This essay is the first in a series of "behind the scenes" entries in which we will detail the daily processes involved in producing our journal. In addition to being a record of our gradual progression as documentarians, we hope these entries may be of use to others who are pursuing similar goals.
We never intended to write an entry for every single day of this adventure. But, having never gone on a bicycle tour, or even a weekend test run, we were so overwhelmed by new experiences at the beginning, that we wanted to record everything. A few weeks later, when the novelty started to wear off, we'd amassed (what felt like at the time) a pretty long and unbroken chain of writing.
"We can't stop now!"
As it turns out, writing every day is really, really hard. I can't even begin to quantify the amount of dogged determination that has been required of both of us to keep this thing going. Our guiding phrase has often been something I wrote down absentmindedly several years ago. It has been a source of much inspiration for maintaining discipline:
Life isn't about what you want now, it is about what you said you would do.
In any case, since the documentation of our adventure has become such an important part of the travel experience for us, I thought we should document that process too. In this way, we can look back and remember it just as clearly as everything else.
After all, our writing has impacted who we've become just as much as the people, places and experiences we've written about.
At first, we tried to keep up every single day. To do this, we'd write in the tent before going to bed every night, no matter what. At the time, we only had one laptop, so we took turns with the task. Whoever had the luxurious day off, spent the evening reading, or knitting, or pursuing some other hobby. Not having it be one's turn to write was a coveted privilege.
Sometimes we'd use the day off as a bargaining chip, offering to exchange it for something even more overwhelming than journaling. I know it's my turn, but I'll clean the greasy dishes with ice cold water if you write the entry for today. It wasn't long though, before personal preferences on authoring particular entries abolished any kind of regular, alternating order.
Eventually, of course, we missed a day or two, if only because we discovered we needed more time to do justice to the experience we were writing about. As well, we were tired. Collapsing into our tent after a long ride, feeling overwhelmed that the day wasn't over yet because we still had to write about it… this clearly wasn't going to work for our sanity.
When we realized that our world wouldn't implode if we got a little behind, things relaxed a lot. To make up for the missed days, we began to write intensively every few days, working from notes (which we still wrote every day). These focused journaling sessions were difficult with one laptop, as I would often have a lot of programming to do, as a result, there was a lot of waiting around going on.
The next big change was when Tara's parents came to visit us in Italy. It was then that they made a very important delivery: another computer. This brilliant addition to our kit was supposed to make us more productive: now we could both work on our projects at the same time!
The end result was quite a bit different than what I had imagined. Instead of letting us complete our journals in half the time, we happily started taking twice as long to do each one. But, we found we didn't mind that too much either.
This gigantic, overwhelming project that never ever stops coming at us with more, actually became a something we deeply enjoyed. After all, it's the beginning of the scrapbook of our life together (our writing isn't going to end when we return to the US).
Next, we started taking breaks in the middle of our rides to sip coffee and write. This relaxing pause was something we looked forward to every day. It provided a welcome change from biking, and some personal time to be quiet and reflect upon our experiences.
Fast forward several more months, to Russia and Siberia, and we were regularly a week or more behind. In response, we started taking extensive notes each night at a bare minimum. That, plus our photos and audio recordings proved more than enough to spark memories for our now intensive three-day journaling marathons.
We loved these too. Being outside in the world, always going-doing-and-seeing can be draining. A complete departure from that became a welcome part of our routine as we locked ourselves in a room for a few days to process and recharge.
Enter Mongolia. By this time, our journaling had begun to require absolutely anti-social behavior to complete. For us, traveling in a group was not conducive at all to writing. So, we made the difficult choice to have our team adventure instead of staying caught up.
This valiant journaling effort after a long day in the steppe didn't last long:
Now, we're in a situation where we're so behind, it will likely be impossible to dig ourselves out of the hole until this trip ends. So, we take each entry as it comes, just like our cycling, plodding along slowly but surely, trying not to get bogged down by the bigness of it all.
In fact, we've come to embrace the deluge, and we've found peace in creating something out of nothing, tending the chaos, teasing unruly sentences and paragraphs into something meaningful to us. Yes, it is stressful at times, but it is always, always worth the effort. Eventually, this trip will end, and with it, the non-stop stream of unfinished journals.
…in the meantime, we'll just keep writing!