The ‘real world’: Seek it or chuck it?Sam Cook column: It was beautiful out in the Canadian bush. Loons calling in the night, a bull moose swimming across a bay. Now we face the clean-up, the put-away, the return to what some call the “real world.” It is, at least, the inevitable world.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
The clothesline is festooned with tents, stuff sacks and sleeping bags drying in the sun. Washed-out zip-top bags hang like prayer flags from their clothespins. Packs and sleeping pads bake in the August sun.
We were four days in the Canadian bush, a tight little family, the grown kids home from their outposts. It was beautiful out there. Loons calling in the night, a bull moose swimming across a bay, cool-water swims on lakes we might as well have owned.
Now, the clean-up, the put-away, the return to what some call the “real world.” It is, at least, the inevitable world.
Re-entry is always tough. Not just for space shuttles re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, but for all of us who head for the woods or the cabin or the fishing resort up north.
One among us had received a job offer in Nairobi a day before the trip. On the way home, she learned about a second interview with a different firm in Kenya. Her husband also is interviewing for a position in Kenya. It’s nice to have choices. But it seems like one moment you’re floating in your canoe, gazing at an ancient painting on a rock, and the next you’re faced with decisions that will shape the course of your life.
Another among us has returned to the corporate world. A good job. But he sees that most of his co-workers are unsatisfied in their work. They’re all stretched too thin, especially after recent layoffs.
The trick is somehow finding a balance among all of life’s options. How do you balance the desire to earn “enough” money without selling your soul to do it? Is there a happy medium in all of this or merely two extremes of existence?
Amid my own re-entry, I read a blog post from Daniel Alvarez, who last year paddled a kayak from Minnesota’s Northwest Angle to Key West, Fla. A Yale Law School grad who had spent a couple of years in a big California law practice, he had chucked it to follow a dream. But getting to Key West wasn’t enough. He turned around, headed up the East Coast. He’s paddling back to the Northwest Angle, racing freeze-up, somewhere on the Ottawa River now.
“People tell me about this real world out there, this place I have to return to,” he writes “ ‘What do you do in the real world? When are you going back to the real world? What about the real world?’ They say it so much that I almost believe in it myself.”
Then, on the river, he met a fellow traveler who had hiked and paddled 67,200 miles, criss-crossing North America on trails and rivers since 1982. Alvarez was amazed.
“Most of us come back to earth,” he writes. “We fly off into this magical space for a few months, for half-a-year, then re-enter the so-called real world even though it burns. But some never come back, never stop. They reach escape velocity and go.”
The rest of us never reach escape velocity. We plug away, trying to find a path between two worlds in a never-ending
series of transitions.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors, or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”