How self-sustainable and conscious is living a part of your life as a traveler on a bicycle?
More posts about this topic in ‘Good to know when you start and stop‘ and a ‘After the long cycle tour‘
I am home now for 2 months. A different situation, with other questions. I am not cycling as the Netherlands doesn’t hold much nature to wander through, have my mind quieted days at end, nor forests to pitch my tent, so I run. And when I run together with my personal trainer, a podcast send by another worldly traveler, I see in the near distance cars queuing on the highway. All I think is: ‘I am SO happy it is not me in there!’
Reality has put me back in the Western society. And the facts are right in my face. At the moment I am not living the life of a fairy wood tale, nor that of a desert sand pixie, neither an off the road dweller. I am back at convenient land. Yet, before that I started wondering:
Does cycling makes you more aware, in general and if it comes to polluting Earth?
Is a cyclist naturally anxious about the environment?
Can I think a cyclist cycles because he stands for a certain way of living?
NO, and NO, and NO! Or perhaps yes? Mostly, unfortunately, none of these have any connection with each other!
I am happy it is not me in those slow-moving, tailgating cars. I am obviously not part of how things are done generally. Part of the biggest unaware collective ‘how it should be’. However, each individual might not be categorized as such.
Being on the bicycle it is more easy to live in the moment. Being back in the Western society it’s a challenge because much is focused on ‘later’. ‘Have a nice weekend’, says the cashier with ‘courage’ tattooed on her arm, on a Friday morning. I’d crossed on my bicycle to the supermarket because I forgot to make fresh granola and thus I need something as a breakfast option. Instead of saying ‘enjoy your day’ she focused on tomorrow already.
What has this to do with awareness? And polluting Earth? Maybe more than you think. As I need to link those two together to make a logic post, being aware has become stronger because of traveling, of seeing, of witnessing, of being open and aware. Being aware makes you realize a lot of things, things like self-made opposites; thoughts which doesn’t stick to Nature where thoughts stuck between walls tend to be loved and caressed. Actually, traveling comes forth out of awareness. Is it a case of the chicken and egg here?
Over the years and especially since I am cycling I have become way more conscious and respondent of how completely messed up Earth is. Cycling through ‘National Parks’ where mining and logging takes place. Trying to find patches of wood, and time upon time failing. Cycling past heavy poisoned or lethal industries; I cycled a full day past petrochemical factories in Iran (and erected my tent in it). Cycling is very different from moving by public transport. And in a sense it doesn’t really matter because it’s not the cycling that makes one aware.
I cannot start to enumerate the gigantic issues towards destroying and exhausting the great Earth, but we all know them. And the truth is, by living a life as a cyclist I may contribute more than if I am not cycling! That’s a hopeless thought when you know that by cycling you don’t use a gasoline driven vehicle to plough the Earth.
Since I am cycling, and that is my whole life as I have never owned a car, it dawns on me how necessary cars have been made for mankind. Yet how easy it is to do away with. Listening to the radio in the Netherlands, again able to understand the language, a car is imposed as if it is a toy.
I may not emit harmful emissions and polluting gasses such as carbon dioxide. Nor do I eat meat and contribute to methane gasses. Neither did I use fossil fuels last year, not even for cooking food in camp, but I buy the worldly findings through traveling such as tulsi and mate, agarbatti and Ayurvedic products from an e-shop in California, send by plane, brought by car. Sometimes you buy from Amazon and are shocked when the package arrives from Hong Kong! But then, the veggies I buy in the local supermarket are all corrupted as well. Send by plane, brought by truck. Grown in greenhouses. Wrapped by poor people for low wages. Grown on chemicals. Try to find a carrot, not wrapped in plastic, not mentioned as ‘organic’. Good luck.
Dammit, I really better skip again the milk for my masala chai, as cows emit so much methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in one day.
The daily garbage I collect by cycling in Europe -plastic and paper- from food wrapping is way more than would I not cycle, and worse: I can’t find trash bins which separate plastic from dirt.
Being more aware shows how many others spill water and natural sources, like paper for example, or plastic, yet more water, food, electricity, and sometimes moodiness too. How often need your clothes to be washed? How often yourself? Really, a week of not taking a shower does not make you smell when you are not working! Of course, this is disgusting in the Western society. Just as it is to not shave your armpits and legs and not to use odor-killing deodorant. I really prefer to smell myself than a pressurized toxic synthetic smell out of can.
Oh gosh, living in a house full of electric appliances, in a throw away culture, where the redundant usage of a car, gardens without much edible growth makes you see the difference. Cycling from Germany into Poland is striking in this matter.
Cycling to and through India and Africa, West Africa as I did, is much more contributing to a healthier life style. You eat the food grown by locals, and prepared by locals. In Africa it are often women who earn their own living with their food stall. Come to think of it, the desire to escape the Western society have me long to deserts, incredible heights and forests, where I can’t live sustainable on a bicycle at all.
