I’ve always loved Bob Seger. Great songs about traveling, the freedom of the road, and moving on when the moving’s good. Not to mention motorcycles, I do love songs with motorcycles. In my last post I referenced starting a new chapter in life; I’ve got something new and exciting to share. It’s not as dramatic as “Turn the Page” or “Roll Me Away” but it’s a big change for me and is more than just another trip.
I’ve joined the Peace Corps via Peace Corps Response, a program for established professionals with at least ten years of work experience in their fields. PCR involves shorter assignments and more specific projects. In my professional life I’m a disaster response and preparedness consultant, so when the Peace Corps started looking for a Disaster Risk Management consultant in Asia I decided to apply. Less than two weeks later I had my invitation to spend six months in the Philippines working to make local communities more disaster resistant.
I just received my final clearances and I leave in ten days. An entrenched Alaskan, about to try to live in the tropics for six months. I’ve never been in a warm country for more than three weeks. Not only will it be a new way of life and a new job, but a whole new way of dressing and packing. What should I bring? Do I even need a jacket? Why am I compulsively putting a sleeping bag in my travel duffel? Shorts and flip flops I can handle, but what does an Arctic-adapted person wear to a business meeting in 100 degree heat? So much will require adaptation; I’m tempted to just fall back on my “no plan is still a plan” ethos.
It hasn’t been an entirely comfortable process, getting ready to go. Unsure departure date, lots and lots of Peace Corps tasks and requirements, and a very long and involved medical clearance process. Over the course of my entire 38 years, I’ve not received as many vaccinations as I’ve gotten in the last month. Shouldn’t I be pretty much immortal by now? If not immortal, at least invincible, surely.
“How are you going to handle missing winter???” is the common question. This is how Alaskans think, you know. We don’t live here for the summers, that would be nuts. We love winters, else we’d go live in California. Had I embarked on this project during last year’s truly incredible ski season, I’d be having a much harder time with leaving, but considering this year’s frigid temps, dearth of snowfall, and two deep and frightening snowpack instabilities that seem to be staying for the duration, I don’t think I’m going to miss much. Even the local resort is flailing, with avalanche danger leading to extended closures of lifts, and an accident rendering the tram useless for the forseeable future. Long lift lines and no north face? Seems like a good time to go check out some water sports near the equator. Spending ten days in neck deep British Columbia powder in December went a long way to filling my ski quota for the year, so I’ll get on that plane next week more or less content.
Downside: usually I ride motorcycles when I travel. However, the Peace Corps does not allow volunteers to operate motor vehicles and especially not motorcycles. This is going to be a lot harder than missing winter – being in perfect motorcycle riding weather in a perfect motorcycle riding country and not being able to ride a motorcycle. Painful. I do plan to get a bicycle almost immediately so at least some of my two wheeled needs will be met. Hopefully? I’ve no idea what to expect so almost none of what I wrote in this post may turn out to be true. Weird, huh?
Speaking of the uncertain, I may or may not make an appearance on this blog over the next six months once I leave, other than for the gear reviews I still owe. Morgan’s taking over as Interim Head Geargal and I’m looking forward to taking a bit of a break, but no promises one way or another. One of the reasons I took this assignment is that I wanted to do something different for a while. The consumerism, conspicuous consumption, and the bizarre mix of hype and conformity that pervades the Western outdoor industry was getting on my nerves. My love for the outdoors has nothing to do with what Red Bull is shoving down our throats this week, and I’ve been afraid that even running this blog is contributing to that atmosphere. Hopefully this site is and has been different, but I’m too close to really be able to tell. Taking a break to do something better might help clarify this for me.
So, wish me luck during my service, and if you have any advice about living in a tropical climate, I’ll appreciate the help! (Should I bring a jacket? Is it really possible to go six months without needing a puffy coat? Is bringing a sleeping bag really dumb? What about a Mega Mid or Bug Mid? Will a Nook or Kindle be useful? I could ask questions all day, but when zero hour approaches, “go and see” is the only answer).