Finding extra in the ordinary

There’s been radio silence on the blog here for a while. That’s because this was a travel(ish) blog, and well I’m not really traveling anymore. I’ve been back home in the states for about 7 months now. Unexpectedly, I’ve had a tremendous amount of adventures, learned about life and myself, and all back in my little hometown of Fruita, CO. 

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When it became apparent last year that I would have to move home come the summer of 2013, I was less than thrilled. I had spent the better part of the first 18 years of my life figuring out how to get out the Grand Valley. I was one of “those kids,” that looked upon their hometown with a bit of scorn, and had my eyes set on the distant horizon. I managed to move to the west coast for college, and because that wasn’t far enough, I continued onto Japan, and then The Netherlands. 

After three years abroad, I decided that it was time to move back to the states. I had a great job lined up as a dance teacher, however my lack of savings would make it necessary to have my parents as room mates. For three years my daily life was an adventure, everything was new and foreign, I was constantly learning new things and exploring new places. For years my status as a foreigner was a central part of my identity. And now I was going back to my small, familiar, hometown, settling back into the doldrums of routine familiarity.

But the last 7 months have been anything but dull. I have discovered an incredible community of people, and the wealth of outdoor recreation activities that Western Colorado has to offer. The people that I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by constantly challenge and push me out of my comfort zone. Although I haven’t traveled far since coming home, I have learned some central lessons. 

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Having an extraordinary life is a choice.  When living abroad I made it a mission to learn as much as I could about the culture that I was immersed in. My friends and I constantly made an effort to take advantage of every weekend and holiday to soak up as much adventure as we could. The deadline of our stay in our given location gave us an urgency to experience life. This same attitude can be applied to any given location. Somehow or another I managed to miss the fact that I grew up in an incredible place for outdoor recreation. The hiking, climbing, cycling, skiing, and mountain biking opportunities less than an hour away from town are mind blowing. For example, singletracks.com, and  outside magazine have named Fruita one of the top 5 mountain bike destinations in North America. WIth my recently gained adventurous approach, I have tried to take every opportunity to experience life and my surroundings. I have discovered that I don’t have to be somewhere new, I just have to see the same places with new eyes. Although things may be common, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting. I have the opportunity to constantly learn, and gain a deeper understanding of my surroundings, making even the most repetitive aspects of life more interesting. 

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Big risk, big rewards.  I’ve found that the shape and nature of a person’s comfort zone varies greatly from one person to another. While traveling for years, seems to have pushed past several boundaries, being lost and different was where I felt most comfortable. Constantly being on the go kept people at a safe distance, things didn’t get too close or involved. Staying in one place, with people that spoke my native language meant that relationships would get deeper, with more opportunities for vulnerability and possibly getting hurt. My physical comfort zone has also been stretched, with friends that constantly push the boundaries of recreation I have been challenged in a variety of ways whether it is skiing, mountain biking, or climbing. Regardless of the nature of exploration, I have always found that pushing past the point of comfort has yielded gratifying results, whether it is self gratification or stronger community. 

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Moving home has been a beautifully humbling experience. Stripped of the the previous intrigue of a foreigner, I have built relationships that with people that find value in everyday life, while constantly pushing each other past our comfort zones. 

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Why I’m walking.

Path-1-001In just a couple days I’ll be wandering across Spain. I suppose wandering isn’t the correct term as there is a specific goal in mind, however the travel will be slow going. As mentioned earlier I’ll be taking part in the Camino de Santiago* pilgrimage, walking from Irun to Camino de Santiago, Spain. Sure walking 20+km/ day, sleeping on rock hard beds, and questionable food, for 5 weeks doesn’t seem like everyone’s idea of a great summer holiday. But I can’t think of any other way I’d like to spend my last month in Europe. Although this pilgrimage is originally a Catholic journey, I have a variety of reasons other than the dogmatic motivation.

In the last three years abroad I have had an incredible time meeting a variety people and having once in a lifetime experiences, but I also feel that my priorities have gone off course. I am looking forward to these next 5 weeks of walking to take value in simplicity. I will be looking to get more from less. Less stuff. I’ll be walking with a pack that’s less than 15lbs and far smaller than a carry-on suitcase, filled with 2 changes of clothes, a sleeping bag, water, and a few other essentials. I hope to adjust to having and needing only the essential items rather than comfort and social status. In a more abstract term I’m also looking forward to being less connected. Internet service is not gaurenteed throughout the Camino, but I’m also choosing to only check my email and refrain from facebook during the journey. Like many other people I have become far too dependent on social media for communication and entertainment. While facebook does serve a great purpose to keep people connected, I find myself spending far too much time looking at people I hardly know, or pages just wasting time. I want to work on focusing on the world at hand, the people, sights, smells, sounds and experiences rather than the latest banter about television dramas. In that case if you would like to reach me my email: ediekman@gmail.com will be the best way to reach me.

I’m also hoping to meet a variety of people, who have things and wisdom to share. I’m leaving my heart open to the adventures and characters I’ll meet along the way. On that note, I’ll catch ya in 5 weeks, and 500 miles, on the other side of Spain.

