This post it too simple for words. But somehow it got stuck in my mind.
Maybe because I am back in Western society where I have made a plan too. Just like everyone else has a plan. Mine is: not to be part of it. Here are 7 thoughts for cycling-life in a relaxed style.
1. Do stop to make photo’s. What you see now you won’t see again. Never.
Simply because that very moment never comes back. What you can do, and should, if you find the surrounding appealing, is go back. Just pull the handlebar, turn around and stop to make that photo.
Making selfies might be vain but know that is a very nice way of playing around in the surroundings you’re in. Making photograph’s is a different way of looking at the world, because you focus on one singular detail, even if that is a wide vista or tremendous panorama: you are completely focused on it and might see hundreds of details you won’t have seen otherwise. I’m not talking about seeing the world through your camera but taking time out to focus on parts of the world. A flower, an ant, poo of a coyote, a grasshopper, or unfortunate roadkill.
Sure, making photo’s takes time. In the beginning of my trip through Africa I often wanted to cycle and not spend time on making photo’s. I regret that, because photo’s is taking time out to wonder, reliving afterwards, and a reflection, I think. Making the composition exactly as you want it is a skillful handling, not much different than any other form of art. So some people can easily do without photographing, which is perfectly fine. Just stop to admire where you are, with or without camera.
2. Stop at the spot you want to camp. You will find equally good camp spots but this is what you have spotted now.
I have noticed that you will always find a spot to camp, whether it is good might be worth a discussion. In my view, the best are the ones you spot way before the daylight has gone and so have plenty of time to enjoy your camp. Isn’t that what camping is for? Sometimes, when you have not enough food and/or water yet, you might want to return after having done the groceries, if that’s an option. A wonderful camp spot is one of the nicest things of cycle touring. Think of how relaxing it is to have a place to admire the stars and Milky Way and sleep right under it.
I am aware that with long distances, few grocery stores and certain kilometers to reach ‘stop at the best spot’ is not an option. I was looking forward to camp in the Western Sahara but I was not allowed and had a constant police guard following me. I was to stay, and personally handed over, at a gas station each night.
3. You are not in any Tour de Force; it is not a race. So stop pretending.
Even when you make a short tour, remember that is not about how far you ride but how much you enjoy. Unless riding far is your enjoyment. You don’t necessarily have to make a 100 kilometer a day, although sometimes that is nice, to see that you have the power in your legs (that is; mind). But really, cycle touring is quite a high maintenance lifestyle and no better way than relaxing in the camp until your mind says: ‘Time to go’. For me, living as a bicycle tourer is avoiding, or escaping, modern society where it is nearly impossible to unwind. Imagine the luxury to cycle only 12 kilometer if you desire so! Or nothing at all…
It might be a good idea to cut short the distance and enjoy where you are instead of speeding past everything you cannot linger because that’s how you planned your trip. I’m not talking about sightseeing-places-must-see-must-been-there but scenery’s, mountains, canyons, people and valleys.
Try to stop the rat-race, isn’t that precisely why you went on a cycling tour?
4. It’s always time for tea, coffee and more tea. It is also always time to eat and accept offers.
You can’t prepare coffee and tea yourself all the time, and drinking water isn’t that cozy: stop. Stop to have tea and coffee or any kind of funky colored drink is a perfect way to admire where you are, to make contact with the locals, and get hydrated. When people make clear to slow down, do so and accept the offer, unless it ads too many kilogram to haul up the hill in front of you. When people ask you to stay the night, it means they want to help you, or treat you like a guest, maybe they like to have super special company; you. I was never embarrassed to eat loads of food and sleep long nights at people their homes. In return I am social and we share the most basic human skill: contact. Even if that is without understanding each other’s language. Take time out to interact and enjoy the luxury that someone is preparing food for you. Very often they are happy to do so and elated to see you enjoy it!
5. Stop and admire where you are.
By getting off your bicycle, turning around and gulping in where you actually are makes you feel much more alive. On the bicycle you often have to watch the road, the conditions on it or you might be checking the distance-meter (which I keep track off like I am in a race, damn it) or maybe you are annoyed over how steep and hard it all is. If you are with two people, you might want to keep up with the other and forget how beautiful it is where you are. Halt. Get off the bicycle and take that view in as if you drink the world: to truly admire Earth.
By getting off and away from the bicycle you are much more free and able to move around. If you don’t have a kickstand, find a sturdy branch. Having your hands free to feel the Earth and touch Nature.
6. One best way to unwind is… not to plan.
For how can you live an adventurous life full of surprises and switchbacks and different angles, if you plan? How can you open your mind, broaden your views, when you plan? How can you go with the flow if you have a plan? Imagine a fish planning to catch a particular fish in a flowing river? He can’t. Instead of planning, let it happen. Of course, when you have to take your visa limitations in mind, you need to plan a bit. In Kurdish Iraq I decided I would enjoy the hospitality of the people over cycling, and instead make very short days in the saddle. I would simplify the route and calculate how much kilometer I had to make each day to reach the border; that is planning indeed. Planning to make the most out of not having to structure my stay (= the length of the visa).
7. Avoid cycling fatigue (dodge occasional rests lasting too short).
You are living a life way more demanding than when you would not cycle. Life on a bicycle might look fabulous and magical and so it is, and that’s why it is draining you even more. When you are working in a regular job you don’t have to search for water and food, a safe place to set up your tent or to find cheap accommodation. When you live a regular life you don’t need to rely on your intuition when interacting with men who offer you a place to sleep. When you are working, you don’t have to navigate in a surrounding where you have never been before, you neither have to search for products, where back home you know where they are being sold.
For that reason, some familiar countries might make you feel at home. India for me is coming home, however hard it was to cycle there. I know exactly where to get aggarbati, gulab jamun, cheap paying guesthouses, curd and fried fish. California (USA) is remarkable fantastic too.
Do take long rests. Don’t think you haven’t enough time to fulfill your dream. It is either being stressed or relaxed enjoyment. I have found out rests of 4 weeks really get the mind and body reset. For example: as soon as I reached The Gambia I got annoyed by guys approaching me. Quite a few of those guys would be labelled ‘bumster’. They try to make friendship resulting in a love affair where you end up spending a lot of money. I was annoyed by the constant hassle of those guys. But after I stayed long enough in The Gambia I could comprehend their ways, I could see why that was a business for them and I found out that I could easily turn their approach to a joke we could both laugh with. So a long stay can turn your judgement and annoyance into something else, just because you are relaxed.
Long rests helps you with processing your thoughts and experiences. It helps you rethink and reflect, besides enjoying the new area where you are much more focused on beholding the details.
A blog might help to process your photos and thoughts too. I make many photo’s which I wouldn’t see ever again if not for the fact I am blogging.