Essay - Changed


As I write this, there are only a few days left in the trip. We’re rolling out of the Rockies and into the northern plains of Montana, tired, “soggy” (as Fred puts it), and filled to the brim with excitement about getting home and getting to work on editing and sharing content. We’ve learned so much about ourselves, the generous guests that we’ve interviewed, our country, the trains that crisscross America, and the “Craft Renaissance,” or “Makers Movement,” you choose the label.

Another term Fred introduced me to pretty early in the trip that has become a favorite of mine is “travel patina,” and we’ve definitely layered it on here towards the end. We’ve lost chargers, cords, clothes, sunglasses, toiletries, flasks, layers of skin, brain cells, and a computer that was thankfully returned to Amtrak and sent on ahead of us to our next stop. We’ve been sunburned, overheated, freezing cold, tired beyond belief, hungover, and frustrated, but never angry. Fred and I have managed to stay positive due to how well the interviews have gone, how well we’ve figured out how to work together, and the occasional visit with good friends we’ve met up with along the way. I’d say we’ve managed to keep our sanity, but that was questionable to begin with.

There have been so many great characters who have passed through our lives over the course of this trip.  Most of them have been great people, but even the ones who haven’t have still managed to add to our story and we’re thankful for that. Sorting through the notes, audio, photos, and drawings will take months, but we’re both looking forward to that challenge.

As our train left Seattle the other day, we came to the realization that the trip was almost over. Even though we miss home, I think our return will be a bit bittersweet. The first half of our dream project will be over. It will be a well-recorded memory that I’m sure will become the basis for a thousand late-night campfire stories we’ll tell for the rest of our lives.

I’ve changed. I’ll be coming home with a head full of ideas and a heart full of new philosophies I hope to nurture and grow. After years of resistance, I’ve learned to love sushi. I’m going to start an edible garden and get plants for the inside of the apartment. I’m going to be better not just to MY environment but THE environment on levels I didn’t know existed before going on this trip. I will continue down the path of becoming a better storyteller in every aspect of my life. I hope to take what I’ve learned and pass it along to those who are interested, not as a kid with a shiny new toy, but as someone with a growing and deepening commitment to a different way of life.

Early on, Fred and I borrowed a word from one of our favorite authors to show, in a very easy and simplistic way, our appreciation for each other and the obstacles we’ve overcome. We say it to each other after a long day of travel and interviews. We say it after we’ve dealt with a tough challenge. We say it when the other one needs to hear it. We say, “Gonzo!”


EssaysKyle Bice