As I near the end of the ride my emotions well up. Today has been lovely to spend my time, doing as I please, preparing for a final push home and trying to soak up the essence of this trip, trying to breathe it in and appreciate this final leg of the journey to its fullest.
I’m resisting the urge to wrap up the trip in some kind of narrative closure. That would be artificial to me. In some ways I see this trip as a simple compilation of a lot of things that happened as a result of putting myself in an unusual situation. But it would also be artificial to pretend that this trip hasn’t been profoundly changing for me. It has, though perhaps in ways that are hard to communicate properly. I can describe what has changed for me, what I’ve seen, what I’ve taken out of those experiences. But in a way it’s frustrating to communicate, partly because of the experiential way that one learns, or probably I should say that I learn. I can read advice, or about the experiences of others and try to learn from it. But it’s not the same as experiencing something yourself, directly. I’m kind of thick that way, and I wish that I could learn from the experience of others as I can from my own experiences. But I can’t. Perhaps at least it sets you up for being open to ideas or perspectives you’ve read or heard about. Maybe that’s the best to hope for.
So as I say, I’m trying to resist tying this into a neat bundle, but I’ve also come away from this experience with some perspectives that are pretty defined for me. Perhaps there are themes that have arisen from my thoughts over these 70+ days that are clear and apparent to me, and, frankly I have no idea whether they’ve come through in my daily posts or not (I’ve not reread any of them yet, partly to keep my perspective as is). And I’m under no delusion that what I’ve learned is anything new under the sun. Only that a few things are (perhaps finally) sinking in for me and I want to get them down in the hopes of holding on to them as I re-enter “normal” life. Actually I hope that normal life is a bit less normal going forward, but I digress.
So, thus qualified and prefaced, here’s a crude summary of the ideas, thoughts, and musings that feel like recurring themes to me (in no particular order other than the order I recalled them). I want to hold on to these ideas that spring from nothing but experience.
- There are an extraordinary number of generous people out there, and their generosity bears no relationship to their economic situation. They’re simply giving people. Be more like them.
- Optimism will serve you well. Not worrying about potential bad outcomes frees your mind for better experiences. I’ve travelled the country coast to coast with all my current worldly possessions unlocked outside a variety of convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, etc and no one ever touched a thing. More importantly, I didn’t worry about it and enjoyed life more because of it.
- Focus on the moment you’re in. That’s all we’ve got. Really. Be here now as much as you can. Listen when people talk. Remember their names. Find out what’s most interesting about them (there’s something unique there but sometimes you have to dig). Enjoy the beauty that surrounds us all.
- Money is less important than you think, after the point of basic security. I’ve learned a lot from people that have a lot less money than me, are more content with their situation, and enjoy the moments of the day much more.
- Advocating for Climate Change needs a new way of thinking. The average person has more pressing and personal concerns on their mind. As long as we present climate change action as a bitter pill to swallow we can expect people to have the same reaction as a kid forced to swallow cod liver oil. We need to reframe the whole discussion as a desire to increase happiness, well being and public health. Focusing on happiness for us all seems like a no-brainer. Let’s run on the happiness ticket.
- It’s important to take time to wander, wonder, and ponder. We spend so much time running from one urgent duty to the next, we hardly have time to contemplate possible futures that are out of bounds vis-a-vis our daily lives.
- Practice. It’s not enough to read, see, and watch. You get good at what you do, repeatedly and with effort. The daily practice of cycling, for example has not just bade me a better cyclist, it’s caused me to put myself in new, real situations everyday. Writing this blog has given me practice and confidence as a writer.
- It helps (me anyway) to make a commitment to others. Writing this blog has made me accountable to you, and driven me to get more out of every day. Knowing that I would write about every day has been a constant urge to do something meaningful; to jump in the lake, to sleep on the porch, to share my own thoughts, impressions. To put myself “out there”.
- Seek experiences that give you pure joy. A joyful mind is one that is open to new experiences, willing to meet and help others, in the moment, and happy. What better position to prepare yourself for what’s next? I’ve been lucky enough to experience many such moments on the this trip. Just today I experienced what I’d call pure joy riding downhill, through the pines, smelling the trees, the fresh air, standing on my bike, no hands, arms outstretched like wings. Such wonderful play! Why don’t we do such things more?
- Posture matters. You yogis out there surely already know this. Stealing a page from Suzuki Roshi here and Sensei Coach Matt. Your mind and your body are not disconnected. To be more clear – your mind and body are connected. Suzuki Roshi and others talk about one thing – body-mind. The posture you take to do something affects how you approach that thing, how others see and respond to you, and how your body reacts. A straight spine as you sit helps you think clearly, gives you confidence, and asserts your agency. When you ride, keep a flat back – use your legs and core, lift your body, don’t lock your elbows and toil. Slumping makes you appear weak, weakens your body, sets you up for failure and pain. Move like you intend to, walk like a dancer.
- Vote with your time. If something is important to you, emphasis on important, that’s what you should spend your time on. Don’t get caught up in “obligations” that don’t serve your own priorities, make the world a better place, help your friends and family be more healthy and happy.
- The people in your life are paramount. Remember this every day. You’re happiest when helping others to be happy, fulfilled and healthy. If it takes selfish motivation then fine. If you’re happier helping others then, damnit, do it.
- The garden of eden is more literal than allegory. We have been given a paradise to enjoy but somehow we forget to appreciate it. There is beauty all around us that will boggle the mind. Take the time to see and appreciate it. It’s not gone. It’s not lost. It’s there for you to enjoy right now.
Ok enough. Probably a great list of things that I’m just now catching up with the rest of the adult world on. But those are the things I’m going to remind myself of, after this is done.
Thanks for listening and I look forward to any thoughts that you have in response.
Meanwhile, other pretty pictures from today.