kilometres I was heading off to.)

In fact, I'm scared blind about having to find my way by myself, as I have a very bad sense of direction. I worry about where I will stay at night. So I prepare and prepare in the Brownie's belief that if I'm prepared enough all will be well.

It's a long and rugged road and we don't know where it's headed,
But we know it's gonna get us where we're going
When we find what we're looking for, we'll drop these bags and search no more
Cause it's gonna feel like heaven when we're home
Wailin Jennys, "Heaven When We're Home"

Gouda, 315 km

Next post: my favourite Dutch words . . .


tonia said...

Hi Catherine!

Great to hear you are on the road again! I just sent a comment, but I think it got lost...
I will write again if it didn't get through...I'll check later.

Take care,


Antman said...

Catherine - your blog is so well written - I'm amazed you have the energy to write so much given how much cycling you need to do. We're thinking of you often and sending many positive vibes your way. Keep up the great updates - love,


Martha said...

Hi Catherine,

You say that you are not brave, however, the adventure that you have set off on is truly daring. Most of us wish we had the courage to try something as bold as your trip.
I look forward to hearing about your journey. It is always an enjoyable read.

Love Martha

PS I didn't realize that you are a Waylin Jennys fan.