When I prepare for an adventure I go through two distinct phases – excitement and dread.
Excitement occurs during the day. When the sun is out it’s difficult not to feel that the world is full of possibilities, opportunities, people to meet and places to see. When this feeling is at it’s strongest part of me wants to get started right then and there. Even if it’s cloudy or rainy it’s possible to keep the spirit of adventure alive.
But when the sun goes down, dread begins to stalk you like a panther in the jungle. You get this uncomfortable feeling that you’re not alone, and not everything in the shadows is friendly. You see a flash of green eyes, your heart races, tells you to run, flee! Get the hell out of here! What were you thinking?
And this is before I’ve even left home.
I hate to admit this, but it happens to me every time. Every. Damn. Time. The sense of invincibility I have during the day ebbs away like Superman’s strength when the sun isn’t there to power it. I become timid, meek, afraid, and hide under the sheets just at the thought of having to camp out in the wilderness alone – despite the fact I’ve done it dozens of times.
There are two reasons for this, I think. One is simply genetic. The night is a dangerous time for primates. Look at how gorillas and chimps behave at night. There’s a reason children are afraid of the monster in the closet, because once upon a time that monster in the closet was the green eyes in the grass, and once in a while they were real.
The other reason is more personal. I don’t like to be alone. No, wait, I should elaborate. I don’t like to be lonely. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I can spend a whole day reading or exploring by myself and not mind it one bit. But I can also be in a room full of people who I have nothing in common with who are actively ignoring me and be the loneliest man alive.
Camping in the dark alone can be a very lonely experience, especially if you have an overactive imagination. I was lucky ten years ago. Two weeks into my trip I came across a couple of other cross country cyclists and we formed a team for a few weeks. Along the way we ran into more until by the time we reached the Rockies there were ten of us. Even after we went our separate ways there was always the hope of running into one of them again. In retrospect it helped keep me going, because it reminded me I wasn’t alone out there.
Still, no matter how psyched I am during the day, during the night I can still feel the green eyes searching for me, and part of me wants to call the whole thing off.
I need a reason to keep going if I’m going to do this. A goal. A purpose. Or maybe I just need a companion. Anyone out there got a decent bike and two or three months to kill?