When we were on the Tour, people were always full of questions for us about our trip. The gamut ranged from the simpler, “Have you had many flat tires?” (Yes. DUH.), to the more complex, “How does your bum survive all that time on a bike seat?” (I’m still not sure how that worked.) It was not infrequent to be asked, “What has been the most difficult part of the trip?” We always had a quick response, as we had predetermined this one. The leaving process. No stretch on the tour was as difficult as packing up and shutting down our old life so we could become nomads for two years. Oh sure, there were long climbs and days with nasty headwinds… but those 2-3 months before we departed were so full of details, of logistics, of downright stress, that the actual pedaling was much easier.
However, now we would like to update our answer: THIS—our current stage—is the hardest part of the Tour. This stage of unknowing, uncertainty of what’s to come. This stage of filling out job applications and sending out resumes and writing countless emails. This stage of waiting for the phone to ring in response, and of disappointedly checking inboxes each morning. This stage of actually tiring of weekends because the job search goes on hold, and, since we don’t have jobs anyway, we’re really just more bored than we are on an average weekday.
I don’t mean to sound despondent about the job hunt. Our overall situation in life is actually pretty good. We saved for this. We planned for this. Yes, it’s taking longer than we’d hoped, but we’re still doing OK. We started by primarily looking for jobs here in Nashville, where we are living temporarily until we know what the future holds. We have been slightly discouraged to realize there are limited opportunities here for Dave, and we are going to make the ultimate decision about where we live based on his work. (In fact, I have put my job hunt on hold for now, as we have expanded Dave’s search beyond the Nashville area. It doesn’t make sense for me to take a job here if we’re not going to stay.)
As Dave and I were talking the other day, I was reminded that actually, this process is still part of the Tour. We had scheduled time (and money!) for a transition, and that’s where we are. But I think I always supposed at the point where the transition back to “normal life” had begun, the Tour itself had ended. Well, that is simply not the case. This is just as much a part of the experience as the heat of Central America, as the beauty of the Alps, as the friendly people of Malaysia. Yes, it’s a package deal.
And so I’m realizing… this is one of the costs of the journey. I did a blog post in February of last year about different ways the Tour had cost us something, as all good risks do. I talked about sacrifices we made on the front end of the trip, like eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch every day, not getting smartphones, and rarely eating out except for value menu drive-thrus. And now, here we are again, being required to make sacrifices on the back end. I dare say, it’s more costly on this side. There’s not the excitement and anticipation that we had before the trip. In its place are many questions to which we have no definite answers. And it certainly costs our pride something. Conversations have turned from “Oh, you rode your bikes around the world? That’s so cool!” to “How’s the job hunt going? Oh… no updates? Hmmm…”
So we started talking the other night about the value of being in this season. I mean, if we’re stuck in it, we might as well get something good out of it, right? Some take-aways, some life application lessons. If it’s such a pain, it’d be a real shame to waste the learning opportunities! So we thought it’d be nice to share some of those lessons with you.
“I used to not have much compassion when people lost someone in a wreck,” a friend of mind said after she lost a dear family member that way. “I thought… ‘oh, car accidents are so common.’ But I know now in the future I will be much more compassionate to others in this situation.”
That’s the best way I can sum up how I feel. I’ve often heard people talk about not having a job, and I might have felt sad, or even said a few prayers for them, but compassion or empathy are not words I would use to describe my response. But now, I can identify and understand that struggle so much more. Dave and I were talking the other night about how in the future we will be more likely to be proactive in helping people who are looking for jobs, even just offering ourselves as a networking opportunity. Because now we know how valuable that is, how encouraging… we know how thankful we are for the people who have made themselves available to us in that way.
We are learning patience. We only thought we had learned patience on that long climb in Ecuador… the one that took us two and a half days of creeping along at a pitiful 6 km/hour (about 4 miles/hour). But oh no… I’d do that again—more than once—in exchange for this painstakingly SLOW process of getting a job. And so there is value in it… patience is certainly a virtue of which we can never get enough.
We have committed ourselves to not wasting our days away just because we are unemployed. We believe there is value in this discipline of treating the job search like a job. We choose to wake up early and have our morning routine: reading, exercise, breakfast. Then it’s time to shower and “get to work”—Dave scouring the internet and applying for jobs while I do some writing, reading or housework. We spend a lot of afternoons at the library for focused studying time. We want to stay sharp even while we’re out of work. Even with all this, we still find ourselves quite bored at times. As someone recently said to us, “Looking for a job is part-time work with full-time stress.” Yes and yes! Despite that, we’re learning to discipline ourselves and make the most of our time.
This is the ultimate lesson, I believe. Do we trust God? Do we believe He is good? Do we trust Him as our Provider? Good grief, you’d hope we’d have this one aced, after so many opportunities to learn it over the course of the trip itself. He has always proved Himself faithful. We know that He is pleased we stepped out in faith, took the risk, lived our dream. So I remember a passage from James’ letter to the early church… that it is the testing of our faith that develops perseverance. And because I know this, I can actually find JOY in these trying circumstances.
So I hope by the end of this season (which yes, I am reminding myself that it is only a SEASON and it will come to an END!), that I’ll be able to look back with fondness, the same way I look back on the Andes… not forgetting the challenge of the climbs, but still unbelievably grateful we rode over them.