The Next Adventure

We were in our cabin aboard the MV Hatsu Crystal, showing the other two passengers the slideshow videos I’ve made. Iris and Wolfran smiled and commented enthusiastically as the past two years of our lives danced across the screen. I was anxious to show them the video of North America, as they had each only ever been to New York City; a crime of self-deprivation so many Europeans commit when visiting our homeland.

Kristin and I smiled upon finally queuing up the North America video, as did our audience, although for different reasons. While they oohed and aahed over the mountain scenery and the size of the bison and the raging waterfalls, we warmed with the reminders of home, one we’d eventually be returning to.

We just didn’t realize how soon.

Those in personal contact with us have known since the summer that before leaving Bali last June, we had placed a deposit down for a four-month rental house in the Penestanan area outside of Ubud. The plan was to wrap up the bicycle tour at the end of January, 2016 and then settle into a life of normalcy – whatever shape it took – in Bali. I was to spend those months working on the novel I’ve been developing over the past year and Kristin was to test the waters of remote-employment. Ideally, she’d already have a job lined up; if not, she’d spend that time conducting a job search while we lived inexpensively in Indonesia.

If you're ever in Singapore and needing a bike shop, don't hesitate to check out Soon Watt Orbea on Changi!
If you’re ever in Singapore and needing a bike shop, don’t hesitate to check out Soon Watt Orbea.

Kristin began putting feelers out at the end of summer to so see if anyone, including her former employer, was in a position to hire her remotely. Her baited hook received a few nibbles, but the rod never bent. And then, at the end of September, her efforts netted an unexpected proposal that drew our immediate attention. We spent the entirety of October in a holding pattern to see if the final offer turned out to be one she couldn’t refuse. Long days at sea were spent discussing a ceaseless stream of if/then scenarios, efforts to predict and mold into shape the remainder of this trip, and our lives going forward.

We are now very excited to share the news that our plans, as you are no doubt unsurprised to hear, have shifted yet again.

Kristin will be returning to work at her former employer, in Seattle, this coming January, helping to lead one of the company’s new initiatives. It is an opportunity that not only allows us to return to the location we love most – we’ll be house-hunting in our old neighborhood at the base of the Cascade Mountains east of the city – but also affords me the opportunity to focus full time on my fiction writing endeavors.

That beautiful Seattle skyline. Photo by Larry Gorlin.
That beautiful Seattle skyline… it won’t be long now! Photo by Larry Gorlin.

Our plans to cycle north from Singapore to Bangkok have been shelved. Instead, we have rescheduled our house rental in Bali and applied our deposit to a month’s rental, ending mid-December. Bicycle touring, to repurpose a phrase from the Peace Corps, is the hardest vacation you’ll ever love. We enjoyed this experience immensely and are thrilled to have taken it, but we’ve made our final dismount. The 52 miles we cycled from the port in Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia to Singapore were our last. Seattle to Singapore by bicycle and ship was far enough — 226 degrees of longitude without leaving the planet’s surface.

Ready for the journey home to Washington State.
Ready for the journey home to Washington State.

We arrived at the incredibly helpful Soon Watt Orbea bike shop, still sweaty from the sauna-like conditions we rode in, after dropping our bags off at a nearby hotel in this locals-only area of Singapore. We left our bikes for boxing and headed in search of lunch. That we didn’t look back or shed a tear of sadness was all the proof we needed to know that the timing was right. Nigel and his staff had the bikes boxed up by the following afternoon, leaving the boxes open so we could slide our panniers, shoes, and spare tire and miscellany down into the space around the bike.

Aerial view of Snoqualmie Falls, the iconic waterfall two short miles from the neighborhood we'll be returning to. Photo by Puget Sound Energy.
Aerial view of Snoqualmie Falls, the iconic waterfall two short miles from the neighborhood — and friends and mountain bike trails — we’ll be returning to. Photo by Puget Sound Energy.

Through much expense and several shipping-related headaches, our bicycles and touring gear have been sent ahead to our storage unit in Washington State.  We checked out of the somewhat grimy hotel near the bike shop three days later, our Ortlieb duffel bags serving as our sole luggage, and went across town for a few days, intent on giving Singapore a second chance.

We considered heading straight home, but it was always important to us that we take a few weeks to reflect on what we accomplished; to ponder what we saw and where we’ve been. Once upon a time we imagined flying to an island in the Caribbean from Tierra del Fuego, but we always knew, deep down inside, that the map you see here was, in all likelihood, for inspiration purposes only. Fortunately, we were able to shift our rental deposit from February to the present. One final month in Bali, right back where we were in May, should ease the transition and help protect us from burning out on reentry.

We know there will be some out there who will try to compare our initial plan with the ultimate path we took and feel we failed. Some will pose questions about the places we didn’t go instead of the ones we had; Negative Nancies who only see the holes in the Swiss cheese of life.  They’ll fail to see that this decision, like the one we made nine years ago to undertake this challenge, is every bit as positive. We’re excited to have done what we’ve done – cycling nearly 13,000 miles and visiting twenty or so different countries – and equally pleased to have zigged when we planned to zag. Some of our favorite moments from these two years came in places we never intended to go. And, perhaps most of all, we’re thrilled to be ending this trip in the manner that we are. When we are. On our terms.

The moss-covered forests of western Washington beckon me home. Photo by Paris Gore.
The moss-covered forests of western Washington beckon us home.  Nothing like mountain biking in the PNW! Photo by Paris Gore.

