A Turkish Airlines transatlantic flight from Tel Aviv started my trip with a colorful stop in Istanbul ,followed by breathtaking views over Greenland at low altitude. The eventful high-contrast day ended in the quietude and tranquility of the Maine woods.
So how am I different now that several months have passed since my trip? In many ways I’m the same, of course, but in other ways I’ve changed. Something has shifted with my perception of myself.
On the basic physical level, I’m more comfortable challenging myself with climbs (“verticals”) or long hikes than I had been in recent years. I’m not at my youthful level, of course, and that is not a realistic goal, but I did improve in relation to my older self.
On the technical front, I now know I can drive long distances on unknown roads under different, and sometimes difficult, weather and terrain conditions, whether it’s the ups and downs of the Newfoundland hills in pouring rain, or the busy highways around Portland at rush hour.
As to navigation, one of my weakest domains, I should say that my senses, on being alone in new environments, were sharpened by necessity and practice. My attention to details increased, my coordination got better. Clearly, I still could not manage any of this without the GPS and the maps. Left to my own devices, I would for sure have ended up in Patagonia, but using the different aids I did honorably, surpassing my own expectations (with the inevitable messing up here and there…). This for me is a life-long challenge, but some progress had been made.
It was very beneficial and rewarding to communicate and share with others on the road. When people gave me recommendations or info, I would take it in through the filter of my own needs and insights. Sometimes, accepting advice, I modified my plans in drastic ways; in other cases, I stuck with my original agenda.
And that leads me to the most important point:
It’s All About Decisions
On the psychological level, this trip was really about practicing my decision-making faculty. It’s a different story when you do not have an ongoing male input like I had during my marriage years. Letting a controlling female into the trip or voyage would not be any better than a patronizing or dominating man, as I have seen in my short encounter on Cathedral Ledge, hence the issue is not necessarily gender-related. It’s about how decisions are taken in a relationship.
Though my need for a good relationship is as great as ever, some of my neediness is gone following this trip. That goes a long way towards genuine self respect and building internal strength. Nobody penetrated the space between me and my agency, between me and my ability to think clearly, so every mistake or misstep were clearly mine and owned, as well as every decision well taken.
Most of these decisions were small, day-to-day choices, though some, made on the spur of the moment, were bigger, like embarking on the trip to Newfoundland, PEI, or Gaspe. In taking these decisions I used both hemispheres of the brain to bring into account a great multiplicity of factors, external and internal, and come up with a working plan.
The decisions were taken at the private sphere, affecting first and foremost myself. I am not turning into a politician, manager, entrepreneur or a community organizer. I don’t have what it takes. But the simple ability to control one’s own private domain is not to be taken for granted either, especially for women. We often allow other people, foremostly men, to infiltrate the space between ourselves and our will, even unconsciously. This can be due to our lack of tools, experience or knowledge, a faulty self-image, custom, habit, cultural expectations and sometimes even sheer laziness, convenience or a preference for dependence.
What is important in my mind is to know that in all these cases we actually make a choice, even the choice to be dependent or codependent. In my opinion, it’s a good practice once in a while for everybody, men and women, to try being on our own, travelling independently, to get that perspective on ourselves.
Looking at the state of affairs in the world today, I think our female “emancipation” is still ways to go and not to be taken for granted, although great progress had been made. The way I see it, on the personal level the challenge is still to reach that precious balance between sharing parts of this life in love with another human being and keeping our own core.