Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dec 31 (Day 365) - Final thoughts and a big huge 'Thank You'

In August of 2012, I joked with Sonia that someone should try to do a nationwide big year on a bicycle. Over the course of the next 8 months, I made the decision that this someone should be me. In April of 2013 I quite my job and began preparing myself physically, mentally, and logistically for what I figured, if I could actually pull it off, would be the adventure of a lifetime. I hoped the adventure would hone my birding skills, introduce me to new people, facilitate exploration of the country, and provide an opportunity for personal challenge and reflection. When I initially articulated my plan to others, it was met mostly with skepticism and disbelief. My parents, most notable my mom, were less than thrilled. They simply did not understand why I would leave a stable position and promising future in academic science to pursue something infinitely less certain. I think some of my friends understood, but I am still not sure any of them really grasped the possibilities of what the adventure could do for me both personally and professionally. Luckily, the person whose opinion and input mattered most, Sonia, was able to see the potential in me and in the project. Irrespective of my relationship with her, she understood that I needed to do this for myself. We both realized that I would regret terribly the chance realized but ultimately let go should I chose to ignore my desire to do exactly what I did this year. For her support and love I will always be thankful. I am not sure I would have been able to make it through the year without her.


Beast and Beauty

Ice Cream!

The best metaphor that I can use to describe my experience this year is a ruler. At different points in our lives we use different rulers to measure success and development. Through the scholastic years, the measure is academic grades. To most adolescents and collegiates, social status is a high priority. Sports, at all levels, rely on accumulated statistics and earned championships to compare individuals and teams. As adulthood arrives, job status, monies earned, and successes of one's children replace the measures of earlier times. As a research scientist, my successes were measured by which journals would publish my results. The formula was extremely straightforward - and painfully simple. As I looked around my academic life, and beyond it to the world at large,  I wondered why we are constantly willing to use these already existing and formulaic rulers to measure our successes, and, in extreme cases, our own happiness? How is it that so many people can use so few rulers? Biking for Birds provided the incredibly unique opportunity for me to define and to become my own ruler. Yes, the species count is certainly one way to measure this year, but the personal triumphs I experienced are immeasurable. No other ruler beyond my own can ever hope to measure or define what I experienced this year - I would't have it any other way. 

All that being said, there is simply no way that this year could not have happened without the support of hundreds if not thousands of people around this country and world beyond it. I had to rely on the incredible generosity of the people who housed me, fed me, and helped me find birds. Large numbers of people gave financially of themselves to aid my fundraising efforts (Donations are still welcome), and for this I am also grateful. My support network extended deep into the online realm as blog readers were never short to encourage me and offer helpful suggestions as I faced new challenges. I tried my hardest to make this project one for the entire birding, cycling, and environmental communities. I have thought a lot about this, and I think the aspect of the project that I will miss the most is the blog. It provided the portal through which I was able to broadcast my experiences and share my thoughts. I spent a huge proportion of this year physically alone. This blog was my way of connecting to the rest of the world, even if in only a distant or transient way. I plan to keep this blog going into the foreseeable future, so please check back regularly as we enter 2015. There will be lots of "Best of......" posts coming in the next few days! I may at some point shut this blog down and start a more general birding/photography blog. I will be sure to let everyone know when/if I do this. I have a great base of readers, and I would love to carry all of you with me into my future endeavors - blogs and books alike. 

Thank you one last time for your support, your time, your help, and your encouragement. Knowing that others enjoyed this project as much as I did is just one of our collective successes this year. 

OK, that's it for right now. Day 1 of the rest of my life calls............


365 days
617 species
17,830 miles
1 immeasurable adventure

22 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Dorian, not only on a wonderful personal achievement, but on the ability to engage, develop, and sustain a community of supporters and friends who have enjoyed the adventure almost as much as you!

    Thanks for the ride.

    Greg

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  2. Boom! Well done man. What a ride!

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  3. Congratulations, Dorian.
    For one year, I almost began every day by reading your daily post on this blog. I will miss them.
    Patrick from French Guiana

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  4. I think you get it exactly right in this blog post. So well done!

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  5. Oh, one more suggestion! I don't think you should close this blog out. I think you should continue on using this forum just as you have - (that is, if you are writing about birding, conservation or cycling.) This way your "adventure" remains a living breathing thing and you and we all can use it for a reference.

