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You Can’t See Everything

When I first left, I wanted to see everything. I had this idea that I might go to all 48 contiguous states, see all the major sites, eat at all the best ice cream shops, and visit all the best bookstores.

I tried that for a while. I would figure out where I was headed that day, and then make sure to stop at all the places where I thought I had to stop. I checked a lot of things off my list and learned that the things you remember are the times you got lost or break down or get caught in a storm. But I still tried hard to see everything. I went completely out of my way to ride through tiny slivers of Rhode Island and Iowa. I walked the entire Freedom Trail in Boston. I moved quickly through most places, typically staying no more than a day or two, so that I could move on to the next destination and experience the next new place.

As I got further West, I would stop and talk to people and tell them where I had been. They would say something like, “Oh, you went to Maine? You must have ridden all the way around the coast. It’s such a beautiful drive.” Or “The Yellowstone Grand Canyon sure is incredible. You must have stopped there.” But I’d missed those sites. As the great expanse of the American Plains unfolded before me, I slowly began to think about all the places and people I hadn’t seen. When I made it to the Pacific Ocean, it dawned on me that I hadn’t even gotten in the Atlantic Ocean. I had missed a lot in traveling across the country.

But I had also seen so much.

It took me six weeks to ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and in that time, I managed to visit Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Tornoto, and San Francisco. I visited five National Parks, crossed the Mississippi River four times, and went through 33 states. But there was a nagging feeling in the back of my head that kept me second guessing myself about what I had really accomplished during that time. I couldn’t help but think that there were places I should have gone and people I should have seen.

It was only as I rode through Nevada that I started to realize that no matter what I do, I’ll never see everything. Part of that realization came from a conversation with a friend. My plan after crossing Nevada had been to travel down the eastern part of California towards Death Valley on my way to Los Angels. He suggested I ride down the PCH since I had the time. I’ve done that drive a few times before, but I’ve never been to Death Valley. As I rode, thinking through the different options, I decided to head for the coast. Because it’s beautiful. And I know I’ll enjoy it. And I’ve never ridden it on a motorcycle. And Death Valley will always be there. And you can’t see everything.

The choice of where to go each day is hard, particularly when you have a lot of time. Having time makes it feel like I have to see as much as I can in order to really get the most of this adventure. It makes me feel like there’s no excuse for not going everywhere. But going everywhere is impossible. There will always be something you missed. Always be one other place you could have stopped, one other picture you could have taken. And that’s ok. Because the world is a big beautiful place and there’s always somewhere else to travel.

  • Sam V

    Nice read Ian! I’ve certainly had that realization time and again… struggling with the finite-ness of our time here. I think that the recognition of the fact that there will be places missed makes for an ability to be more present. Rather than dwelling on all the places you could be, may as well appreciate where you are.

    Keep on writing, I certainly am enjoying it!