Germinating Ideas of a Transient Trajectory

“At this time, a strong, healthy youth, fresh from college, while all his companions were choosing their profession, or eager to begin some lucrative employment, it was inevitable that his thoughts should be exercised on the same conditions, and it required rare decision to refuse all the accustomed paths, and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends… aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson on Henry David Thoreau

“I’m leaving for the great wide open plains
Leaving while this Holy Spark remains.”

-Conor O’Brien


On May 3, 2013, I will depart Grand Rapids by bicycle and pedal to the Pacific Ocean. The purpose and intentions of this letter are dual. First, to propose my declaration of intent for this journey and to articulate the reasons I am pursuing such an expedition. It is mutually beneficial that I put into writing my drive and goals, for my own mental processing and as an explanation for those interested. Second, such a statement made publicly will function as a form of accountability to maintain focus on the goals and intentions originally set forth. This journey is more than a pursuit of adventure for the sake of adventure, and I want to be continually challenged to contemplate and process the contents of this letter by my community, i.e. you, the reader.

Before expounding upon my intentions and reasons behind this trip though, it is necessary to illustrate the actual proposed plan. Nick Place, Evan Mcnabb, and myself intend to ride bicycles west across America, sustainably exploring the contours of the American geographic and social landscape, and carrying everything we will need to survive on our bikes, camping along the way. Nick, Evan, and I share a friendship that spans back to the beginning of our primary schooling. After pursuing higher education at three different institutions, we are eager to unite once again for a grand adventure. Our goal is to reach the Pacific Ocean within eight weeks of departing Grand Rapids. At this point, Evan will likely return to Grand Rapids and Nick will fly to Amsterdam to rendezvous with his brother and sister-in-law who currently reside in Istanbul, Turkey. My options here are pliable, and perhaps of little significance for my declaration at this time. Briefly, the two main tracts of possibility include accompanying Nick to the Netherlands where we’ll work on an organic farm outside Amsterdam, or, exploring the west coast by following the Pacific Coast Bike Trail and working on organic farms, using them effectively as stepping stones for travel. Stay tuned for developments. Now onto the heart of this letter…

This journey has been a dream of mine since high school. Not the specific structure that now frames it, but a dream driven by, so far, an insatiable wanderlust; a desire to explore the world that we inhabit with an indeterminate itinerary and no return date. I love to travel, and indeed have had many remarkable voyages already. Rather than slaking my thirst for excursions though, they’ve quenched and parched me simultaneously. I seem to always return home with a fulfilled sense of accomplishment and then immediately begin dreaming up another adventure. It’s now time in my life to explore what it means to pursue adventure as vocation.

Life at home is unremitting in its demanded diurnal structure and pattern. For a chapter of my life, I dream of departing the demands of a geographically fixed living and seeking adventure as vocation, as a pilgrim. The distinction between vacation and vocation is important here. A vacation is a temporary period of recreation and retreat from home (or the regularity of our occupations and lifestyles) with oft-set schedules of departure and return, beginning and end. The end of my journey is unforeseen, and the structures of my days are unfixed (aside from pedaling). Indeed, this is not a deviation from “reality”, but rather an alternative reality that I am actively pursuing. What is reality anyways, except those markings we carve, the footsteps we take, and the stories we live into?

I am pensively aware that this is my opportunity to achieve this dream, and to not realize it now would be to embed it into a lifelong rumination of what could’ve been. Furthermore, I’m entering the years of my life where careers are started and exercised. The wisdom of those before me has taught that once a profession is initiated, the nuances between vacation and this exploratory vocation are more heavily defined. To not execute this dream now may be to never fulfill it at all. I am unwilling to let that happen.

Youthful vigor is also a strong impetus for such an adventure. At 23, I am in the prime years of my body’s ability to adapt and maintain physically demanding conditions. I have been blessed with good health, and I am grateful for that. This gratitude is exercised through a strong motivation to actualize my potential as a human being with muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, and a multitude of other interconnected working parts that allow me to experience the physical world! I want to push and work my body toward its physical limits. The occupational landscape is infused with sedentary routines that I demand to pedal against.

Lastly, though by no means least importantly, I wish to touch on the topic of my faith. It was not until my junior year of high school that I really began to take ownership of my faith and discovered a facet of Christianity that really kindled a flame of passion within me that had, until that point, laid latent. This resulted in four of the greatest and most impactful years of my life, studying at Calvin College. The cultivation of my faith has always been under the auspices of my peers, mentors, and worshipping communities in Grand Rapids (and in a certain sense, could never be detached from them). I believe that during this journey, my Christian convictions will be challenged in unprecedented ways, which will be difficult at times, but will also provide a unique opportunity for growth and development. Just like I intend to stretch my physical capacity, I also aspire to expand and extend my spiritual capacity. I don’t know what this will look like. However, I’m certain it would be naïve to expect automatic growth and ignorant to not anticipate challenges.

Writing is an extremely important and decisive method by which I am able to process and engage the world within and around me. It is through writing that I am best able to organize and articulate my thoughts. In this way, this blog becomes one of the most important outlets I have for remaining steadfast in my learning and regurgitating, communication and accountability, and in one of my final goals: to practice the art of storytelling. I hope that my journey transcribed will be enjoyable and that it may challenge, inspire, prompt discussion, and perhaps provoke contemplation. This is my declaration of intent and purpose for pursuing adventure as vocation, and it is my hope and prayer that you will join, encourage, respond, and hold me accountable.


About Ben Stark

My name is Ben Stark, no relation to Tony or the House Stark. B.A. in Sociology from Calvin College Preferred mode of transportation: Bicycle, Ice Skates, Feet Currently pursuing Adventure as Vocation Let's cross paths!
This entry was posted in Pedaling, Starkive and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Germinating Ideas of a Transient Trajectory

  1. Bill Iverson says:

    You have completed one great adventure, comprised of innumerable smaller ones. And along the way, you seem to have mastered the art of acceptance. Goodness and joy to you always!

    Bill and Jo Iverson

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