I’ve been kicking these thoughts around in my head for a while now ever since I had a quick look at the long distance bicycle touring database. The thing that jumped out to me from that website is that I am your average cycle tourist, British, white and male. This shouldn’t surprise me, Jason Lewis succinctly sums up the fact that the majority of explorers and adventurers are white, male and from middle class backgrounds. We are the people who seem to have not only the drive but also the opportunity to travel and explore this globe.
However are we self-aware enough to realise the position of privilege we are in and also to deconstruct the drivers for those adventures? My future cycle tour will not be an exercise in self promotion. To be honest I know that I am far from gifted or special, I am just your average cycle tourist. In marketing terms I have no unique selling point to differentiate me from any other person travelling by bike. Which to be honest is totally fine with me. So I promise you the following three things:
1. I am not going to write a book specifically about my travels.
2. It is unlikely I will circumnavigate the globe, or even leave Europe for that matter.
3. I have no rigid rules for my trip.
So why am I going to make sure I update and write this blog whilst travelling if I don’t want to promote the activity I am doing? The answer is that I know people enjoy reading it and are interested in the adventures I have, plus I enjoy writing. I’ve been a writer since I was young, I enjoy the mental exercise of taking an idea, thought or experience and conveying it to paper. Writing has contributed the sum total of zero to my bank balance over the years yet it brings me immense pleasure. I therefore am a writer about to embark on a trip which could present stories and ideas worth money. Yet I have no aspiration to make a living from it, and there is a very real reason for that.
I am sick of the modern world.
My brain can’t comprehend it, and that has brought me on occasion to the point where I have felt life isn’t worth living. Yet again I hit that point this year and after climbing back out of that hole to somewhere mentally where I could think clearly I knew I had to hatch an escape plan. So here it is, I’m running away. I’m not playing the game any more. Now I know I can’t escape entirely but I can sit on the margins for as long as possible and use my privileged position to think of longer term plans and try to shape an alternative philosophy for living.
This is of course all personal and I don’t expect people to agree with me but I know I’m not alone in thinking that there is something fundamentally rotten in the state of Denmark. So I want to explore this continent that I was born a part of and investigate whether there actually is something rotten in Denmark or if there are flickers of light in the bleak reality of our current existence. I have been called a cynic and a pessimist in the past but the future isn’t rosy when you consider the impacts that inevitable resource depletion will have on our society. All empires fall and our current capitalist paradigm is no exception, I think we need to build something new rather than try to alter and shore up what is an inequitable and ultimately flawed system.
So one day I may write a book but it won’t be a blow by blow account of how I rode around Europe for a bit looking for answers and inspiration. I hope that it will be something that shows us a route out of this mess and gives some hope for the future. Sadly I’m probably not smart enough to write that book. However I know the practice of living in the day to day moment required when cycle touring will feed my soul more than participating in modern life ever has. My remuneration and reward is then happiness whilst I collect the memories and experiences which fuel the ideas that would possibly sit on those pages.
Maybe this is all pretentious bollocks. Just another manifestation of my generation Y identity crisis but I’ve carried the burden of these ideas around for a long time. My recent writing with regards to society isn’t that different to what I was writing in fanzine columns 12 years ago. Just hopefully more thought out and with less of the ‘angry young man’ syndrome that I know afflicts me on occasion. I’ve tried to squeeze myself into the round hole that I’m supposed to inhabit and to be honest I can’t.
So I’d like to raise a toast to sticking to your guns and honouring your principles. If that makes me unemployable and I end up starving to death on a mountain side somewhere, so be it. As it says on the back of my AHTBM cycling jersey, ‘I’d rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in’.