Why is someone on a long-term cycle journey?

Cycling is a way to enforce the simplicity in life X

Cycling is avoiding a ‘normal’ lifestyle

Cycling is filling up life

Cycling is an escape; reality-time will find you

Cycling is just being a lucky flower child

Annechien, 35 years, from the Netherlands. Traveled through 12 countries with a backpack for 15 months. Then she met cyclist John and he kindly demanded her to cycle with him. She did. They cycled 10.000 kilometers through 2 countries for 12 months.

October 2015, Australia. On our way from Perth to Melbourne we explored some of South of Western Australia. There were forests full of these tall trees with nice dirt roads to ride on.

Very early into the Australian trip, we were on our way to the Flinders Ranges (you can see them in the background), May 2014.

I got to know about Annechien through Facebook. Her expression and her comments made me very curious to this woman, she seemed purposeful, knowing and kind. It was her who initiated a meeting when we were both in the Netherlands. Annechien, John and I arrived at our bicycles while a bright sun shone and where we talked endlessly about life on a bicycle and travel in general.

Annechien and I met several more times where we found out we had, besides a natural bounding, a strong connection about worldly views and seemingly similar character. That is why I asked you for this Mirror View.

On our trip from Perth to Melbourne we stopped in Kimba, the place marked as halfway across Australia

October 2015, Australia. On our ride from Perth back to Melbourne we followed the coast of Western Australia for a bit. This photo is taken when we camped near the ocean and went for a walk on the beach.

When it is absolutely quiet. No music. No traffic. No flies. No electric appliances. Not cycling or doing something else. Not on a downhill. Not being busy with the computer. Not needing to do something nor have to. Not the moments before an activity. But when it is simply absolutely quiet. Maybe when you are bored…

A day rest in a stealthy camp surrounded by nothing but nature is suddenly seeing your thoughts. And how we are filling up our lives to such an extent we’re hardly ever quiet. Not even when we are in meditation, because often we set a certain time aside for an activity like this and are we occupied with the time gone by in the back of our minds, or how well we are doing our meditation, or how terrible we are at it. But when you have plenty of time and nothing to do, then you might be able to see what life is about.

Often we are tainting, blurring, complicating and filling life up. Absolute quietness is not easy. It is confronting. It is believable when on the right track. How many of us are led by what society, culture and parents have taught us? But if one is absolutely honest to one self, what do you see?

October 2015, Australia. For John’s 40th birthday we went on a 3-day canoe trip on the Glenelg river. We took everything we needed with us in the canoe and slept on the river bank.

1) Truth to be told, I know nothing I would choose over cycling and the lifestyle that comes with it. So far there is nothing in the world that makes me more happy, satisfied and amazed. I often am overruled by joy. It suits my character. It fulfills most of my needs. Yet, I feel I am not doing something meaningful, unless being happy and feeding the core-being is enough?

Is it the urge, the curiosity and the possibility to experience total silence, absolute lonesomeness and being fully in nature that one cycles through hostile nature? Cycling in the high mountains is for fools. A normal being doesn’t do such thing. Everyone who cycles like I do is nonstandard. Unless it’s a holiday. It leads to nothing concrete, nothing touchable. This lifestyle I prefer is not passed on by my ancestors. The curiosity of what lays ahead, around the bend, the endless sameness, the openness, pulls me. Thát is the hand that pushes me. But still, it is useless. I am not being part of society, nor haven’t I made a vocation of what I love doing and where I could be helpful to others. So, what is life about actually?

Annechien: I am not even sure how much I like cycling. I mean, when John and I cycled through Australia and The Netherlands we started on two completely different levels: John had been riding for 13 months, was fit and used to the lifestyle and I hopped on a touring bike for the very first time, not even having camped for real before! I ended up liking it, loving it even, and am looking forward to hopping on the bikes again in 1 months’ time. But I am curious to know what I will think of it now; I have been back in The Netherlands for 18 months, have lived a “normal” life, am craving for a more basic lifestyle (may that by cycling or not) and John and I will start with the same unfitness. I am craving for that time spending outside, being connected with nature, the weather, sunrise and sunset, animals. For the past 18 months I have been doing something “meaningful”. Well, something that other people say is meaningful: I had a job in my field and I enjoyed it to a certain extend. But where does that get me? How meaningful is that in the end, when you compare things? My boss keeps saying that one day he would love to make a trip to Austria and trek from hut to hut. But he’s too busy. With what? Things that are meaningful? What is meaningful….

