Hold Fast to Dreams

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The black coffee cut through my hangover like an arctic wind. He repeated:  “What’s your plan when you finish school?”  I evaded the question, thinking that he didn’t really want to know.  Then, I re-thought and asked, “Do you really want to know?  And you promise not to laugh?” After his affirmative, I paused, took a deep breath, and said out loud for the first time, “I plan to save my money for two years, live like a monk if I have to, so I can circumnavigate the globe on my bike… all the way around. It’s been my dream, my life goal for years ever since I read Barbara Savage’s Miles from Nowhere and the idea that you could actually do such a thing entered my mind. It’s a dream that grabbed ahold of me and hasn’t let go.”  I said it so fast and breathless I wasn’t sure he really heard me.  He said, “That’s awesome.”

This conversation was three years and three months ago after a first date with a man I barely knew.  After a lot of “not dating” and bike rides that finished in the dark, the man who made the life-saving coffee is now my husband, Tom.  I finished the masters, worked the job, saved the money.  Now it’s time.  Tom can’t go with me due to kid and job responsibilities, but he has been my number one cheerleader, my adventure and my home.  So, I’ll go solo leaving February 5, 2019.  I get nervous-sweaty just thinking about it.  I have dreams of desolate roads, the high Andes and a lot of alone time.  I envision letting my botanical nerd side embrace every plant and tree I come across, trying to identify all the rare and endemic plants of the deserts, mountains, and beaches.  I want to SEE the world, which I feel you can so wonderfully do from a bike, not going too fast nor too slow.  I can’t wait to be high in the Andes, and eventually the Dolomites, with no human in sight, sun shining down, satisfaction and exhaustion in my legs after long climbs and epic days in the saddle.

Hollie…savoring those epic days in the saddle.— photo courtesy of the author

Hollie…savoring those epic days in the saddle.—photo courtesy of the author

 I picked February 5, because it’s the lunar new year and that feels good.  Also, as soon as I chose a date it became more real, just like the first time I uttered it out loud.  So now it’s here and I’m excited beyond belief.  My friends and family are excited and encouraging too.  Well, I wouldn’t say my mom is excited, but we can’t have it all. She did say I was capable of doing this, which might be as good as it gets.  I have this sticker I bought years ago that has a skull and feathers on it, it looks kind of like a hipster dreamcatcher but I like it.  It says “Hold Fast to Dreams,” and I knew that’s what I was going to have to do for this one.  This trip can’t plan itself.  I have to go solo, leaving behind my husband and step daughter, both of whom I love dearly.  I’ll miss her high school graduation which pains me, but she gets it.  I’ll always be missing something—I have to go now or I’ll never go. 

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I’m 32, the same age Dervla Murphy was when she left on her epic journey.  I’m not too old.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  She went alone and I can too.  I’ve been on plenty of solo adventures, but those were mostly in the U.S., and no longer than a week.  I can pretend I’m brave and capable and that I know I’ll be fine which is partially true.  But I’m also scared of being a lone female in some areas.  I’m not nervous about the actual riding.  I’m nervous about wild camping, which I’ve done before, and I’m nervous about mainland Mexico, which I haven’t done before.  I’m scared of robbery, murder, and rape. But isn’t everyone?  And can’t these things plague you anywhere?  I’m scared of somehow not returning and leaving Tom a widower.  These are heavy; these are real.  Honestly, I’m most afraid of not going.  Of living a life with a void in it.  Of knowing you want something so badly but never quite getting there.  Of shallowly living a life lacking in adventure, value, truth, and exploration.

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This dream grabbed hold of me and never let go.  It’s always been in my mind.  I’ve never had the desire to set records or first ascents.  I don’t care if someone else has done something.  I haven’t done it.  So here I am.  I’ll write home often, pack light, and go now full of curiosity.  I’ll hold fast to the dream, as it held fast to me.

To follow Hollie in the pursuit of her dream check out her instagram: @hollie_holly

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Hollie Ernest

Hollie tries to fill the fun bucket until it overflows, if not everyday, at least on the weekends. Mondays are for recuperating and washing gear, or going on the weekly ladies ride. As a forester and botanist, Hollie aims to observe and connect with the plant life around us, and feels that each learned plant is like a new friend. She encourages others to appreciate the diversity of flora wherever they are, as it can truly deepen our experiences.

Hollie Ernest