People tend to see what they expect to see.
When we travel through towns we are an oddity, particularly down here in the south. When people see us they make a lot of assumptions based on our appearance, and those assumptions can vary widely depending on where we are and what time of year it is. The assumptions are always wrong, the life we are living is something completely unknown to the vast majority of people. We are exploring a new paradigm of work and leisure and vacation that has only been possible for a small amount of people until the last 10 years or so, and it is still inaccessible (sadly) to most people.
Most people put us in one of three categories: vacationers, trust-fund babies, or unintionally homeless.
Vacationers: We haven’t had this one in a while due to the season. During the summer, particularly up north where cyclists are more common, people assumed we were on some sort of short term bike tour. They figured we had saved up some money to take a month off work and cycle across the country. While we are somewhat “vacationing”, we are also working each week and don’t have an end date like vacations do.
Trust-Fund Babies: This is a common assumption if people see our computers or recognize our bikes, and hear that we are travelling for a few years. They assume we have parents that are just covering our expenses and we are slacker millenials who won’t just accept their lot in life and get a fucking job. Unfortunately, we are not that at all. I come from a large family and have had a job since I was 13. The GI Bill (not my parents) helped pay for my college, but I still have a buttload of student loan debt. Anna is debt free right now her parents are in no way supporting her now. We are financially independent.
Unintentionally Homeless: We’ve been getting this one a lot lately. I think people in the south (well, at least in Texas and Louisiana) connect bike riding with transient homeless. I guess that kind of describes us, but it gets awkward when people try to give us money or food. We don’t need the support, but we generally accept it and just pay it forward down the road, accepting a gift is a good thing to do (see video below). I guess technically we are homeless, but our transient nature is an adventure and not out of financial necessity.
One of the big lessons from this bike ride has been to not judge a book by its cover. We are individuals whose lives are complex and deep, just looking at two people on bikes who haven’t showered in a week doesn’t give you the whole story. I am trying to take this lesson to heart, I am just as guilty of it as anyone else. All too often I will see someone driving a big RV or wearing a police uniform or some other surface attribute and I make assumptions about their lives and character. I need to change.