A campsite at the Nullarbor Plain with the ocean in the back ground. Amazing campsites are to be found on the plain, too many spots to choose from. June 2014

2) I often ask myself the question: ‘Is what I do useful?’ Then I compare myself with a woman who raises her child, a mom, and in my opinion there is nothing useful in that either. Or, seeing it the other way around, that is the most important thing to do: dedication. It is all focused around the self, based on an inner call (I may hope so). Raising a child is like a drop of water in an ocean, billions of children on Earth but the goal, hopefully, is to focus on a greater whole, on a centered self, ideally seen. Be it building a complicated artwork, wood carving, cycling, selfless help to others, raising a child or writing a book.

Isn’t it a natural occurrence to question ourselves about life? Or perhaps an insightful gaining, a richness to ask whether what we do make sense? The goal of life could be ‘growth’, and must growth always result in tangible success? Is self-realization and materialization of dreams not as important? To understand the source, that what life actually is. Cycling fulfills in all of this but it keeps being ‘useless’. It leads to nothing touchable except self understanding, it only cost money and it doesn’t pay me any cash. But then, what profit is to get from raising a child, or building a business? Perhaps as much.

Annechien: I only wonder every now and then if what I do matters, is useful. I have always tried to listen to myself and tried to do what it is that I wanted to do. My bucket list is not very long: when I know I want to do something, I will (if possible). So the use in my life has always been: to be as happy as possible. Now I have come to an age where I do wonder if what I am doing is useful in the bigger picture. I’d like to think that I can “touch” a lot of people with my energy and outlook on life so that I change their lives. I think it will be easier to teach a child about life when not being its mother because a child will always rebel against their parents at some point and what you, as a parent, worked so hard for to have you kid understand, will be thrown away just because that’s the way things go in nature.

I’d like to think that I can make a difference to people who let me make a difference in their lives. But if that matters in the bigger picture? I don’t know.

A short break near a river while riding dirt roads in the South of Western Australia. September 2014

3) There are those moments of clarity. I call it shifting of the clouds, and when that happens I can see it doesn’t matter anything at all. Whatever I do is good. Because what I do now is exactly what I should do, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. It feels that what I am doing leads me further on the ‘big road’, the main flow of life.

Do you notice that by taking a side step, like trying to deviate from cycling, in order to speed up the ideas formed in your mind, ideas leading you on towards a bigger dream, are sometimes steps taken too fast or wrong side tracks. These side steps are good learning processes, they let you feel that what you have chosen to do is what you love most. Whether it be cycling, healing, singing, feeding the soil or focusing on the lesser fortunate on Earth.

Annechien: I think the most important thing in life is to listen to yourself and ACT ON IT. Enough people know what they should do, feel in their core what the next step should be but are afraid of taking that step. Sometimes it is not possible to follow your heart’s desires and I am very fortunate to have been born into this life where opportunities surround me. I sometimes struggle with the thought if what I am doing is selfish and if I shouldn’t work till my pension, like everybody else does. But then I think that what I am doing (following my heart, trying to make the most of life) is the best way of saying thank you to all the people who have fought for the freedom and opportunities of my generation. Staying in one spot, working in the one job for my whole adult lifetime is a slap in the face to the generations who have lived before me.

Besides, when I am not surrounded by Western society, I do not have these thoughts and my inner voice speaks loud and clear and I know where to go or what to do.

Riding dirt roads in the South of Western Australia. September 2014

4) Cycling is about carrying out the basic elements and about feeling what simplicity gives us. Cycling is time-consuming and therefore an easily filled-up lifestyle. Will I take away boiling water, cooking food, finding a place to camp, deciding the route and locate shops, markets and water sources, I save much time.

But what am I going to do with that time? The main goal of cycling for me is to lead a simple life, with basic needs and plain skills to move through. I want to dissolve all that is disturbing me from the need to be grounded. For many people this is called an escape, and I bet you it is! Who would voluntary seek complexity, difficulty and drama? Most of us, indeed. Usually we are doing something we need to do, and which we do not look forward in doing so. Instead of waking up and praise a new day with a beaming smile on our faces, we look forward to the next holiday, or the weekend. This gives one handles to grip onto. Life moves fast, on to the next vacation; but what if there is no next? Can life not be a continuity of contemplation, happiness and adventure, a life were we need not to do more than we actually need to?

Annechien: Is going cycling an escape or is our complex world the true escape? When you are busy with your schedule, always pushing to gain time somewhere so you are able to squish in another activity, isn’t that an escape from being quiet, listening to yourself, being in touch with your feelings and emotions? I beg to differ that cycling or living any simple lifestyle is escaping more than our “normal” lifestyle is. Too many people are not able to deal with themselves or the world around them, why do you think there is so much resistance when people meditate for the first time? They want distraction from whatever it is that they are feeling or thinking.

At the moment I am living in a little shack near a lake. It is quite basic: I cook on gas from bottles and have no central heating. To get the place warm, I need to get a wood fire going.

