Since making the decision to bike to Brazil only three weeks ago, I feel like my life has exploded into a non-stop fireworks display.
This is fun and exciting, but also hectic and stressful!
I will say this, however: I have learned a valuable lesson about purpose and energy in my life by making this decision.
Making the decision to follow through with a life-long dream and aspiration has lit a fire under my ass like nothing else ever has!
I no longer know the meaning of ‘lethargy’ or ‘stagnation’. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean)
The world looks more colorful, and my outlook on life is much more positive. I feel extremely motivated, but am also cherishing the everyday occurrences of my Austin life and my time with Addison. My life here is so idyllic, I realize, and my relationship with Addison is so wonderful, fun and nourishing for my soul. I love my pets, I love my band, and I have been having so much fun living here in Austin, biking around, swimming at Barton Springs, going out with friends and training capoeira several times a week with my group.
Many people have called me or written to me, warning me about the perils that lie ahead of me, telling scary stories or sharing nerve-wracking statistics about kidnappings, rapings and murders in Mexico and Central America.
I am touched to see how much so many people care about me.
I did spent a good part of last week considering that maybe–just maybe–someone would say something that would make me realize I don’t have to go. I thought there was a small chance that I just hadn’t heard the magic words that would make this aspiration go away.
Addison has been so cheerful and supportive about me leaving, that I actually had some concern that maybe he was relieved I was going away and would be happier without me. But after camping at Big Bend together and holding him as we lay in our tent under the desert moon, he admitted to the profound sadness he feels about me leaving and his fear for my safety and our relationship.
I felt strangely calm as I cradled him in my arms, and finally knew that I would never hear the magic words that would change my mind.
I know now, for certain, that there is nothing anyone can say to make this feeling go away inside of me.
I am more afraid of being apart from Addison than almost any other aspect of the trip. When we’re together, we’re unstoppable. We work in such congruence with one another on a daily basis, and then still want to spend the evenings together. It’s a sleepover every night! We listen to audiobooks, play music, drink wine, talk about hopes and dreams and ideas, and sometimes keep eachother awake lying in bed because we still have so much to say to one another. We meditate every morning, and are dedicated to supporting one another’s peace of mind and well-being both mentally and physically.
I finally found my ideal partner, and now I’m going to bike away into the sunset??
Who does that???
I don’t have a conclusion or moral to this particular blog post, just wanted to share some of the mental and emotional transformations I am having as I prepare to leave.
My Patreon account is almost ready to rock. You’ll be the first to know when it’s up!
Also, more than likely I will be traveling to Panama with another cyclist who contacted me recently. Having a companion will be a great relief to me, so I’m crossing my fingers and looking forward to it!
Thanks for reading this and please share your thoughts in a comment below.
During the wee hours of Thursday, October 8th, 2015 I received a dream.
When I awoke later that morning to start my day, everything had changed.
How did I go to sleep thinking about band practice and how many classes per week of martial arts I needed to do in order to graduate and feel good about my skill level, and then wake up the next morning with my priorities completely shifted?
How is it that, now that I am established in Austin and thoroughly enjoying living here, I decide to walk away from it all overnight?
I will share the dream with you that I had, but let me give you a quick snapshot of my past for some backstory.
On January 16th, 2013, Addison (my fiance) and I arrived in Austin, TX on bicycles. We’d ridden all the way from Brattleboro, VT with musical instruments and our dog Zoso.
The emotional journey I embarked on in order to leave what I perceived to be my permanent home (Brattleboro), to ride my bicycle across the United States and move to a foreign country (Austin) was tumultuous. But it was something I had to do in order to be where I am now. Quite literally.
But during our cross-country bicycle trip, I had a feeling that I never wanted to stop. I wanted to keep going South until I reached Brasil, the mother-land of a martial arts I’ve practiced for over ten years (capoeira). I wanted to leave North America and learn Spanish and Portuguese and meet people who thought completely differently than I do and knew how to live in community in a way that many North Americans don’t understand anymore. I had been talking about visiting Brasil and going back to Mexico and Guatemala for years before my U.S. bicycle trip.
Somewhere in all of this, after living in Austin for a while and then going back to visit my beloved Vermont, I had a severe concussion. Throughout my healing process I dipped in and out of various levels of depression. Over the next two years, I would tell many people about how I was going to bike to Brasil once the time was right, come hell or high water.
My sister, who is traveling through Western Europe and on to Thailand by bicycle with her husband, Erik, has been encouraging me from the start, and even sent me some travel supplies for my trip to Brasil (this included a pair of underwear that claims to be wearable for six weeks without washing–something I will probably not attempt to confirm). She has also hiked the Long Trail by herself, which was something she’d always talked about doing since we were teenagers.
