It's now been 3 weeks since I finished cycling. I'm not quite sure what it was that I'd hoped to achieve by this point in time, but an increased level of confusion and career-minded contemplations were certainly not it! Suffice to say the transition from daily pedaling to daily pondering has not gone quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. Upon returning I've felt like I haven't quite merged fully back into society yet - sometimes I'm more like the extra piece of lego at the bottom of the box after the toy has been assembled; useful perhaps, but not the correct fit. I am out of practice in this hectic, vocation driven world and it is not as easy as I once thought to find the right niche for me. People with much more experience than me warned that I'd feel a post-ride slump, and they were absolutely correct. However! After a couple of weeks of slightly aimless wonderings, I'm finally able to see the potential of the situation. The world is out there for us to make of it what we will, using the skills that we've been given. With this in mind, I've been thinking a little about what I've been able to extract so far from the experience of such a long distance cycle. Just as importantly, how can these factors fit into a more regular lifestyle?
1. Nothing happens without a bit of effort.
Sure, there's the success stories where people get what they want from life with minimal effort and a whole lotta luck. But for most of us, that isn't going to happen - we have to actively make it happen. I find this important to remember as I spend hours replying to emails, following up contacts and trawling through potential leads and ideas. I've discovered it's every bit as hard doing this as it was to force myself out of my tent and onto the bike even when the rain was pouring, snow was falling or I knew there was nothing on the road ahead apart from more unbridled misery (this is perhaps exaggerating a little!) But force myself out of bed I did, time after time, and eventually the effort and consistency of effort paid off.
"Much effort, much prosperity." - Euripides.
2. If something's gotta be done, then it's worth doing properly.
There's a lot of things that I should do right now that I simply just find incredibly boring (job application forms anyone?) But these things need to be done, and the eventual output quality is relative to the standard of work put in at the start. I've discovered that if I just accept that these need done and give 100% from the off they becomes easier, quicker and much less painful. When I was sick of cycling through horrible cities and along deadly roads I forced myself to make a list of why I was fortunate to even be there at all, and soon I was riding with a smile on my face and taking time to enjoy and appreciate the surroundings. It's the same logic for the 'real' world.
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Ralph Waldo Emerson
3.Mind over matter.
So what about those things that just can't be enjoyed? It's probably arguable as to whether anything really fits into this category but for me, I know that no matter how hard I try there are some things I just cannot embrace and 'do properly' as I suggested above. So what then? The most tedious task, the most unappealing activity or that extra bit of physical training at the end of a session can be overcome by nothing more complex than switching the brain into a different mode - I call it 'blissful ignorance' mode. Riding along monotonous roads for weeks at a time or up never-ending passes when I thought my legs would explode, I was only able to reach the end by forgetting about where I was and what I was doing, and transporting myself to somewhere else entirely. Usually a warm bed, or a nice restaurant stocked with all the food of my dreams!
Haruki Murakami has it right - "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
4. There is no prize for giving up.
I find it very easy to just give in and convince myself that it wasn't worth doing anyway. But that provides a certainty of no reward, and if it seemed like it was worth beginning in the first place, then there's a good chance it's worth finishing! I feel proud to have done all 14,000 miles of my trip without taking public transport (except for ocean crossings), but the temptation to give in and just catch a train or bus was always there waiting for me at the end of a bad day. If I had given in, I would have lost all the sense of achievement I now have.
"The best way out is always through" - Robert Frost
5. Just flippin' do it!
It's very easy to talk all day about what needs done and what might be the best way to do it etc etc. This achieves exactly nothing, so I've discovered! I will not get my book written, film edited or future expeditions sorted by telling my friends about them. I'm such a procrastinator that often I just have to physically lock myself in a room with what needs done and get rid of all the distractions. Sometimes during my ride I'd become far too comfortable on my days off, and keep extending the break for no good reason other than pure laziness - spending my precious budget on coffees and treats. My solution was to wake up at 5am, jump on the bike and ride off before I had a chance to second-guess the situation! I can recommend this method....
"Experience is the child of thought, and thought is the child of action." - Benjamin Disraeli
These are skills that I know I've learned and utilised on the road, and now it seems my task to make them work for me in London. There's no point in dishing out advice if you can't follow it yourself, and so I'll be actively bearing these in mind over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on the site for the results!