My name is Margaret, and I’m addicted to adventures.
I’ve been cultivating this love for adventure since my early years. When my friends and I would play princesses, I would be the princess who ventured through the enchanted forest to rescue the other princesses, and knew how to swing a wooden sword as well as any imaginary knight. Before I was 8, I had traveled the continent in an RV, and explored castles in England with my family. Cross Country skiing involved going ‘off piste’ over logs and jumping off sand dunes. Being outdoors and getting dirty was encouraged. Canoeing, biking and hiking were common outings.
In my teens, some of my adventures turned a tad rebellious (at least in my parents’ eyes I’m sure). I got in a little trouble, caused some worry. When I look back though, it was always that same thrill of doing something I’d never done before that pushed me towards the things I did, not really the idea of rebelling against anyone. I often hope that my parents look back on that time and feel proud that they raised me to be fearless enough to take risks yet smart enough to make sure those risks were calculated rather than reckless.
When I graduated high school, I moved from my small town home in Nova Scotia to Montreal, where my adventures took on an urban variety; meeting and learning about people, culture and the environment in which we live. Trouble was, as I met more people with different experiences, it only made me crave more of my own. Most of my experiences up to that point, while seeming adventurous to me at the time, weren’t the big adventures I was starting to hear about. I was starting to see that there was more out there, and was intrigued, but was also intimidated. The adventures I wanted were getting bigger, and so were their consequences if things went wrong. I was young and struggling with that balance between reckless and calculated. I was feeding myself on little bursts of recklessness and micro adventures around the city, but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to keep my addiction going. I got anxious, I got scared, I put myself in rehab.
It was like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books where one path, while seeming more tempting at the time, could lead you into danger, and only YOU could decide using your talents and intelligence. I tried to do the smart thing. I moved closer to home, I continued my education in something I found interesting but thought I could count on to get me a real job. I rediscovered small town life and remembered why I liked it, and I fed my introvert needs for a while. It turned out to be the right decision for me, even though it was made in a moment of panic and took me out of the adventure game temporarily. That job funds my adventures now, and I think I needed a little forced quiet time to figure some things out. I also would never have met Russell if I hadn’t gone on the path I did, so… bonus… but that’s another story.
In 2006, my feet began to itch again. I was living in Toronto, and Toronto and I didn’t get along very well. I was trapped inside too much, and commuting 2 hours a day hurt my soul. Russell was in California. I imagined learning to surf, I imagined the California of my childhood adventures with it’s beaches and it’s tall trees. It was time to alter the path of my story. I took a leap. It felt good.
I don’t live by the beach, so I haven’t learned to surf (yet), but I have played in the waves, climbed mountains, camped in the pine trees, explored the desert, skied fresh powder…. and… learned to mountain bike.
The mountain bike was a drug of a whole new sort. As soon as I put it down I wanted to pick it back up again. I would come home from the forest and the hills bruised and battered, but for some reason this only made me want to ride more. My rides got longer, faster, pushed my physical and mental limits. Every ride was a new experience, a new adventure. The trips Russell and I took began to center around mountain biking destinations, and my adventures started to take the form of those big adventures I dreamed about back in University. Mountain biking has taken me places I’d never imagined, both near and far, and is able to nourish both the adrenaline and the solitude hungers of my paradoxical brain. The mountain bike quickly became my drug of choice. It became my passion.
For a number of years now, my vehicle of choice for using this drug has been racing. It was the best way I could find to ride my bike on new and challenging terrain and continue to improve my skills and fitness, which allowed me to continue to explore new places, which made me want to develop more skills and get fitter, which made me want to race more, and so on. Training and competing at a high level has taught me more about myself than just about anything else I’ve ever done. I’ve traveled to and ridden in some of the best places in North America thanks to racing. It’s been a great series of adventures, and I’ve loved it.
But again, I started to meet more people with more experiences through racing, and as I did, I started to feel that craving to do more myself. I had friends travelling to Chile and I went into a bit of a sadness spiral when I realized I didn’t have enough vacation time to do the same. I signed up for the EWS race in Italy to soothe that wound, but as amazing as that was, I only had a week, and I had so much more of Europe I needed to see! It was like I was just getting a taste of the icecream (or should I say gelato in this case?) when I wanted the whole bowl.
Which brings us to today: I’ve got itchy feet again and I’m feeling like I want to take another leap. But I can see that leap going in several very different directions, leading towards very different and scary adventures. Sustainability of my addiction comes into question in different ways depending on which step I take. Figuring out what to do has been troubling me. The one thing that I seem to keep coming back to though, is that before anything else, I just want to eat the whole damn bowl of ice-cream. And right now, racing isn’t letting me do that.
So I decided I need another round of rehab. This time, I don’t plan on moving home or pressing pause on the adventure button, but I do want to step back from the race scene for a minute and get back to the original appeal of mountain biking for me. I want to focus on the exploration and the experiences, and catch up on the types of adventures I’ve been missing out on while I’ve been focused on events. I want to see new countries and discover new trails without having to work within the confines of race venues. I want breathe in every bit of the forests, oceans, and mountains that I can find. I want to share my love of adventures with my family and my friends, and figure out the best way to do all of that until I’m too old to move.
I’m lucky. I have a job that allows me to afford to travel, and my favorite travel partner (and riding partner) is my husband. I have no debt and no dependents. Why not take advantage of that while I can? Why not go on some of those big adventures I’ve been craving while I figure out what’s next. This rehab is about taking time to appreciate what I have. And maybe, while doing that, I find out I don’t even need the leap anymore because what I have is pretty amazing, or maybe I find out I still do, and I find some clarity about what that leap needs to be.
Maybe it’s not rehab after all. Maybe it’s complete indulgence in hopes of emerging again with a clearer vision of where I want to go and who I want to be.