Whenever we would talk on the phone I would tell her that I was working on making more money so I could save money faster and eventually embark on my Brasil trip with Addison.
Yes, Addison had to come with me of course! We’re The Love Sprockets (that’s the name of our band) and that’s what we do! We adventure by day on bicycle and play music for our hosts at night. Plus, I can’t travel through Central and South America by myself! That just wouldn’t be safe!
Yes, that’s the name of our band: The Love Sprockets. We perform in Austin a few times a month with our drummer (Pete) and upright bass player (Watson).
That is… until Watson announced he was ‘goin’ to Mexico!’. It was always something Watson had threatened, but we didn’t pay it too much heed.
“F** this sh** guys,” he’d say, after taking a swig of the Thirsty Goat beer he brewed 60+ hours a week at Thirsty Planet brewery. “I’m goin’ to Mexico!”
So now we’re scrambling to find a new bass player. But how do you replace Watson? He’s an ideal bass player in every way: hysterically apropos, high energy, fast talking, mustache-havin’ and a phenomenal musician. He’s also a cyclist.
Well, slap my ass and call me Sally.
Anyhow, let’s get back to my life altering dream, shall we?
So I was always telling people that I would go to Brasil ‘when the time is right’. But the time has not been right for Addison or I. We have our band, The Love Sprockets to play shows with and tour the country with. We have growing relationships with clients who want to pay us to do things that we’re really good at. I have my capoeira school where I get to train as often as I want and actually get good at this martial arts I’ve always loved.
On Wednesday October 7th, 2015, I went to sleep feeling completely satisfied and excited about my life in Austin.
Sometime in the early morning hours of October 8th I had this dream:
In my dream I was with my dad, my brother and sister. All of the people around us were getting randomly inflicted with a plague of some kind. They would see a black powder appear on their skin, and at that point it was too late–the black powder was a sign that the mysterious disease had already begun to set into their muscles and turn them grey and brittle. Soon after they would die a painful death.
We were sad for all of these people, but also feeling a surreal surrender to the unfathomable workings of Death and its suddenness at times.
That was when I noticed the black powder on my own skin.
The four of us took in this new information. I was going to die, and soon.
I sighed, and said, “You know what guys, I’m not scared of dying. But I am scared of being in terrible pain while I die.”
They nodded in agreement.
After this, I went into the bathroom by myself and began to wipe the black powder off of my skin with a warm, soapy wash cloth.
As I cleaned myself, I thought about all of the things I had wanted to do with my life, and the people I would miss. A vision of the little girl I was supposed to have with my fiance, Addison, flashed through my mind. I could hear my brother talking in the other room and I knew, somewhere in my waking mind, that he lives in India and I wouldn’t see him before I died. I would miss my friends and family.
I was sad about all of these things, but resigned to my fate.
That was when I remembered that I had not biked to Brasil yet.
In my dream, I fell to the ground, howling in anguish at this realization. I cried and cried and cried.
I wanted to get on my bicycle right then, and cycle until I dropped dead. But I could feel the crunchiness of my muscles and tendons and knew the disease had compromised my ability to pedal a bicycle.
Eventually I cried myself awake, much to Addison’s surprise, who was asleep in my bed next to me.
He tried to comfort me as best as he could when I told him about the dream. “You’re okay baby,” he told me. “You’re not going to die of the plague. Nothing bad is happening.”
I lay next to him silently as he fell back asleep.
And I knew something then, that I hadn’t fully realized before.
I’m not afraid of dying, I thought to myself. I’m afraid of not fully living.
I eventually drifted off to sleep, and when I awoke in the morning, I knew things could not stay the same any longer.
During what was supposed to be our meditation session, I unfolded my deepest thoughts and feelings before Addison, and for the first time, we were able to agree on this one truth:
It’s time for me to ride my bicycle to Brasil.
Not next year, not after I have enough money saved.
I’ve given myself a month and a half to prepare.
And I leave at the end of November, 2015.
I hope you will join me on this journey through my blog and Patreon (I will set up Patreon over the next couple of weeks and let you know when it’s launched).
I was nine years old when my parents told us they were moving our entire family to India. I had lived in a small town of North Carolina most of my life, and knew little to nothing about India, except that I didn’t want to go.
Six months later, I stepped out of the plane onto Indian soil for the first time. I can still recall the unfamiliar smells, the hot, dusty air… and people. So many people.
We arrived in Calcutta, and somehow, miraculously, were able to get our ten trunks of belongings, our suitcases and personal bags into two different taxis. It was all an overwhelming blur for this jetlagged, nine year old girl with skinny arms and smuggled gold coins in her belly-bag. My dad had slipped a few gold coins into each of his kid’s bags so that we could bring some of the family savings with us, un-noticed by authorities. It felt like a big responsibility to me, to not lose those precious coins.