Generally, when we come home from work, having been busy in our minds all day, we seek relaxation in television, laptops, tablets or music. When I come home, I change into different clothes and take my time to get the fire going: I chop kindling, gather twigs and branches, empty the stove from ashes, gently pile up newspaper and wood and light the fire. It instantly removes me from what I have been doing all day. I find comfort, relaxation in doing basic chores like lighting the fire, washing dishes, cooking a meal. I don’t know what it is but it feels more real, to busy myself with the basic needs of life. That is what I appreciate in cycling too. At the moment, when I wake up I already have 20 things on my to do list. From cleaning the house to writing work emails or planning meetings. When I hop on the bike again in 1 month time, I will only have 3 things on my to do list: food, water and where to sleep. So simple. So pure.

A very spacious camping spot with a camp fire. July 2014

5) Back hundreds of years ago a person was dedicated to one task in life. He or she would be perfecting one skill, wave a fishing-net or build a boat. Nowadays we are busy with 56 things in a day. We don’t focus on basic elements anymore. No clay pot to decorate or sculpture to create, no endless ceremony for the death, no years devoted to one painting, a lifetime to oneself or a masterpiece building.

It exist but in the Western world it is looked upon as non-essential or meaningless by many. You may get away with it if you are successful or have a ‘normal life’ as well. Being dedicated to one single element is refreshing, it calms the mind and leads to clarity. But it seems humans are not so interested in that, more in making things complicated and trying to smooth the complexities out. Of course, one need to make a living and in the Western part of the world it is almost impossible to make money without those complexities. Do you feel your seriousness for cycling might be a focus for your life goal, even though you might not know where you are ending up?

Annechien: For me cycling means balancing out my life. I have come to realize I can fit into different lifestyles quite easily. That doesn’t mean I enjoy them all but when I am living in the Western world, I quickly become used to, and part of, the complex world of planning, spending money, keeping up with a social life etc. Some parts of that world I enjoy, but I miss the balance. I found that focusing on one thing can balance it out but I have also realized that, once living in the Western world for a while, being surrounded by input all the time, it is hard to focus on one thing for a certain period of time.

I have no idea what my life goal is, all I try to do is focus on what feels right at the time. I am sure that at some point in life, things will become clear and I may find a goal to focus on. Maybe for a while, maybe for a lifetime.

On our way from Adelaide to Perth, my first ever trial on the bike! A mere 3000 km trial. And it went very well! June 2014

6) Society has us wanting to work, life a grown-up lifestyle and pay taxes. The way I lead my life is for quite some people a holiday, simply because I don’t work that much. In my opinion life is about doing what you want and being truly happy in doing so.

Sometimes I would like to lead a ‘normal’ life, still doing what I do now but shaped around daily regularity without being on the move each day. Sometimes I would like not to walk away from society and the world how most of us experience it. Sometimes I would like to be part of a community without losing the way I experience the world at this moment. But how? I don’t know because that means automatic accepting all I dislike: bills, forms, payments, insurances, and responsibility. Many of us lead their life in a way I absolutely disfavor, it is laid down by big holdings who get better through it. Aren’t we just too molded by society?

Annechien: We definitely are molded by society. When we are born, we accept the world because that is how we know it. We don’t question it, our parents don’t question it, our teachers don’t question it. We just accept and believe what is already there.

I have been talking with friends about starting a community. I don’t know if that is the way to go, but it shows that we are looking for something that is not part of “normal” society, where you can have a lifestyle that suits you without being smothered by what we call normal. I don’t know how we can realize that but I do know what you mean and wish I knew the answer.

First time crossing the Nullarbor Plain. June 2014

7) For me I can clearly say cycling is a way of avoiding to work, avert leading the lifestyle which is common back in the Netherlands. I am not at all lazy nor unmotivated but I do not want to be occupied with social codes, a strict regiment and a predictable agenda. Sometimes I think I am born in a country I am not at my best; the easiness, a spiritual woof, sunlight and day-by-day state of mind fits me better.

I am still trying to find out how I could earn a living with what I am doing and what I love most, without losing the focal point; being centered in Nature. If the world was still based around simplicity instead of evolution concerned technology, fastness and the unnatural, I might fit in more without loosing touch. Yet, while I feel a professional activity is a missing part, I also acknowledge that what I am doing and where I am, where ever I am and whatever I am doing, is exactly the right thing. Especially at this moment, cycling in the vast emptiness of natural abundance of South America, my mind ánd body are in balance and content. They both meet on an equal level. Is it our brain that needs more?

Annechien: I wondered the same. At the end of my 3 year trip, John and I were living in Australia. I felt the need to “feed” my brain with challenges that I couldn’t find while traveling; professional challenges. But is it the brain or the ego that asks for that? Do we want a challenge so that someone else can tell us we did a great job at solving it? Or is it purely for our own growth?

