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The Explorers - Chaos Happens, Or The Trickster Delivers (Part 3)

by Bob Van Hook and Jackie Eder-Van Hook

EUO

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The Explorers
Chaos Happens, Or The Trickster Delivers

By Bob Van Hook and Jackie Eder-Van Hook

We are in Alaska and fast approaching the end our fourth month on the road. Despite the seemingly idyllic nature of our journey, unexpected and untimely events still occur. Chaos happens. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, and things are going really well, something comes out of nowhere. The Trickster inhabits this beautiful land just as he did in Washington. The question is, do we deal with life’s challenges any better than before? The answer is a resounding "maybe."

In the middle of June, we received a frantic call about our son, Mike. He was having some difficulties, so Jackie flew to San Diego for three weeks while Bob stayed alone in the Yukon Territory heading towards Alaska.

We are pragmatic enough to know that things don’t always go the way we plan them. So when we learned of Mike’s need, we had a choice: we could treat this event as a disappointing interruption in our trip, or we could accept it as a part of our journey. Of course, it is part of the journey — the journey of being a parent, if nothing else.

The idea of being apart for three weeks was easier than the reality of our separation. Traveling together has not always been easy, but being alone presented new challenges. We had spent three months together, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We had became bound to each other in new ways. We provided each other with a sounding board for ideas, feelings, and options, each bringing vastly different perspectives and styles to our decision-making. When only one other person is providing those things to you, and when that person is no longer present either physically or even electronically, you feel adrift.

Jackie’s trip to San Diego was much more stressful than Bob’s trip down the Tatshenshini River. She was handling tricky family issues; Bob was enjoying an exciting outdoor adventure. Re-uniting was challenging, especially after the first blush of being back together and after two vastly different experiences. On one hand, we were accustomed to being together, having two heads generating ideas and making joint decisions. On the other hand, some things are simpler when done alone, like laundry and meal selection. Getting back together challenged us to compromise — a style that supports and sustains our relationship, but which we sometimes fail to do. We had to re-learn what it was like to be together. It was tough.

Having reached Alaska, our intermediate destination for this part of our journey, we wonder, what’s next? We are torn between the desire for stability and a sense of place, and lust for more adventure.

We could move to San Diego. On his river trip, Bob spent 12 days with a group of people who are doing good things in New Mexico, and he suddenly imagined our living there. Suddenly, our reasons for choosing a place to live — jobs and a pleasant location — were not enough. We have to include in our equation family, friends, and like-minded people — a relatively new phenomenon for two highly analytic people.

The other part of us wants to park the Explorer, load our backpacks, and head off on an around-the-world journey; enroll in a Spanish language school in Guatemala; perform volunteer work; or even join the Peace Corps.

Regardless of why and when our journey ends, we have not yet found an answer to the "what’s next?" question. We have no home or jobs to return to and still no clear understanding on how to find a community and work to nourish our spirits. How do we make choices that will make it easier to keep a calmer spirit — a life with less unhealthy stress, a keener balance, and a more intimate relationship with nature and ourselves?

And, we wonder, is the journey really nearing its end, or is this just one more stop along the way? Whatever our plans, the Trickster will be close at hand.

Editor's Note: Look for regular travel updates from Bob Van Hook and Jackie Eder-Van Hook in future issues of Executive Update.

This article appeared in the print version of Executive Update, October 2000​.

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