Exactly three years ago today, we settled down together for the last night we'd spend in Big Bay before we set off on our first big trip together, first across Canada and then south. I can remember very clearly how that felt, the nervousness and anticipation mixed with the increasing excitement of heading off into the unknown again, only this time, finally, together. It was the first time I'd ever ridden a motorbike properly outside of a lesson environment, but I was excited to be heading off on an altogether different kind of adventure, the two of us together as a team, ready to deal with whatever life threw at us. For the following eight months we would spend our time slowly working our way south and then when we reached Panama, we'd turn around and ride all the way back again. I was right to be excited. Despite a few minor squabbles, we went on to spend three wonderful winters together. Working all summer to allow us to do exactly as we pleased as soon as the weather turned, we met some incredible people as we explored 26 countries together. I thought we were unstoppable, two people fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, brought together and both in a position to do the kind of trips most people only ever dream of.
I've always been happy travelling alone. After a trip with a then-friend many years ago that turned sour because we both wanted to do such different things, I've always been wary of travelling with other people. I'm selfish in that respect and don't like to compromise. Travelling alone allows me to spend time with people when I choose, but most importantly to always be able to choose not to when it suits me too. I never thought I'd ever waver, I was very sure I knew my mind and wouldn't change it, but then, in 2013, I crossed paths with Evan and I knew straight away that going forwards, I wanted to share my adventures with him. It took some persuading at first that it really was ok to walk away from a job and life as you know it, but now five years down the line, with some amazing times spent together, it seems this chapter is sadly about to end.
Let's go back to that 'Choose your own adventure' scenario. Fans of those books will understand this next bit well. Every now and then you'd get to a point where you had to make a choice about which direction you would take. For the next few pages you'd read cautiously, almost tiptoeing, hoping that you'd made the right decision and that you weren't about to get eaten by the grizzly bear or fall down the open well. Sometimes, despite wanting to reach the happy ending, you'd suddenly realise it wasn't going to happen and your adventure was about to be cut short by some cruel and unexpected twist of fate. Immediately you'd start to flick through the book, trying to remember the order of the pages you'd just read so that you could retrace your steps and choose another option, to try and do something to put you back on the right path, to stop the bad thing happening. Rarely ever was it possible to remember the sequence of page numbers though and you'd end up, sadly, having to admit defeat, wishing that there was some way you could change the ending to the story.
I did have another post I was working on, one that was a little more upbeat and hopeful, full of talk of all the possibilities we'd been discussing - South America, Europe - but it's obsolete now. I'm not going to lie and say it's a mutual decision, it's not and I'm gutted that Evan's made this choice, especially given the countless conversations we've had over the past few months that all led quite clearly towards further trips. Sadly though, it seems that other 'non-compatible pursuits' have suddenly become a much higher priority than both me and the adventures we share. Therefore, as much as it pains me to have to accept it, it looks like India was the last of our trips together for the forseeable future.
Do I hope that he'll think more about it over the coming months, look back on all the incredible things we've done together and decide he was maybe a little too quick to throw everything away? Do I hope he'll realise that there's more valuable things in life than working and earning money and 'being' something? Do I hope he'll realise that the positive things we share are pretty rare and worth holding on to despite spending half the year apart on opposite sides of an ocean? Of course I do, but I'm not holding my breath.
I really thought we both understood the futility of working and saving for something well into a future that may never happen, that we both valued each other and the things we do together more highly than any amount of money and other cheap distractions, but it seems not. I guess the pull of the machine is too much for some and I just don't mean enough. At first I was gutted for both of us that he didn't want to see what the future might hold, but that has now turned to sadness that he has once again chosen to reject the freedom that he glimpsed and understood for a brief time, swayed by those who don't live this kind of lifestyle. I feel sad about the choices he has made, for him as much as for me.
So, I don't understand it, I wasn't expecting it and I have a thousand questions that remain unanswered, but it seems there's not much I can do to change it, no matter how much I wish I could. I'm pretty sure his ultimate purpose in life isn't to sit on an island in rural Ontario fixing stuff to enable rich people to kill things. Sadly, all I can do is wish him well and hope he finds whatever it is he's looking for in life. I love him dearly and a part of me I'm sure always will, but he has to do what he has to do.
To make matters worse, I still have some ongoing medical issues I am having to deal with that are going to take me a little while to resolve. At a recent appointment with my surgeon, he confirmed that unfortunately one of my laryngeal nerves suffered damage during surgery leaving my right vocal cord paralysed. This has left me with a much reduced voice that fades to almost nothing if I talk for too long and consensus seems to be that it isn't likely to recover much more. It also means I have to be very conscious of my breathing and to make sure I breathe enough when I'm talking. It's worryingly easy to starve myself of oxygen and nearly pass out. It might not sound like that big a deal, but it's a tough thing to come to terms with, not being able to communicate freely, especially when you're someone who is used to walking into a room and talking to anyone and everyone.
I really don't know what the future holds at this point, but it looks like whatever is next I'll be doing alone, and that's ok. None of this will stop me from going off on new adventures, life is too short, but I know it'll be a long time before I don't feel a deep sadness when experiencing something new and amazing that Evan's not there with me to share it.