*Primer on the Camino courtesy of Wikipedia: “Today tens of thousands[12] of Christian pilgrims and many other travellers set out each year from their front doorstep, or popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey (for example, the British author and humourist Tim Moore). In addition to people undertaking a religious pilgrimage, the majority are travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for many modern “pilgrims”.

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Searching for the fields of flowers.

IMGP8290Tulip fields in Holland probably rank in the top 10 of stereotypical landscapes around the world. When I found out that I was moving to the Netherlands I imagined that pretty much the entire country would be covered in colorful flowers year round. Ok maybe not year round, but at least the flowers would be everywhere. Upon arrival I found that certainly isn’t the case. Much like the sakura or cherry blossoms in Japan, there’s a 2-3 week window in the year where the flowers come out in a dazzling display before wilting away. However this dazzling display is restricted to a small area between the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam. So in order to see witness my ideal Dutch landscape there would have to be a day trip in order.

IMGP8328Vic and I made plans to take our bikes on the train to the area and ride around. However on the morning of we were feeling especially adventurous and motivated and decided to cycle to the flowers instead of taking a train. And we were just going to cycle, we were going to take the scenic route. The day started out fantastic riding through the dunes, making great time, even stopping for a mid ride hot chocolate.

IMGP8294 IMGP8296When were were 3/4 of the way our great travel karma ended. Vic got a flat. Normally that isn’t a huge deal in Holland as you’re never more an a few km away from a bike shop. But it was a Sunday, on a holiday weekend, and the town we were in was completely shut down. Vic couldn’t ride far on a flat, and there wasn’t a train station nearby, the outlook was pretty grim. We found a community bike pump and she managed to get her bike to the next town over, Noordwijk.

IMGP8275 IMGP8269Luckily Noordwijk was one of the only towns open in the area, not only were most shops open, bike repair shops were open. Thanks to our lucky stars, Vic got her tire fixed and we were able to move on. Or so we thought. Shortly after pulling out of the bike shop, a cyclist cut me off, slammed into my front wheel leaving me horizontal in the middle of the road. I pulled myself off the ground, out of traffic, and examined Alan (my bike) and I for injuries. I got out of the ordeal unscathed, but Alan didn’t share in my good fortune. His wheel bore a stronger resemblance to a banana than a circle leaving Alan unridable. We were still walking distance from the bike shop, and returned to get Alan straightened out. Along he wasn’t as good a new, he was functional, and we would be able to continue our quest for flowers.

969496_10151355192580947_1691088465_n 942260_10151355192190947_1596037762_nOnce on the road again, it was less than a 15 minute ride from the flowers. If it was much farther I can only imagine what other messes we would have gotten ourselves into. We had the obligatory photo shoot to prove that we made it then picnicked, before beginning the journey home. (We had to hurry home to beat and oncoming storm) While the days events were much more than I bargained for, the flowers were everything that I expected and hope for. Between the ride distance, finicky weather, and bicycle issues, it was one heck of a day. Was it worth it just to see some flowers? Absolutely.

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Shots of Amsterdam

IMGP8191Last week I took a solo trip to Amsterdam on a day off to check out the reopening of the Rijksmuseum. Along the way I took a few snapshots of the city. Goodness, I’m going to miss this place.

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Cheeky trip to Londontown

216344_971707463649_1020388948_nLast weekend I took a quick little trip to London to visit my pal Jacob. (yes the same one that came to visit and cheat on his monarchy for queen’s day) Although I’ve already been, I was told by Dutch immigration that if i wanted to stay in Europe till July I would have to leave the European continent, and get my passport stamped and re stamped. Luckily there’s a bus service between Amsterdam and London so I was able to take a weekend jaunt on a low budget. Well, low budget does not mean fast as far as transportation is concerned. Roundtrip I clocked 30 hours of travel to stay in Londontown for 32 hours. But who’s complaining, I just took a quick weekend trip to London, that’s still pretty rad.

907834_10151436918218526_729835617_n-polaAs for my drive-through speed impression of London and its inhabitants: its certainly more diverse than the Netherlands. There’s a a huge amount of cultures that collide in the city to make an interesting mix. People jay walk like nobody’s business. Not only do they cross whenever they please they make you seem like a fool when waiting for a crossing signal. Never mind the approaching cars, they’ve got to get to the other side of the street. Even though most people are speaking english it doesn’t mean I can understand them. Riding on the double decker red buses is not nearly as magical as it seems. Especially when its the night bus and someone is sick all over the exit. Those iconic red buses are best left to be observed from the outside. Hopefully its not the last time I’m in the city, however there’s plenty of places for me to go that I haven’t been yet. Its also great to see a friend that I made in Japan, even after we’ve both been away for more than a year. Its comforting to know that I will still see the friends I’ve made abroad, and there’s still more adventures to be had with these pals.

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And so it begins

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Although I’m not actually flying away until July I’ll be constantly traveling from next week until July. That means the packing aka misery has commenced.

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Happy Anniversary Holland

254317_10151118174743597_594964340_nIts been a year today since landing in the lowlands and what a year it has been. I’ve been spit on, puked on, peed on, and other various child related messes. Despite the vast quantity of diaper changes I have performed, this has been one incredible adventure. Luckily there’s still a few more weeks of fun, and just a couple more days till the beginning of the Team Diekman Euro Tour.

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