Tuesday, January 6, 2009

PTD and the siren song of the road...

I enjoyed myself so thoroughly on my last trip that I've been feeling a bit down. That's one of the problems of a short tour (or a long tour for that matter). They always seem to end too soon.

For me, I get my "hill climbing" legs after about Day 3 of a trip. The first few days are about learning to ride with the weight and getting the flow of camp. This last outing, we went home on Day 4, just as my body was breaking into the rhythm of riding every day. That last afternoon I was stomping up hills with confidence and I was throwing the loaded bike around on standing climbs...and then we had to go home.

Just not fair.

I've spoken to other travelers and this "thing" has a name. PTD. Post-trip Depression.

I remember when I first got struck with it was after backpacking through Spain after graduating from college. I came home busting at the seams with excitement, but that quickly gave way to a mild depression. It was my mind catching up with the fact that I was no longer moving.

What's the cure?

I doubt that there is one.

For me, what I enjoy about touring is that I feel engaged every second. I'm thinking about pedaling, about food, about where I'm going to spend the night. The needs and thoughts are immediate. I feel completely and utterly present. As much as I struggle up hills, there is nothing quite like a steep grade and a loaded bike to put you into a state of pure being.

In retrospect, coming home feels so alien. The day after we got back I did some groceries at Trader Joes. What a strange experience after being on country roads for a few days and living out of two bags attached to your bike. It felt so odd and removed, like I was underwater, moving in slow motion marveling at the spectacle of all these people standing in line.

Of course, this passes. And I'm sure that soon enough, I'll be re-integrated into the ebb and flow of "normal" life. But this transition period is strange. Half my mind is in a dream life the other in my waking life. But I wonder if that's how things have to be. I wonder if I couldn't pull the stakes on this tent and hit the road tomorrow. It feels close to doing that, but not quite yet.

I've always heard the road sing out, but this time the song sounds particularly sweet.


TheGuth said...

Great post, Russ, you've described very well the 'rush' we get by being out on a bike, being out on a trail, just being out. Even when there is not much 'rush' to the moment you are still engaged in something other than 'daily grind' (long straight stretch of road to leave you to your thoughts, or setting camp) and that can be exhilaration enough.

And yeah, it is tough to come back from that. I mean, don't the folks at Trader Joes understand what you've been doing? Where you've just been? no? hmmm, bummer.

Alastair said...

Too true, too true. I'm sitting at work in an office writing this. I cycled the whole of the west coast of the states last October (I'm from the UK) and I'm itching to get out on the road again.

The photos from your last trip brought back some memories!

Spencer Salmon said...

I spent 2 months in Antarctica doing field work with only three other people. It has been tough adjusting back to real life, and must people don't understand. Life is so much more full and simple when you are out away from society and doing what you love.

Gary said...

Yeah, real life gets more weird the longer you stay away from it. I can't wait to get the time to do another mini tour.