Cycling in a First World Country

Writing is not my forte. I’m better at talking. I’m comfortable blurting out my thoughts and feelings (like a good external processor does) in general conversation but writing them down is harder. I think there is something more permanent about writing all that stuff down in a blog where other people can read it over and over and search engines might seek it out for years to come. Like if I write something down and change my mind about it later, it will live on forever as a representation of who or what I used to be. I don’t like to live in the past.

I’m not sure if any hesitation for sharing this trip via a blog is about wanting everything I lay my hands on to come out right and knowing that it probably won’t, even though I strive for it, or that people who don’t know me might find out things about me that aren’t really me putting my best foot forward. The sort of conversations you save for the tenth time you’ve hung out with someone or after you’ve logged over 300 miles with them in the backcountry. Like how I’m a pessimist that thinks the human race has already crossed the point of no return for being able to save the planet despite the efforts we are making or how I think multi-level marketing scams didn’t create their business model as much as they stole it from organized religion.

My father has had a sign in his workspace for as long as I can remember. It reads – “Homo Sapiens – Distributed throughout the world. The various races of mankind are found in all parts of the globe except certain uninhabitable areas. Because of his superior intellect,
Man has become dominant over all other life, but is the only species that allows the destruction of it’s own environment.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that sign in the last 6 years as I watched the energy companies flock to my home area in north central PA to use the process of hydro-fracturing to obtain natural gas. It pushed me to truly reconsider choices I was making everyday in my lifestyle and last year I finally decided I
needed to be free of my car. I know, my car didn’t run on natural gas (but you wouldn’t know it as far energy industry advertising campaigns go though) and while I don’t heat my soon to be un-apartment with gas, I do use electric which isn’t that much better and might be worse. Departing from the car was just a step, for me, in the right direction. It brought me closer to my bicycle which brings me so much closer to lots of other things I enjoy. The outdoors, exercise, the simple pleasure of propelling myself to my destination under my own power and PB&J sandwiches. It also brings me closer to road side trash, construction work, road kill and drivers who don’t understand why anyone would ride a bike.

While the upcoming trip is exciting and fresh and seems like it might fill my need for adventure there are still plenty of fears and stress that come along with it. I’m lying in bed at night thinking about how we’ll find places to sleep and what if the weather doesn’t get warmer soon? What will we do in the south when these super storms hit that seem to be a destructive, weekly presence in the new climate cycles for parts of the USA? What if it’s too hot and dry in other places? What if we spend too much money on food? What if the bike doesn’t work like I think it will? What if my jacket isn’t as waterproof as I want it to be? I do this for a couple of minutes and then ask myself “what if it isn’t/doesn’t/can’t/won’t?” Do those possibilities deter me from going on this journey? The answer is an easy “no.” but it has also made me realize that most of the concerns I have are brought about by my first world lifestyle that only someone who lives in a country like the US can worry about. I have had thoughts that the whole trip is a rather selfish undertaking. “Wow, I live in a free country and I can ride my expensive bike with my expensive stuff on well maintained roads and eat at restaurants and fruit stands all day, everyday”. If I get hot and I can go into most any gas station or grocery store for air conditioning. While I’m there I can choose from an exploding population of cold drinks, candy, snacks and ice cream. If it gets really bad (yeah, what is really bad exactly? waking up in a country where people might blow you up because you just happen to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time) I can even get a motel room and have a big fat bed to myself and order food and people will bring it to my door! I can access hospitals almost every 100 miles should I get hurt and there will be emergency services and vehicles and people trained to help me in these situations.

I’m not wishing I was from another country or location on the planet and I’m not saying I think we should all go back to doing it the hard way just because some people are still doing it the hard way. I’m just trying to put things into perspective for myself which helps me make decisions I feel good about and yes, they are very first world oriented. In the end I hope to meet people on this trip who will continue to help me put things into perspective. I guess I’m also really lucky that I got to pick which pair of the five pairs of shoes/boots I own to wear on this trip. I can only wear one pair at a time.

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8 thoughts on “Cycling in a First World Country

  1. You and Katie are just the best things your dad and I ever did. I am so proud to hear you thinking as I would wish a child of mine would think. Enjoy every minute of of this trip .Don’t worry. (I worry enough for both you and Hannah and probably about things you never thought to worry about.) Every thing that goes wrong will add to the adventure. Every time you get lost lost, you will find something you did not know you were looking for. And be thankful that you live in a first world country that allows you to undertake this kind of venture.

  2. Hey, Liz, I’ve enjoyed your candor. Yes, this is a “first world” adventure, but I’m sure it will be a worthwhile experience. Have you ever read William Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways”? This undertaking reminds me of that book. Also, “Travels with Charlie” by John Steinbeck. I love you and Hannah. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon and then reading about your travels.

    • I have read travels with Charlie…very long time ago. I should read it again. I’m not heard of Blue Highways but am looking for books to read during the trip. I will check it. looking forward to seeing you soon as well!

  3. I admire what both of you are doing. Yes, we are fortunate for the country in which we were born and have many luxuries that unfortunately many others throughout the world do not have. It’s humbling that you’re not only aware of this fact, but doing something about it. This journey is going to streghthen your views and enable you to teach others about your experience.

  4. You are actually a wonderful writer! But I totally understood the part about not wanting to make it so permanent. I have actually gone back and reread some journals I tried to keep when the kids were young and a few sentences I would not be proud to have committed to paper. But it was feelings or thoughts at the time so I guess it is valid forever in that sense. It is good you are having some concerns – shows you have some common sense which is in short supply it seems these days. But I work with dying patients every day and no one ever says they wish they had taken fewer chances or done less. I always say “would have, should have, and could have are the saddest words in the English language. ” We will enjoy your posts and please let us know if you need anything along the way. 1st world country makes it easy to mail supplies ahead or pay for items via charge etc. Health, happiness and love. Cilia

    • Thank you Cilia! We are truly lucky to have this opportunity and I hope we make the best of it, even the parts that don’t go that well. Thanks for following along!

  5. I hear you on the first-world perspective. The best I’ve found so far is that we should keep questioning, since if we think we’ve got it all figured out that’s the strongest clue that we’re missing something. (Simone de Beauvoir said that the ethical life is a battle that cannot be won, but it can be lost; one Buddhist koan goes, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Tomato, tomahto.) Thanks for putting your thoughts on this and your trip into words; it’s heartening to know you’re out there and to be able to follow your travels.

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