#29: roads and beacons

#29: roads and beacons

Published on October 2 2017

I’m back in the UK. This may come as a surprise to some of you.

A friend told me before I set off, “don’t go away and find yourself, it’s wanky”.

Sound advice. And with it in mind,

I thought about roads and beacons while riding.

Parts of our ride were defined by highways – the 3, the 1, the 17; others by geographical features – the shore of Lake Superior, the Niagara Escarpment, the St Lawrence; others by historical significance – the Route des Navigateurs, the Appalachian Range Route, the Acadian Coastal Drive.

Most days we had a town or area in mind as a destination, decided upon by being an acceptable distance away and a good likelihood of having a camp spot.

Sometimes we had brighter beacons to ride towards: friends in Calgary and Winnipeg, cabins in Lake Catastrophe and Whitefish Falls, Alex in Montreal, Alex and Camille in Quebec City. These fixed destinations provided good motivation to push harder on the miles.

But beyond these practicalities, the roads and destinations were arbitrary.

The east coast of Canada was the beacon guiding our whole ride, but Vancouver at the west and St John’s at the east are really just convenient bookends to a vast and varied country, itself the backdrop for unlimited experiences and reflections.

The thin line we took through Canada is such an arbitrary snapshot that definitive conclusions can’t be drawn from it. Experiences and interactions are the basis for our opinions of the country. And paradoxically the more I see, the more I realise there is to see and understand, and the bigger the gap between what I’ve seen and what there is to see grows. Exponentially.

This is motivating.

It is reminder that Canada will still be there, as will the people we met, and others just as wonderful. This is true of everywhere in the world.

It is also a reminder that the world is ever changing, and that what you see of a place is a fleeting glimpse. You can’t “do” a country, because as soon as you leave it will be different to how it was when you were there.

What you can do is open yourself up to beautiful and valuable interactions and experiences with the knowledge that if you return to the same place the experience will be different, and the knowledge that this different experience will have to potential to be equally (or more, or less) beautiful.

The ride itself appeals too. The road, and the lifestyle it allows for at least the amount of time you’re in it.

It’s the time to be filled with the things you choose, and spent in the places you choose. Usually beautiful.

It’s fulfilling needs as they arise, predictably and rarely urgently.

Any sources of stress are either very fleeting (angry dogs chasing you), or far enough away not to factor very heavily.

I feel like this pattern – a destination that is less important than the journey to get to it, and a journey that is defined by contentment, relaxation, enriching activities and good company – can be expanded out to life in general.

Defining your journey requires effort. On the road this is miles and aches and depleting finances. In wider life, it will be different.

But it seems worth it.

I feel like this is a seed germinating that was planted in my mind long ago. Hopefully not a wanky case of ‘finding myself’ on the road 😉