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  6. Congratulations on finishing your Big Year safely and in good health. It was a pleasure to read about your adventures every day and to be inspired to make my own birding endeavors a little greener. Good luck with whatever is next for you!

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  7. Congratulations and Happy New Year, Dorian!!! I will miss reading your daily updates, but I look forward to your upcoming blog posts and your book. I am so impressed with what you've done this year and can't wait to see what the future holds for you. I hope, when your book comes out, you will do a book tour and make it up to Wisconsin so I can shake your hand (or give you a hug!)

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  8. Congratulations! I have been following your adventure avidly since March and read your blog eagerly with my coffee each morning. I know your posts brightened my days, even your days were challenging or disappointing. While I am by no means a birder, I enjoy spotting birds and this blog has made me more attentive, particularly while on my long bike rides in the country. I very much lok forward to following you next adventure unfold. Congratulations and Happy New Year!

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  9. Yes, a huge congrats. I've enjoyed following your adventure since Feb. I know Snowy Owl was bird #1; what was your last bird of the year? Don't mean Smith's Longspur, but what was the last bird you saw in 2014. And did your year end at 11:00PM CST (24 x 365) or at midnight?

    Lastly, glad to see the # of nights spent at Best Westerns surged ahead of your # of flat tires - for a while it was touch & go! Art (Harrisonburg, VA)

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  10. A hearty congratulations to you for this amazing year. I look forward to reading of your further adventures and life paths. I'm sure it will all be interesting, funny, and enlightening. Happy New Year to you and Sonia!

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  11. Way to go! I remember the first time I met you, in 2013, at Great Meadows NWR photographing Virginia Rails when the refuge was flooded. You were on the 'good lighting' side of the birds and I was not. Seeing you were taking serious photographs, I happily remained where I was, not wanting to disturb you or your chances at getting the great photo. Once the rail disappeared into the vegetation momentarily, you waved for me to come over where you were so that I could have the good lighting as well. You were so friendly and your kindness impressed me tremendously. A bit later on, while talking with some other birders, you mentioned your idea for the biking big year. It hit me right away what a terrific project that would be and fired my imagination. I recall another conversation when you and I and some others were driving on the unsuccessful chase of the Ross's Gull in Chambley, Quebec, in which you mentioned that you were not sure if you could physically handle the mileage on the bike that would be required. It has been a great pleasure to follow your journey and to read your wonderful blog with all the ups and downs and see your dream come to fruition and be so successful. I have never followed a blog before and I could simply not stay away from this one. I hope you will keep it on-line as I am sure to return to it again and again in the future. Best wishes to you and Sonia for the future, whatever it may hold and wherever your dreams may take you. Jim Guion

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  12. Dorian, first let me congratulate you on a year well spent. I've followed along since you announced your intention of doing this year over on the FM forum where I lurk regularly. I also had the good fortune to meet you at the drip in Sabine Woods in April. I so admire the focus, determination and fortitude that allowed you to complete this year as you planned. I know it was not always an easy thing to do. I hope this New Year brings good fortune and new adventures for you.

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  13. An awesome & inspiring year, Dorian. I've been a daily reader since March and will really miss it. -Dave

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  14. Wait--where's my daily fix?? Happy New Year Dorian and Sonia!!

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  15. Congratulations, thanks again for sharing!

    How does it feel to ride in a car?
    Glenn Kincaid

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  16. Congratulations, sir. Now get some rest.

    -Jonah

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  17. Hey Dorian, I remember the cold rainy lousy day back in January when you were just getting started and came to my house to get Rusty Blackbirds. Congratulations on going the distance!
    Jim

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  18. I'm proud to say that I not only met you but was fortunate enough to host you for a couple nights and hear some of your big plans,and stories. I know your'e off to do big things. I'm looking forward to hearing how your first car ride felt. Let me know when you're in our part of California again and I'll make sure my wife makes plenty of burritos for ya. Good luck in 2015 and beyond

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  19. One of my Top 3 most visited sites of the year. Congrats mate, an incredible journey and achievement.

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  20. I am now in withdrawal from this blog. Congrats yet again, Dorian!

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