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Reality and Covering It Up

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To post or not to post? I read my pal Andy’s blog post and could relate – it acted as a catalyst and a realisation that, for the last month or so, the content that has been published on this blog has been covering up the reality to avoid negativity. It’s easier to be positive if you just focus on what’s been happening in front of your eyes instead of behind them. And who wants to read a negative post, really? There’s enough negativity in the world without yet another blog joining the bandwagon. But covering up the truth in fake positivity is  disengaging and it’s see-through. And maybe writing this stuff down will be therapeutic.

There’s been emails from people saying things like “Savour every moment”, and “You’re living my dream!”. And I just think about how ghetto it is, or the hour every night spent finding a place to sleep. Waking up in lay-by’s and carparks day after day, week after week, is not something to savour.

It isn’t glamorous, and there are times when I sit on the grass in the morning, looking at the bike with resentment. Why did I sign up for this?

In retrospect I’ll look back on this as ‘living the dream’, for sure. There are times now that I look back on with such fondness. It’s been one of the best periods of my life. No doubt. A bike ride across a continent and a trip that has brought me together with people who I’ve looked up to and taken inspiration from for years. Pinch-me, how-on-earth-did-this-happen moments.

But it can be so draining, demoralising and depressing, even when you’re in the most amazing areas. And there’s times when I think about those emails and think, it should be them doing this, not me. I’m a fraud and they’re not. They’d wake up stoked about pedaling all day, whereas I go through phases of waking up with dread. What’s the point in yet more days in the saddle? The tough parts are pedaling every day to get anywhere, and having to find a new place to sleep, dry out, wash and escape the rain, every single day. That quickly adds up.

I always looked at ‘adventurers’ with a hint of annoyance. They’d use terms like ‘quest’ and publish ‘memoirs’ about their time away. It would often hum of pretension and schmuck, and in more-than-a-few cases I got the feeling that their adventures were more about public speaking gigs than the actual experience. Even now, when somebody refers to themselves as an adventurer it makes me shudder. I’d read the blogs, and just didn’t buy it. Wasn’t this just hyperbole designed to appeal to a reality TV audience who didn’t know any better?

They’d talk about how mentally tough it had been, and I’d think, hang on a minute, you’re rowing across an ocean in a boat with a Sat Phone and pinpoint navigation, all you do is row, it can’t be that hard. Get-bloody-on-with-it or stop complaining and quit if you don’t want to be there.

The real adventurers were those who operated under the radar – they’d sail to uncharted lands at a time before GPS, flares and helicopter rescue, or escape from a prisoner of war camp and walk for a year through the jungle, battling anacondas and avoiding the arrows of tribesmen. The explorers who fought pirates with swords. They were heroes, rather than self-branded, media-savvy “adventurers”. And they got on with it rather than purposefully trying to grow an audience by telling everyone how epic it was. I thought that in a modern and connected world, adventure was nearly impossible to find.

And then I set off on this trip and my opinion didn’t change. If anything it was reinforced for the first few months. It wasn’t hard. It was sore but never unbearable. You’re connected almost everywhere. And then after a while, slowly my opinion did start to change.

It’s not the physical side that makes a hardcore adventure. You don’t have to walk through the jungle for 18 months or fight pirates. It’s 100% mental and unique to each person. It’s the toll of time, not the toll on your body. Overcoming the demons that grow in your head and scream at you to stop. It’s like athleticism in that respect. It’s arduous. The best athletes are the ones who do their time, push through it and put in the 10,000 hours. Results don’t come from a single race. But committing to that time is an intimidating thing, even after nine months.

My subconcious constantly asks “what’s the point of what you’re doing?” It’s ignoring that question, or trying to answer it, that’s challenging. It’s keeping going.

It’s this weird way of life where nothing is moderate. It’s great or it’s shit. Rarely it’s in between. Honestly, there’s no place I’d rather be most of the time. I feel a sick and twisted attraction to the mental game. But at the same time, sometimes it’s the polar opposite of enjoyable. That’s strange and full of hypocrisies, I know, but it seems to be the curse of movement, the road, and living a stripped down life that at the moment is literally strapped to a set of wheels. There are no sides – I love it and hate it at the same time.

This project has totally changed how I view adventure – it is real. And if it is mental, then this is most certainly a really wild adventure. But it’s still not a quest, ok?