As I wrote in a guest dispatch to another blog two months ago, the thing we’ve learned most during our time abroad is the need to be flexible. To continue on just because we once drew a line on a map would be foolish. Similarly, to accept this job offer if we both weren’t fully ready to begin the next stage of life, to embark on the next adventure, would leave us with a life of regrets and what-ifs. We have none, nor expect any. We’ve taken our bikes – and this trip – as far as we wish for it to go. Six hundred days on the road (and counting) is over forty years’ worth of two-week vacations strung together. And as everyone who’s ever travelled has admitted at one time or another, we (finally) miss our own bed.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know someone who is. And he once (allegedly) gave some rather sage advice:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

More to Follow: won’t be going anywhere. We’ll no doubt have at least one or two wrap-up posts in the future (in addition to a second-take on Singapore next week) and at least the occasional update on how the transition back to home – and work — goes. I will also have an update in the coming months about my new website and work-in-progress. We’ll continue to travel, naturally, and will continue to post future travel-related articles to this site.

An Open Invitation: Our most cherished souvenirs from this adventure are the memories of the friends we made along the way, and the generosity they showed towards us. We wish to extend an open invitation to everyone who hosted us, shared a meal with us, or whom we spent a day sightseeing with, to please let us know if you’re ever in the Seattle area. It would give us so much pleasure to return the favor. And if you thought we were excited when you met us on the road, just wait till you see how enthusiastically we embrace the role of tour guide back home.

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Doug Walsh

Writer, Traveler

Doug Walsh is a writer, traveler, cyclist, and gamer who spent two years traveling from Seattle to Singapore, the long way around, by bicycle and sea. He's the author of the upcoming novel "Tailwinds Past Florence."

    1. I can’t say I know when I’ll be the happy owner of a mountain bike again, but it shouldn’t be too long a wait. I hope.

  1. There is nothing like home sweet home! Take pleasure in the memories you have of Washington and the new ones you will be making! It is so nice to get away but oh, so very nice to return back home. After all, home is where the heart is, and your hearts may belong to each other, but I have a hunch, after that, it is Washington State. If you could close your eyes and click your heels….

  2. Congrats to you both on the trip of a lifetime, and to Kristin on the sweet new (old) gig. Its been awesome to travel along vicariously. Are you planning to surf at all in Bali?? Post pics if you catch some.

    1. Thanks Lou. We’re staying in Canggu, right on the beach (Batu Bolong) where I surfed the first time I got here back in April. I’ll post pics later, along with a new blog post about this hotel and the location. It’s absolutely mind-blowingly perfect. Just got back in from my first session. Sets were head to slightly overhead. I didn’t get worked over, but I couldn’t catch any of the outside waves. Had a couple really long rides on the inside, about chest-high.

  3. What you have accomplished is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. I’m sad to see your journey end only because I enjoyed living vicariously through your posts and pictures. I’ve enjoyed watching your journey.

  4. You two have profoundly been living my mantra. It’s all about the journey, not the destination. You made this journey one of excitement in the unknown and I think you are daring, intrepid, venturesome, bold, fearless and brave. Thank you for sharing your adventure. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing and I will definitely buy your novel! I’m very excited for Kristin’s new opportunity, and look forward to reestablishing our connection. My best to you both in your next chapters!

    1. Thank you for the very kind words, Michele, and for following and sharing your comments along the way. We’re glad you enjoyed the writing and I’m definitely looking forward to reconnecting with you too.

  5. As you say, another adventure begins….or rather the adventure of life continues….

    All the best to both of you for the next chapter. I’m sure it will be just as exciting as the past two years, albeit in a different way.

    Good luck with the new job, Kristin and we look forward to reading the novels, Doug. You will both be great!

    See you one day in Seattle and enjoy the winding down in Bali!

  6. My initial emotion while reading this article was one of sadness. Enough sadness that I actually can feel it physically. We’ve never met, and probably never will, but it has been a joy to have the two of you share your journey and I’ve looked forward to every post since you left home some 600 days ago. While you’ve been out pedalling around the world, I’ve been reading every one of them from the same cubicle in the same office building. I’ll still be here reading your future posts 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us and I wish you both the best of luck as you head back to the states later this year. You have many adventures ahead of you and so many great memories from this trip to look back on.

    1. That’s a really nice thing to say Jonathan, thank you for that. I’ve always enjoyed blogging, and the feedback from readers like you is the main reason why. Thanks again. I hope to keep the blog up indefinitely and add to it. We’ve already begun planning future trips, though they’ll unfortunately only be of the 10-12 day variety. But they should be fun, nonetheless.

  7. No Negative Nancies here! We’re all excited for you both to start the next stage of ‘Life’s Adventure’. Even though I’m a ‘sharpshooter’ it’s hard to hit a moving target! My goal is to get out there and visit again once your feet are planted. I really enjoyed the fishing references you injected into your writing “Her baited hook received a few nibbles…”! I’ll miss the photos of places in the world that I’ll never see, but I’m sure that I could find some if I do some searching on the computer, but they won’t mean the same to me with the knowledge that they weren’t taken by either of you! I loved the photos of the PNW you included in this Post! I remember Snowqualmie Falls from my previous visit. I can’t wait to see it again, and YOU BOTH of course! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Nice post and congrats to Kristin on her new job. Not my business, but as a new grandpa who thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of raising 3 children, maybe time to raise a family and enlarge the tour group for future bike rides. Also, good luck with your novel.


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About Us

We're Doug & Kristin Walsh, a couple of Washingtonians who love to travel, both abroad and in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. We set off to travel the world in 2014, primarily by bicycle. We're back home now, but the travel bug continues to be fed every chance we get.

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