I felt the need to go back to a job I liked in the past. I found one at a very nice company, it really was the job I had hoped to find. I had my challenges, settled in nicely, earned some money and was living a “normal” lifestyle again. But, my mind and body were not happy. My body was aching because of all the stress that I was experiencing due to the challenges I thought I was looking for and my mind couldn’t cope with all the new information day in day out. As much as I enjoyed the job, I was completely out of balance. But when I travel for a long time, I also feel out of balance… I haven’t found the answer yet. I hope I will find a job that suits me someday. Or something else to focus on.

Polda Station, Australia, July 2015. John and I helped out on the sheep station of John’s brother for a few weeks. On our trip through Australia we pulled into this place a couple of times and helped out on the farm.

While visiting the Netherlands we did some riding there. Here we are at Zaanse Schans. March 2015

8) Don’t you think we have the life we lead because this is what connects us most to what we need, or have been, or are connected with, or must do in order to feel truly happy and content? Is living by heart not leading to the lifestyle we need? Or is it really avoiding something we do not want (work which only generates money)? Is it closing the eyes for the future economically wise?

Are we modern hippies, with a communal ideology perhaps? Are we just lucky to be able to do this, and to have the mindset to do it? Are we people from the ’70/’80 who have their bed spread by parents who wanted the best for their child. Parents who paved the emancipation-road for women like us. Is it because we have a free choice, whether we want children and tie ourselves, or not. Or are we just free enough to go for the taste we already have experienced?

Annechien: I agree that we are born in a world where our parents have paved the way and I feel that we have to try and live up to all our possibilities. The past generations have worked hard for the world that we are living in now, with all the good and the bad in it.

The “problem” is that we do have too many options. We were born into the Western world, which makes us lucky in a way. We don’t have to worry about money, we have the option to go to university and get a degree, we can choose to have children or not, we can buy a house to our liking; we can create the life we want. Which is scary in a sense. It is too big to grasp and yet we are held back by society; when you buy a house you need a job, the media talks only about security and fear and that is what we base our decisions on.

Hundreds of year ago, explorers hopped on a boat to sail across the ocean to explore new lands. They could fall off the planet, or get lost, starve, find hostile tribes, but they went anyway. Now we think we know everything about every spot on the planet, but all that is put in our heads is fear and no one goes out and explore anymore.

We think we are free to choose but in reality most choices are made for us and we are only able to move within the boundaries that are created by others.

2 responses to “Why is someone on a long-term cycle journey?

  1. Hi Cindy,
    Thank you so much for making the effort of writing about this topic and sharing it with the rest of us.
    Both your views resonate deeply with me and I write this on my last day of cycling around Iceland, the most extreme country (weather and crazy traffic) I have cycled in by far! Where fantastic wild camp spots and awe inspiring nature must sadly share the country with disneyworld like tourism where people zoom around the country in rental cars and busses that leave almost no place on the limited roads for a “lowly” cyclist. Leaving me with lots of moments questioning myself why do I like to explore (in my case European ) countries on a bicycle? My answer nothing makes me more happy than the simplicity of life on a bike. My anxieties and fears of everyday life melt away and dare I say it, it is the only then that I feel open and connected the world as I should be. Now going back home where I try to find balance in combining work, paying of the house, worrying about pension, dealing with family, friends, colleagues and people in general who really don’t understand why I can’t be satisfied after what they see as to many vacations and what I consider life worth living and never enough?
    Reading both your views is like finding kindred spirits.
    Again thanks,
    Saskia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Saskia,

      Thank you SO much for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate that.

      First: I was planning on going to Iceland before I would set off to South America. but I decided not to go to Iceland as the tourist industry put me off. Although there is still plenty of land for a person who loves solitude, I did not want to see busses with people taking selfie’s all the time!

      I think I made a wise decision, as here in the Atacama desert and much of the Ruta 40 in Argentina is exactly what I needed. I feel very much where I belong.

      I know that I am avoiding responsibility, and facing the harder world of reality where one need to fit in, work and be present at fixed times. And I don’t care. I love what I am doing and feel so happy and light hearted, just as you described it.

      It is funny that many people see this as a holiday indeed. But when I answer ‘I don’t know?’ when they ask me when I stop, they usually give me big fat thumbs up! But the people in Argentina and Chile do have a different mindset still.

      When I am in a supermarket and feel the usual sad atmosphere, I also think: ‘Why am I here and not at home?’ This feeling arise from the negative atmosphere of an inside environment, and once outside, it totally fades away and like you, the answer comes at once.

      Thank you for replying.
      Cindy

      Like

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