Cycle touring is all about ‘getting away from it’, solitude and isolation isn’t it? Having space and freedom to think. To reorganise your mind and dream of new things. That is true in so much as it is a journey by a slow means of transport so there are of course long periods of time spent with only yourself for company. However if you choose to explore somewhere that isn’t remote or uninhabited then it also includes interaction with other people and this can also be incredibly rewarding.
At roughly the half way point of my tour into France and Spain I’ve hit pause and will spend five nights (in two stays) in total in one place with the same people. Yesterday my hosts took me to a carnaval’ party. I had no idea what to expect but was really glad that it turned out to be a relaxed garden bbq rather than a street procession or party. It was a great opportunity to talk to lots of different people and learn about their lives, thoughts and feelings. It also highlighted two things to me.
Firstly conversations around what I intend to do at the end of my summer tour reminded me of how privileged I am. In reality touring for me is at a base level a hedonistic act. The Spanish people I spoke to were suprised at how easy I thought it would be to find a job when I returned from touring. The impression I get is that finding a job ‘post-crisis’ in Spain is hard. In the UK it is still in my experience easy to get a job even if it’s boring or monotonous and not a ‘career’ as such. However career to me is a dirty word and money is a means to an end. That post tour job will serve the purpose of funding my plans for 2016. Even if I can’t find a job I wouldn’t starve. Despite being unsure of my own personal position in a class system my parents are most definitely middle class. They are financially comfortable enough that I in theory always have them as a safety net for any adventurous leap I take.
So privilege allows me to travel and experience the wider world. It allows me to be ‘free’ and live my life how I wish to do so. The flip side to that coin is that I need to be aware of that and show humility. I need to make sure that when I can I give something back. I need to understand that I am privileged and so not to criticise those who are not, to think about words, thoughts and actions in a wider context.
The other thing that yesterday’s conversations highlighted is there has been a shift in my perspective. I am a ‘distance cyclist’, I’m not fast but I can ride a really long way if I want to. Thishas caused my perspective of distance and effort to shift. To me riding 50 or 60 miles in a day is normality and over 300 miles in a week doesn’t seem a big total. However I was talking to a friend of my host. He was telling me how Jose my host had written a book about his tour from Murcia to India and how incredible an achievement it was.
I had to stop and think about it. Four years of working with touring cyclists hearing their plans or past stories. Reading a number of books about cycle touring and now having ridden the length of two countries. That journey, Murcia to India almost seemed normal to me. It’s not, it’s a great achievement a big adventure. The conversation continued and we rapidly agreed that a someone’s personal perspective is important. Not in measuring the effort of others but in taking stock of your own achievements.
For some cycling 5 miles is hard and should be celebrated as much as travelling around the world by bike. Only you can really assess how much effort was required to meet the goal you set yourself and so using your own perspective see what you have achieved. For me to get to this point, 5 1/2 weeks and approx 1200 miles hasn’t been easy. There have been some tough times mentally and physically but it isn’t an ‘epic’ achievement. Based on my perspective on life it’s actually fairly normal, just a hedonistic way of enjoying the one life I have.