My chubby, blond-haired, blue-eyed brother was jammed into a taxi with my dad, and my mother, sister and I were squished into another taxi. We wound through crowded streets, amazed at the local driving tactics. Horns were used constantly, whether to beep at a group of cows or people that were blocking traffic, to beep at other vehicles, or to hurry old ladies across the street. Whenever we stopped at a busy intersection, beggars would try to jam their hands into our windows, which terrified me. Especially the ones who were missing body parts from leprosy. I thought if they touched me, I would get leprosy too.
Sometime later—I could not be sure if it had been hours or days—we arrived on the banks of the Ganges River in the holy land of Mayapur.
When I tell people about my childhood and moving to India at the age of 9, a common question right about now would be, “So are your parents Indian?”
My answer is always, “No, my dad is American and my mother is French.”
And although my name is Jahnavi, I am definitely white!
Once arrived in Mayapur, a fleet of bicycle rickshaws transported our trunks and bags through the city.
As I was jostled along in a rickshaw with my dad, I was entranced by the colorful dresses of the Indian ladies, the perfume coming from the flower merchant stalls and the constant shouting and calling in this foreign language.
And there were the smells… cow dung, sweat, urine, smoke, food, flowers, freshly washed clothes, compost heaps mixed with trash, goats…
We bumped merrily alongside other rickshaws, bicycles, mopeds with entire families squeezed onto them, lorry trucks and taxis. I said to my dad, “Well, you certainly don’t need to go on a roller coaster ride when you live in India—you just need to take a rickshaw ride!”
We got a room on the second floor of a hotel that overlooked a large temple in Mayapur. My siblings and I were happy because the hotel room had a verandah. My brother and I would play with our toys on the verandah and pretend that our heroes were nearly falling off into the abyss. We discovered that we could go up onto the rooftop, where the entire city of Mayapur stretched out around us.
The next day we went to a large prasadam hall (‘prasadam’ is food that is offered to God first) to eat lunch. We sat on the ground alongside hundreds of Indians, and our food was ladled out onto huge banana leaves. Soup was poured into little, water-tight bowls woven out of coconut leaves. We ate with our hands. It was delicious. My dad poured drops of grapefruit seed extract into our water so we didn’t get the runs.
When we finished eating, we carried our banana leaf plates out back and threw them onto a heap, where delighted cows gathered to feast on our dinner-ware. Sinks lined the walls and we went and washed our hands with soap and water.
We hadn’t been in Mayapur more than a day and a half before it began to rain.
It rained, and rained and rained. We stayed in our hotel room as the streets filled with water.
The next day the water had reached the second story of our hotel. My dad lowered himself off of the balcony and onto a boat, then set off to find more boatmen to carry the rest of our family and belongings to the next state.
We waited in that room with our anxious mother for two days, living off of sweets they brought us from the temple. My sister read a lot, her long, frizzy hair framing her heart-shaped, serious face. My mother would sit staring, sniffing her hand or inner elbow area, jiggling her leg distractedly. My brother and I ate the sweets with relish, and played with our plastic dinosaurs on the verandah.
I remember watching people swim by our door, laughing and talking with one another as if it were the most normal thing in the world to be swimming down the street. I saw snakes swim by also, sliding across the top of the water as though it were a solid surface. Boats drifted past with people calling loudly, selling flowers or food.
The temple services continued as though nothing had happened. The floor inside was elevated enough so that when people came to sing and dance in front of the deities, they stood in water that was only thigh-high.
My dad arrived late on the second day, in a big boat steered by a man with a pole. We formed an assembly line, passing suitcases and trunks along down into the boat, and carefully climbed down from the balcony.
The boatman pushed off, and we drifted away from the hotel, and onto the watery streets. Eventually he navigated us out of the city and onto open water, floating above the submerged pastures and rice paddies, here and there the tops of thatched huts poking through the surface.
The sun was low on the horizon, and turning everything a fiery orange, including the water.
My dad smiled then—whether for our sake or because he was actually thrilled, I’m not sure. But here we were, in India, just like he’d planned.
I didn’t know what to expect next, but it didn’t matter. It was beyond my ability to imagine, so I just took in the moment.
I sat back and listened to the sounds of the boatman’s pole pushing through the water.
Swish… swish… splash…
A big white bird flew across the fiery sky, squawking rhythmically.
A cow stood on a pile of debris, chewing its cud, seemingly un-perturbed by the ocean of water that surrounded her island.
And our boat filled with my family moved on, steadily and quietly.