(This blog is taken from the Everyday Exploring Facebook group where it was posted on July 20, 2017)
It feels strange. Sitting in a coffee shop, warm, dry and with endless food and drinks if we want them. No more daily rations of dehydrated food and energy bars, filtering water or continuing along this summer's daily trend of making progress each day as we move to the next camp spot - making progress in latitude, longitude and mileage.
Our trip ended too soon. We should still be in the Arctic. In the raw wilderness, engulfed in the subtle shades of tundra, with the wind, mosquitoes (though not simultaneously) and shore birds for company. And it feels odd having this time to reflect on what has happened, as well as coming to terms with our new normal.
We both wake each morning sharing stories of our vivid and intense dreams; kayaking nowhere, dragging gear through mud over and over again, starting to paddle and realising we've forgotten something essential. Our subconscious processing the events of the last few months even while we sleep.
It's easy to feel like we've failed. That the expedition hasn't been a success. We work hard, we plan meticulously and are both extremely determined, without being flippant. It's fair to say we are not used to not completing something we set out to. And so these feelings take adjusting to as well.
We are fortunate not to have the endless "what if?"s on loop in our heads. On the final kayak there was nothing more we could have done to change the situation we found ourselves in. And there is certainly some comfort in that. But it doesn't change the fact that we didn't complete what we set out to. How do we find any comfort in that?
What we've been reflecting on over the last few days, is that exploration is about discovery, not necessarily about completing what you set out to do.
Carving out a new path is always going to have more unknowns and uncertainties than following a well-trodden one. But it also makes it far more interesting and rewarding.
And it's those times when things don't go to plan and situations aren't as expected, that you learn and discover the most. Both about the world around you and (as cheesy as it sounds) about yourself.
One of the main aims of the Due North: Alaska expedition is education through exploration. To share this journey with others - in all its ups, downs, twists, turns, landscapes and people - was a huge part of what drove us on each day when we were exhausted.
We'll continue to leverage what we've learned and share it as widely as we can. And all of the human-powered miles we did travel will be a success. Even if we didn't reach our final coordinates.
And so, although we find ourselves in a situation we had planned never to be in, we are beginning, bit by bit, to reframe success.
Luke and Hazel