04 Jun How Bike Touring Changed My Life
To say that bike touring has changed my life would be the biggest understatement ever. Just getting back on a bicycle had a significant impact. Losing about 30 lbs and dropping about 2-3 pant sizes says a lot about the physical accomplishments. But besides the physical changes, the bicycle provided several other enhancements to my life. Never has one activity had such positive effects to my life than getting on a bicycle. In addition to just bicycling, bike touring has also brought on several other life changing habits and realizations that I would like to share with you here in today’s post.
When I travel by bike, I may be vulnerable to the cars, but I am accessible to the person who is walking down the sidewalk or crossing the street. I am approachable and people can talk to me. When I stop at places to buy food, I strike up conversations. I connect with people because my touring bike is usually a great ice breaker. People almost always come up to ask where we are going or where we are coming from.
Even in our own little 2-wheel world, we think that bicycle tourists are everywhere, in everyday life, but in actuality, there are only a few of us (at least within urban Los Angeles). Being able to be open and friendly helps us in so many ways. We get directions, local tips, and sometimes make friends with people we meet on the fly. We learn that building a familiar community is what humans do. It is something we need to do to grow and thrive as a society. Realizing this made me less shy, and I am more outgoing than I ever was thanks to bike touring.
When you’re on a long trip and your day consists of eating, packing up camp, biking, eating, biking, setting up camp, eating, and sleeping, life is as simple as you can get. Why was life so complicated back at home? That was when I realized that I didn’t need these distractions. I didn’t need the television/radio/Facebook telling me what I should consume. I started to notice that I prefer a leaner lifestyle. That is, I wanted to own less things because if I am able to do that on my bike tour, why can’t I do the same in real-life?
Makes perfect sense to me.
What made my life more fulfilling was how I spent time with people I care for and not the stuff I accumulated. I slowly lost the desires to keep up with the Jones’ and need to constantly keep up with the trends. Whether it was the latest fashion, gadget, or gear updates, I really didn’t care anymore. As long as I find value with the stuff I own, and it provides me with the basic comforts in life, I am completely happy.
When you bike tour and go to a location which you never thought would have been possible without a car you do realize something: You don’t need to be tied to your car for every single trip. I use to think having a car was the ultimate way of being free. Having a car had changed my teenage life a long time ago, but what I didn’t realize was that this all had a price. A really big price and that is to the tune of $6000 on average spent on maintaining a car. Not to mention the reliance on fossil fuel to run your car. I realized relying on a limited natural resource was not sustainable, especially when I proved to myself that I could travel long distances without any problems.
This led me to sell my car a few years ago and becoming car free for about 2 years. I was only forced to buy a car when my father passed away, and I needed one to drive my mom to pick up groceries or gallons of water for her.
I have to admit, I have been using the car a lot more than I’d like, but I still prefer to travel by bike or public transit whenever possible. With the growing popularity of ride sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Side Car, it is making not having a car a lot easier. Maybe one of these days I can be car free again, but at least I learned that there are options to get around besides having your own car.
It has been a long time since I have had passion in my life. First time was when I was given my Nintendo system in the 80s. Everything I wanted was video game related. I subscribed to magazines about video games (Nintendo Power). I asked for video game accessories for gifts. That was all I talked about.
Second passion was collecting comic books and sports cards. I was fortunate to have an allowance from my dad at $10 a week. It wasn’t much, but it was primarily for lunch at school which was financially assisted because we were low-income but did not meet the free lunch requirement. At $.40 per lunch, you can see that I still had plenty left over. I used the remaining amount on buying comic books and sports cards. My collection grew to several boxes and stacks. I still have some around the house and find that it’s hard to get rid of these things when I’m purging. I’m going to have to as I don’t really need them anymore.
My third passion was when I was in college. I got into the University of California at Irvine as an Economics major. After taking classes for 2 years, I was completely lost and bored. Around this time, computers and the Internet was introduced to the student body. We didn’t have Internet access in our dorms. There were computer labs that were opened 24/7 for students to use. I became hooked on IRC chat and emailing. I begged my dad to buy me a computer and so he did. I immediately learned how to take it apart and upgrade the parts slowly. I eventually ended up changing my major to Information and Computer Science and graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree. It was because of this passion, I landed myself multiple jobs in technology after I graduated. Times were good, the dot-com era was booming until it was not. Even then, finding a job was not hard for me at all. With my skills and understanding of technology, it had defined me.
Why am I telling you this? Technology and computer systems has since lost its luster for me. Even though I managed an IT team to build custom applications for my company, it wasn’t exciting anymore. I stopped learning about computers, but started to dive into management. This was not interesting to me anymore and has led me to my next passion of bicycle and bike touring. This renewed interest has recharged my passion and direction. Bike touring has helped me overcome pivotal moments in my life. It has been my personal therapy and my road to recovering from depression, as mentioned before. Bike touring gave me purpose in my life when my life was spiraling out of control in 2012 – 2013. Losing my dad and a long-term relationship with my fiancée were 2 traumatic events which should have broken me. But because I turned to bike touring, I decided to take the steps of dedicating my time to pursue this new passion. I chose to reboot my life and leave my well-paying job. I chose to leave comfort and picked to have a meaningful life in pursuing something that has meaning for me. This has given me purpose and the direction that I needed. We’ll see what this leads to.
Finding Best Friends
I am fortunate to have friends from all phases of my life that I keep in touch with even without Facebook (although Facebook makes it much easier). I have friends who I went to elementary & middle school with, friends from high school, friends from college, and friends from each of my work places. While these friends have undoubtedly influenced and shaped me as a person, the friends I meet while biking or bike touring have a special place in my heart. People who bike are a special kind of people. They don’t care about your socioeconomic background, your race, or your age. Bicyclists accept you for you. This is especially true in bicycle touring where you form such tight bonds on the road. Bonds that keep you talking well after the trip is over because you shared those moments in time that will never be forgotten. Stories that will be told and recalled with wide smiles on our wrinkled faces.
Never have I’ve grown attached and loved a group of people in such a short period of time. If you ride a bike, you are cool with me. We might even be best friends soon.
If you haven’t figured it out, I absolutely love bicycling and bicycle touring. It is something I don’t think I will ever fall out of love with. I use the criteria of riding a bike to determine if the next person I date is suitable for me. My future partner will need to love bicycle and/or bicycle touring as much as I do. If you don’t, that is a deal breaker. It is as important as having kids or not (which I don’t want any). We can still be friends, but I don’t think you can make me change my mind about leaving bicycle touring. Not right now and probably not while I can still put my leg over a seat and pedal away. Even if I lose balance, it won’t stop me from riding a tricycle or even an e-Bike.
There are just too many benefits to ignore when it comes to bike touring. Too many things I want to see and explore on the bicycle. I can’t think of any other way better than a bicycle. Not a car and not by foot. So I warn you if you are thinking about embarking on this journey. You may get sucked in like I did and never come back. It may change your life as much as it has changed mine. Perhaps that’s a good thing!
Has bike touring changed your life? If so, share your story with me in the comments. I would enjoy reading about it there.