Since my lifestyle includes lots of cycling, I take planes, even though I stand for overland cycling and try not to take any public transport at all! Since I cycle I eat gigantic loads of food. I use way more oil than ever before in my life, not only on my face, but more so on the chain. I visit supermarkets at least once a day, way more than being stabilized at any given home.
Oh damn! I think I start to wonder about all this because I am back home. Because I am an idealist, a Pisces, a traveler, I have seen much, idea’s which I cannot always make true. Being aware has nothing to do with cycling!
How many people take a walk in the woods or go out cycling, after the car has brought them there? How many people are actively sporting after they driven their car to ‘sport school’?
Overall, I guess my pollution as a cyclist doesn’t do much harm to Earth. It is the inner connectedness you start to feel when you choose a life fueled by manpower. When there is no water that you start treasure it. Not to clean your face but after sufficient hydration and filling the empty water bottle supply for a day, to clean the dirty pots and pans, if not with sand or leaves. That when there is no ‘supermarket’ or shop that you start to eat the 4 days old bread, or to ask a Mauritanian police officer to offer his bread to you. That when you meet with less is more.
The clear changes
I also wonder whether it is because I started serious traveling, 13 years ago, that I need not to fully shower myself 7 times a week (or 4, or 3 or less)? Apparently it takes 50 liters of water for one shower. A human can do easily with one bucket for a full body and hair wash, equal to 10 liters. One person in the Netherlands seems to use 120 liters of water a day. I wonder if a Dutch person would still do so when the water had to be fetched from a put some distance away from the house? We use 33 liters to flush the toilet, one of the reasons I prefer not to flush. These numbers are insane. We use most water for trivialities; flushing a toilet and a daily shower.
I wonder whether it is because of the simplistic way of living when cycling that I have done away with high heels because it is unnatural. I imaginary threw them on a pile in the garden and burned them. I dislike putting products in my hair too, as those require to be washed out daily otherwise my hair is like an exploded chick. I still like to look nice -for the occasionally selfie- but not artificially. I think it is a bit sick to have complete businesses for only such detail as a fingernail, unless it’s a Cameroonian woman being self-providing with her one-woman street-business? In the Netherlands I pass people’s houses and imagine how many machines take over the household chores while the person sits idle in the house, reading a magazine. That is, if that person could make a choice out of the 174.000 picks possible.
For fitting into the country you’re in, where you can understand people talking and can read everything printed, you need to hold on to your believe gathered as a traveler even tighter; that things will turn out for the good of your being. Listening, with half an ear, to the radio in the background is hearing that you need to have a plan for the future. At least you must know what you want in 10 years. You most definitely must have insurance for everything, you must be provided and prepared. You might be a living being, but you better be a secured, prepared one.
If it comes to cycling I don’t lack any of the characteristics ‘stress resistant’, ‘highly competitive’, ‘target chaser’, ‘social competent’ and ‘going for it’; features needed when searching for a job. Exactly now it comes to the strength of applying the natural learnt in the real unnatural world. There are many realities though, and now I am in one of the least imaginative.
It is kind of fun to feel a bush camper, one who would start a fire as soon as she is awake, a kind of self-chosen partly wanderer on a bicycle relying on people depicted as dangerous in the media. It’s kind of endearing to be inside a house instead of in a tent. To hear a dove chirp and the feel of outside flowing through you.
Returning home is not only about reintegrating, a troubled mind about a futility as drinking milk, followed by being concerned about soya plantations, thus cutting forests, followed further by animals going extinct, if not already long ago. It is more than the high level of ridicule about having everything at hand. It is the knowledge and strong pull on your, preferable honest-made, sleeve that you could live a self-sustainable life. Out there, near the desert, in the woods, tundra or mountains. With a few goats to produce milk and dairy, a put for water and a patch of desirable flat fertile land for growing vegetables. Chicken for eggs, a solar panel for electricity. Or start here and now, upon returning.
Returning home is seeing how much you have strayed.
Returning is the goodness of family who sees you as you.
Returning home is trying to find your perfect cut in a surrounding not changed.
So no, I don’t know how long I stay where I am now. All I know is that I wrap myself in the good that is here, without getting indoctrinated just a tiny speck. All I know is that I am a cycle-traveler and that such a living is my preferred way of living. And yes, I think most of us are far astray from a natural lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean I have to! To come back to the title of those written thoughts, self-sustainability is not only done on an outside level, it’s in the mind as well.
5 replies on “Home, and then?”
Thought provoking article!
I am a wanderer like you. I lived many years alone in the Rockie Mountains in the US.
I am getting ready to go on an endless bicycle ride next month
I enjoyed your perspective
Hi Darryl, I think there are many people out there who do things quite different than the average traveler/cyclist or which ever category one need to be put in. Let’s not use categories at all! Live! Yes, live! How each individual wants. Without the fear imposed on us so often. Good you’re on a big trip soon 😊 Continue to enjoy the road.
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