My wife and I recently completed a fairly long bike trip. What is considered “long” is, of course, open to debate but we were bike touring for over two months and for us, that seemed like quite a long time. It was long enough, in fact, that we learned lessons about our relationship and our lifestyle; lessons we probably never would have realized on a short jaunt around Stanley Park.
This bike tour involved cooking our own meals and sleeping in a tent for the whole two-month period. We experienced gusty winds, torrential rains, killer hail, days with a blazing hot sun, and nights with bone-chilling cold. And the mosquitos and black flies are a story of their own. We cycled up hills that never seemed to end and navigated roads that rattled our teeth. There were times when, hungry and thirsty, we would travel for hours looking for that lonely restaurant on our map only to find it closed when we got there. And there was considerable highway travel with trucks passing within inches of our handlebars and leaving a turbulent wake that threatened to either suck us under or blow us into a ditch. And this was just the fun part.
Actually, we did have fun. There was the serenity of cycling along a country road with little or no traffic, the scent of forests, flowers, and newly cultivated fields, the joy of seeing a wolf cross unperturbed in front of us, and the beauty of a pristine lake that shimmered as we passed. There were vistas around every corner and interesting friendly folks in every town we visited. At the end of the day there were spectacular sunsets, the comfort and safety of our little nylon home, and the sharing of our adventures and accomplishments of the day. We ate like lumberjacks and slept like babies .
We learned we could live quite comfortably in a 7’X 7′ tent, with sleeping bags and a blowup mattress. We could exist on simple meals and very few creature comforts. We had no radio and no TV and didn’t miss them for a second. We used free computers in town libraries to contact our family and friends. We could ride in the rain and stay warm and dry in our rain gear. We had flat tires and mechanical problems that slowed us down but never stopped our progress. We had times of intense thunder and lightening but always found shelter. In general, we felt self-sufficient, unencumbered, and free as the wind. It was the ultimate mental health break.
As a couple we learned to rely on one another as never before. We helped each other set up the tent, cook the meals, clean up, maintain the bikes, and do laundry. We governed our pace to enable us to stay together at all times. We took turns drafting behind each other to lessen the wind resistance and share the effort. We waited for one another when one of us needed a break. We shared our water and granola bars.
On this trip learned we could survive quite contentedly with very little. Our major concerns were the weather, our food and water, our bikes, our physical condition, and the ideal flat spot to pitch our tent. All our regular concerns about work, our lawn and garden, our families, and other normal responsibilities were, for the most part, temporarily shelved. Out of sight and out of mind. We felt like kids on the first day of summer holidays without a care in the world.
Leaving behind a comfortable lifestyle with all the amenities one could hope for is never easy. We had to step outside our comfort zone. We realized that complaining never helps anything and that we can be resourceful when the need arises. To stick it out when the going gets tough has its own rewards. But would we do a trip like that again? God willing and with good health we would do it again in a nano-second. Experiencing such freedom and personal growth was unexpected and we now appreciate how rare it really is. We are bonded more tightly as a couple and feel secure in knowing that our partner really is there when the need arises. A lot of lessons and a lot of memories will be with us for life.
Those wishing to learn more about our bike tour are invited to visit our travel blog at www.mytripjournal.com/rickjanBikeCanada2008.