Being on a multi-year bike ride puts a lot of things in perspective, particularly how durable we humans are and how easy we have it in a lot of ways. Adherents to the Stoic philosophy often recommend that we all intentionally make our lives worse from time-to-time to remember what we can endure and be fortunate for how much we have. The ancients advised living on the street occasionally without warm clothing or travelling without shoes or eating less desirable food. I think this intentional reduction in the quality of life also increases our empathy for people that have less or are in less fortunate situations.
On the bike ride there are a few things that are significantly scarcer than they would be if we had a more traditional life, the most important of which are shelter, water, electricity, and food. Whenever I decide to turn on my computer I need to make sure I know that we have enough energy with us to keep our phones charged. The same goes for wireless data, I don’t want to dick around on Facebook too much or else I may not be able to work without incurring extra charges. Whenever we refill water we need to make sure we are confident that we will find more water sources before we run out. These are all things we keep track of on an almost subconscious level. We act thrifty with all our finite resources.
Shelter is the most difficult thing for us to know we will have. As we travel through Oklahoma right now there are not many campgrounds, or concentrations of people big enough for websites like WarmShowers.org or Couchsurfing.org to assist us. If you look at our route plan under shelter for the most of the next week it simply says “Offroad”. Offroad means we are going to try and find a place out of sight to set up our tent. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it isn’t. If we are in a place with lots of trees it is fairly easy to find shelter, but right now we are in farmland, which offers little protection from the elements or prying eyes.
Last night, for example, we ended up setting up a tent off a highway. Unfortunately, we were not out of sight and all night long we were woken up by cars driving by and stopping with their headlights directly on our tent. I’m sure we were a curious sight and nobody meant us any harm, but it made for a terrible nights sleep. Also, there is a certain level of increased stress when you are sleeping in random place and you may not be allowed there. It is very easy to accidentally trespass or to break some stupid law. Luckily, last night the worst thing that happened was nosy people.
I think there is a perception that my partner and I are partying or shirking responsibilities because we are travelling for a few years. This isn’t a vacation though, we face struggles and challenges just like everyone else. They are different struggles to be sure, but that doesn’t mean our lives are easy. There is nothing easy about denying yourselves the comforts that come from a stable home, but it is worth it for us. It is challenging but it has made us both aware of some of the strength we have inside, and how little we really need to live with in order to thrive and be happy.