An explanation of the ups and downs of travel blogging and a thank you to readers for continuous and constant support.
I am nearly embarrassed to admit that I had my ass handed to me during these past two weeks of work. I pride myself on being extremely athletic and physically fit, but the demands of this particular archaeology project pushed me to my limits.
The results were fatigue. And fatigue can do funny things to a man. Especially since I am often shy to admit to myself when I am beat. I pride myself on being able to climb the highest mountains, walk across the hottest deserts, and possessing a level of physical endurance that cannot be topped.
But these past two weeks of working and camping in the Tonto Forest really handed my ass to me on a silver platter. But I was too macho to admit this to myself.
These past two weeks wiped out the entire crew. Some old salts have even admitted that this was the toughest project that they have ever been a part of.
Archaeology field work is determined by CRM (cultural resource management) firms bidding on projects like any other sort of contract profession. Bids for jobs in the Southwest of the USA have come to be extremely competitive: there are simply more companies and archeologists than there is work for. This, combined with the recent economic downturn, have lead to companies engaging in bidding wars with each other — each company striving to undercut the others to get contracts.
The result is archaeology firms either having to do projects on impossibly small budgets or going out of business. Firms have been dropping like meteorites out here in the Southwest, the only companies that survive are those who are able to do the work faster and cheaper.
The resulting pressure from this bursts out onto the shoulders of the archaeology crews who do the work. So we have an extreme amount of work to do each day — an amount of work that would have been unthinkable only two years ago.
But we get it done. Any dead weight on the crews — any techs who do not want to, or are not able to, work at a hyper pace all day long, every day — are promptly fired. They have to be, this is just the way that it is. And the remaining crew members engage in an activity we have dubbed “extreme archaeology.”
Extreme archaeology is a combination of archaeology fieldwork and an extreme sport. We run where we would ordinarily walk, we smash through brush that we would ordinarily walk around, and we jump from rock to rock, ridge to ridge all day long — all while having to keep up a high standard of archaeology ethics.
This is difficult. This is fun.
Working this stint in the Southwest this season has been the most enjoyable work that I have ever engaged in: each day is a challenge, a game, a sport of sorts — “How many acres can we get finished today?”
At the end of the day we compute how much work we did, and we all feel the odd sort of satisfaction of a sporting team that won a hard game:
We are often wounded, bloodied, bruised, and injured, our clothes are often reduced to rags, and sunburns grace our faces, but we feel the exhilaration of being pushed to our absolute limits of physical endurance and coming out the other side victorious.
It feels good.
But the residual effects are that I am completed beat after each day of work — and the weekends are for healing. Last week, I went into the weekend with a mountain of Vagabond Journey work that I could simply not face climbing.
I turned my head, I turned away, I made up reasons — any reason that I could — to avoid climbing that mountain. I needed to sit at the base for a weekend. Two weeks of working and camping topped off with staying in a loud and crowed hostel during my days off sent me tumbling back down to the foot of the mountain each time I tried to begin my ascent.
I needed to rest, but was a little too macho to admit this. So I took it out on the travelogue, and came up with a dozen reasons why I did not want to do it anymore to hide the simply fact that I had no more gas, physically or mentally. I blamed my state on the travelogue rather than myself.
It felt better to do it this way.
I wussed out, I needed to be a wimp for a weekend. So I rested and began writing on a less pressure filled path: I began working on a book, a book that would have no deadline, a book that would have no editor, a book that would allow me to write for the simple joy of doing it.
This felt good for a few days.
Then Monday came around and the knowledge that I was parachuting out of a flying jet that I had worked so hard and for so long to get off the ground began wearing on me. This week the crew was also put up in a hotel, so I had internet access after work, and did not have too put as much effort into living (when camping after work with only an hour or so to make dinner and prepare camp before night fall, it is a challenge to live and blog). So a lot of the pressure was relieved, the work was still hard, but I was able to rest better after work — and continue ticking out travelogue entries with a little more leisure.
In doing so I realized that I still love this website project. After reading all of the comments on the post where I first mention that I thought about calling it quits, I again realized that I love the people that read this travelogue. There is no way that I want to quit this.
I must thank you readers for helping me put this into prospective. My jaw even fell agape when I would read a comment from a long term reader who was able to smack me in the face when I needed it most.
You readers are friends, who give back to me as much as I could ever hope to give out to you.
One of the most beneficial aspects of travel writing on a blog is that I can publish feelings and a story as it occurs. I can show day to day progress, retraction, dead ends, failure, and success. And basically unravel the mess of string that is life. Sometimes, I think that I am untying the knot just to realize that I only made it tighter. A travelogue is a place for the dirty laundry, dead ends, and false starts that never make it into travel books. In this way, blogging is a far more honest — raw — way of writing, and this aspect of it is that which hooks me.
Motorcycle Bob put it best:
“No one really wants to hear about anyone’s travels, so, here are stories of my travails. The more interesting parts of my travels, at least I think so.”
Thank you, readers. I fluttered into some weeds, but I am still on the Path.