Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Days until departure: 7-14
Both for the purposes of transparency and because I think it’s good to do, I want to outline my goals for this project. I thought about opening with the quote “Without a goal, you can’t score;” but, I don’t see goals as a way of scoring so much as a way of showing intent and providing direction. With most major projects, the goals tend to change as the project evolves, and you never end up “scoring” in the way you thought you would. It’s important to me that the project remain at least a little organic (maybe I should have opened with, “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”).

Without further ado or philosophizing, though, my goals are, currently:
  1. Meet people.
  2. Propagate humanity through music, dance, and storytelling.
  3. Learn and grow. Explore the unknown.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Don’t die.
A secondary goal, but one constantly in the back of my mind nonetheless, is, “how could I do this forever?” If I want to travel for a “long time” without learning how to hunt and gather, I will need to trade something of value for food (this “something” could be money, but it doesn’t have to be. There are other things people will trade for food). The real question I need to answer is: How do I add value to the world? And then, How do I add a lot of value to the world?

While many out there will glady exchange a meal for a story, not everyone will. I’d like to think that some marketable skill will be born out of this trip. I’ve thought about doing a travel advice column, but to be honest, that market is pretty saturated -- even if you go as specific as bicycle touring advice (I have come across at least three such individuals in the past few months, each more established than the next). Furthermore, while I am good at bicycle touring and no doubt have a fountain of knowledge to give on the topic, part of the joy of touring for me is figuring it out. I don’t think I would enjoy telling people the minutiae of touring because I don’t see beauty in the minutiae, I see beauty in the unknown, the organic evolution of vulnerable intention when it rubs up against reality, spontaneity, and chance.

Some columnists make their living by offering empathy (ex: Dear Sugar AKA Cheryl Strayed). I think that is close to what I want. Maybe I could be some sort of international mediator? But like, a less political one than a diplomat: I don’t want to interact with governments, I want to interact with people. On the other hand, politics has also been in the back of my mind. In terms of adding a lot of value to the world, politics, while perhaps not enticing in the day-to-day work, can be quite impactful. So like a… pseudo… diplomatic politician empathetic therapist guy! Who travels around the world and helps people be more compassionate towards each other! You can generate a constant source of food and healthcare doing that, right?

Not knowing what I’ll be doing in a year is a little frustrating, but it’s also a little exciting. There are things I want to do on this trip -- visit my sister in DC, for instance, make it to Europe, then Africa, and meet people along the way. But “make it to Europe” is intentionally rather vague, because while the unknown scares me, the unknown is where the magic happens. The scary and uncomfortable things are often the ones that grow us the most. They are the substance of the stories we’ll tell our kids. My grandfather was a great storyteller, and none of his stories began, “We had planned meticulously…” Most of those stories began with intention, but most were subject to the whims of fate and fancy. Some of his best stories began with no intention at all -- they worn born from the boredom of an idle, sunny Saturday, or a favor from a friend.

On a more concrete note, planning out my life five years in advance seems foolish. The last thing I did for five years was decided for me -- it was grade school:

I will be a different person in five years. I also have a deferral to matriculate to the University of Madison for Psychology in Fall 2018. I don’t have to take it, but it’s there. So it seems sensible to me to bike for a year and then decide if I want to quit. In a year, I’ll likely be in Africa. Maybe I’ll get there and realize bicycle touring is not what I thought it was. At that point, if I decide I want to quit and go to grad school, I’ll be okay with that. Psychology is a way to add value to the world. We can be compassionate wherever we are.

Maybe having that “out” will make me more likely to quit when the time comes. I don’t know. But I think it’s reasonable to say that my opinion about cycle touring will evolve as I do it. I haven’t ever done it for more than three months, 4,032 miles; if I go around the world as suggested, I would do 3-5 years and 20-40,000 miles. Maybe that won’t be as enjoyable. I just won’t know until I do it.

So rather than quotes about goals or being flexible, I think the one that most embodies this trip for me is props to Nike:

Life is short. Make it count.

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