I Wish I Could Do That...
Every so often someone says to me, "I wish I could do what you're doing. Give up all my responsibilities, not a care in the world, just take off on an adventure whenever I want. Sounds like the life.”
That's true to an extent, but people forget a few things about adventuring, if they ever knew it at all. Think about giving up your favorite foods for a month. All of them. Try not sleeping in a bed for weeks at a time. Or how about never seeing your friends and family? You might not like wearing the same clothes every single day, washing them once a week, or taking a shower only about as often. And let me tell ya, plain oatmeal gets tiring after a while. I know people that can't put away their smartphone for 20 minutes, and they wish they could hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the burning deserts, the thunderstorms, the roaring headwinds, the equipment failures, the freezing nights, the saddle sores, the blisters, the mosquitoes, and the occasional angry dog.
Still wanna go?
Taking on a long-distance bike tour or backpacking trip - successfully - takes preparation and planning. Once you step off, dedication is paramount. One has to fix their own flat tires, replace their own broken spokes, treat their own wounds, cook their own meals (hey, I know people that can't), pitch their own tent, map their own route, and find their way when they get lost. And you have to find a way to keep yourself entertained, or you'll lose your mind. On a bike tour, you are your own mechanic, doctor, artist, chef, diplomat, bodyguard, engineer, guide, and orienteer. If you don't feel well or you're having a rough day, too bad. All the money in the world can't buy you anything in the middle of the woods in the Yukon. You're going to have to do the work to make your situation better. And you better know how.
At the same time, when someone says, "I wish I could do that," the first thing I think is, "You could. Why don't you?"
Let me let you in on a secret: It's not that hard.
Most people spend eight hours a day doing just one thing, or at least just one job. With that much practice, most people become average. A select few become exceptional, and a roughly equal number never get any good. Again, that's with eight hours of daily practice.
I typically exercise 1-3 hours per day. Sure, that may sound like a lot of exercise, but compared to how much time most people spend on some other skill, it doesn't stack up. If one wanted to get good at long-distance exercise, or anything else really, one would only have to make it maybe 1/4 as important as their job. It can be down on the list of priorities, but it at least has to register.
Once it becomes important to you, it gets easy. Dragging your behind out the door for a training ride isn't so hard when you have a reason or you make it a priority. The biggest reason most people don't is because it's not important enough to them. But to me, it is.
Growing up, I was frequently told to think about the long term, and when people said that, they meant college. I thought, "OK, but what about after that?" to which the response was, "Then you get a good job" (this turned out to be a whopper, as covered in another post). Again, I thought, "OK, but what about after that?"
I have never liked the idea that I would spend the vast majority of my life, ages 5 - 65-ish, working so I could enjoy only a few years at the end. The years when I'm too old to do all the things I previously gave up so I could earn money. In the very long term, I think what I'm doing is best. When my time is nearly up, I won't care how nice my kitchen is, nor what kind of car I used to drive. The life I'm choosing will make for better memories.
It's often only when it's too late that we appreciate what a miracle life truly is, and that our existence here is temporary and valuable. But as we go about our daily responsibilities, it's hard to think about that, and if you think about it too much, it can be hard to go on with your daily responsibilities. It would be great if we could hit pause while we figure out how to make the most of our precious few footsteps. I find myself wishing I had two lives, so I could use the first for practice and then fix all my mistakes the second time around.
If you can ride a bike, you can go on a bike tour. If you can walk, you can go backpacking. The more important you make it, the easier it will be. Anyone can do it.
I have to.