Is it possible to combine family life with being an explorer, traveler or adventurer? This is a question I am getting frequently nowadays and an issue I have thought about a lot myself. And it all depends on your partner and family of course. Not long ago Lorena Lopez wrote about the issue in her article Being a Traveling Woman and about the same time I read a piece about Brian Peric, a Canadian living in South Korea and his family. So I asked Brian to write an article about this interesting subject! Personally there´s no doubt family life have made me a better professional explorer, because once you have a family you completely loose your ego (At least you should…) and realize there´s other things to life than yourself.
Family and the Expeditions of an Explorer – How two worlds are together and inseparable.
I had some terrible difficulties finishing the Mongolia expedition this year, still only my second major challenge with a bike. What was the biggest problem this year with the expedition – Communication.
My wife of 9 years (10 years together), whom is South Korean, was a major factor in managing the expedition, what was the problem this year? When you consider the vast landscapes of the least populated country (per km square) in the world, you are resting thoughts on one of the most amazing places to explore – Outer Mongolia. Mongolia, where the terrain, remoteness of the Nomad clans and Ger tents dots the horizons, there in that paradise of a mountain, steppe grassland mystery, came the greatest problem I have ever encountered on adventure – a vivid gap between the family I created and love, the expedition I love, and between it all brewed a maelstrom of challenges for me.
I eventually overcame, but the worst of the flies, mosquitoes, sweeping rivers about to take my bike, or the locals who confronted me the following 12 hour day, turned my mind inside out, visions of my wife taking the children away, divorcing me over taking the expeditions, and leaving me in the dark, that desert I was in where I choked on mosquitoes and took refuge in my tent. When I had to strip down to the buck and wash myself like a baby because at 2 pm I couldn’t continue on, when the SPOT didn’t function, but I had a mobile phone signal from Bokmoron, I sent out distress messages to a friend James in Switzerland, and my wife Misung in Korea, but no one responded and I had to carry on. It was insane, I’ve never pushed myself so hard to get through, and the truth is, without family and friends behind the journeyman, the journey would end me. It’s not worth leaving everything behind, so I found that my failed preparation, lack of equipment to protect me, and last ditch efforts to cross Mongolia without a stove, fuel, pots, and even water filtration (due to the broken rear carrier rack…I decided to ‘make it – that I needed to leave everything behind except – 2kg of protein, 1.5kg of gatorade powder and high-potency multi-vitamin and mineral packs for 45 days.
I completed the expedition with the help of local Mongolian Nomad herders and their lovely families, I purchased non-perishable food goods where I could to trade for their chai-woo goat-milk tea, bread, butter, and cream, and the lovely hardened-dry “arroz” Mongolian cheese, a luxury because it’s one dairy I love, and it’s so expensive by the ounce in South Korea. I was cycling on cloud nine with the cheese and basic provisions until I came to other challenges. For instance, on 107km and 134km stretches of northwestern steppe, there were no Herders, Gers, animals or the sight of people settled anywhere along my route. The dirt tracks turned to sinking sand, and when I ran out of water stress increased (in my mind, I just wanted my wife to call, to text message, I sent 90 text messages and received about 12-15 from her all summer long…she was in denial the expedition was taking place, busy with the kids, busy with tutoring her students, and that took her mind off me…but I could not take my mind off them, my children Matthew 5, and Sierra just 2, and Misung 34 taking care of our household). Without human connection to family, I went into a famine for human connection that I knew familiar. Adding physical ailments, injured feet and ankles, walking the sand traps for 50-60km a day, or climbing out of high altitude desert lakes for 12 hours after days of diarrhea from the unpurified water every snot-nosed little child in the area was acclimatized to, started pushing me apart, my mental thoughts still surrounding my family the entire time, not so, the actual journey ahead. Injuries or falling ill days while I continued on antibiotics without clear water led to days I couldn’t ride, all Hell came to visit me in the shadows, fears and crevasses of my mind without a simple connection – my family connecting with me out on the journey.
Thus, the expedition was completed in entirety, but the prices I paid came at a high cost during the journey itself. I’m not feeling the same way, thinking the same (ideal) way, moving around my ordinary routine the same way I did before crossing Mongolia. I learned that fear can become too real, too terrible to relish the freedom to travel and explore. I learned to witness families of different cultures apart from my own, to accept life on these terms, to communicate, to connect with others, to become more tolerant of suffering because I had asked for it failing to fully prepare for it.
But in the end, I returned with greater love and affection for my family, I cannot express the gratitude I feel now just having them here, having children that love and admire me, as daddy. And when my son and I watched videos I made while traveling overland in Mongolia, he says with excitement and energy in his eyes,
“Daddy, I want to take a bike trip with you!”
I’m very pleased to hear this and can’t imagine he would enjoy going through all that I went through. But for this reason, I started taking expeditions on my own (starting at 38, last summer), and proving to myself that dreams can become realities with relentless passion driving the mission, in social circles (social media sharing) and with actually carrying out what I said I would in the end. Reaching the finish line, never felt harder or more rewarding, of course, for me, the biggest prize is having my family with me today. I’m certainly lucky to have this family expedition still going strong, and I will stay the course with them, growing older, learning about expeditions (windows of opportunity, sacrifice and amazing adventure), and building a future that I can hopefully share one day with my children, if they decide they would like to learn from the same school of experiential learning – being an explorer, like I am working towards today.
Brian Peric is a teacher, father and Adventure Explorer. He lives with his wife and two children in Gangneung, South Korea. Read more about him at http://korean-world.blogspot.se/p/expeditions-adventures-1991-2012.html