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22 comments on this post

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Boab says:

    Well said…
    I think many people don’t get it because they haven’t ever done anything similar in their lives.

    • Dave says:

      It’s amazing, and if people are thinking of something similar I’d 100% recommend it. It’s just nice to vent every now and then when it all adds up, huh? Healthy I think too. Hope you could relate – if anyone gets the perils of long-term bicycle travel it’s you! ;)

  3. Isaac says:

    Hey Dave!!! I miss you bro!!!

    Your post rings a lot of bells for me. YOU are the one that inspired ME to get all my touring shit together and just go. I have been on three tours so far this year… not long one but they still count and I owe this love for touring to you!

    Granted months and months touring is something different but recently I just got back from a 250 mile four day solo tour and that was the first time I ever stealth camped which was the best damn sleep I ever got by the way. But yes, those mental games play on you and and wonder what the hell is going on. Its all those times that are behind the scene that people do not see. Escaping from the rain, dehydration, sweating at night because its so fucking humid and hot out. Yes, those are those times that are tough but you learn so much about yourself as a person. Love that aspect of it.

    I miss you bro!!!

    • Dave says:

      Cheers for this Isaac. Super psyched that you’re digging the touring thing. It definitely has it’s challenges but as you say you do learn so much about yourself and others along the way. That’s the best part. I love it, it’s totally worthwhile, it just adds up sometimes and writing it down seems to help. Hope you’ve got some fun trips in the works. Hey are you doing that NYC ride again this year and if so when are the dates?

      Will shoot you an email soon. Say hey to Sarah!

  4. Jim Evans says:

    Hi Dave,
    I particularly liked this post.
    One thought that flashed back to me as I read, came from resent BBC research into ‘Happiness’. Interestingly there appears to be a negative correlation between ‘Happiness’ and ‘Goals’. It sounded counter intuitive to me at first but it would seem that ‘Goals’ are perceived as a target to attain happiness i.e. the notion that a goal will bring about happiness.

    Your writing had me playing with thoughts about adventure, seeking adventure, the pursuit of adventure verses an adventure finding you. I similarly became cynical about ‘adventurers’ in a modern world; one reason I became disengaged with a climbing culture that seemed more driven by media, branding, image, formulaic ‘professionals’.

    ‘Tek care, lambs ont’ road.’

    Jim

  5. Celia says:

    Hi Dave – thanks for this post and for sharing the conflicting emotions that you’re facing. Hopefully writing them down will have a cathartic effect. I’m hoping the positive vibes you’ll inevitably get from the people reading your blog will help raise your spirits.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Celia – hope you enjoyed it. It definitely did have a cathartic effect – the last few days have been a huge improvement. Cheers!

  6. DJ says:

    Hi Dave — Thanks for the honesty. We all up days (weeks) and down days (weeks). Have done sleuth camping when I was a lot younger though my trip s were typically only 7 to 10 days. I can still picture sleuth camping now and again. However the thought of having to sleuth camp for months on end in a a new place almost everyday is not appealing. For me it probably would get old after 2 or 3 weeks. Amazing how long you have been doing it.

    I have followed your journey since the beginning and I would say you are mentally tough. You have handled all the mechanical breakdowns, chains breaking, spokes breaking, wheel replacement a lot better then I would have. I enjoy traveling on my own though I can’t imagine cycling around North America alone. I have cycled 5 weeks with friends. Doing that same trip alone would have been a lot tougher and mentally challenging.

    Hang in there you are on the final leg. A hot shower and a bed always does wonders for my mental state ;)

    DJ

    P.S. Your trip is inspiring others. It is shifting others in their thoughts and outlook of the world even if they never get on a bike.

    • Dave says:

      Hi DJ. Thanks for this. The stealth camping adds up for sure, and you’re right about the hot shower and bed. Those two things totally change your mood. The solo vs group thing is quite interesting. They’re both very worthwhile – the group is more fun, but solo teaches you more as it’s just you dealing with problems. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Gill Longway says:

    Hi Dave

    It’s been good to get an insight in to how you’re feeling and I imagine everyone reading will have been touched by what you’ve said and will understand your conflicting thoughts. As DJ says you’re on the last leg now and once you finish I bet you’ll look back on even the worst days and moments with a certain fondness.

    Take care and stay safe.

    Gill

    • Dave says:

      Hi Gill, You’re right – it’s all perspective. In retrospect and when all is said and done it will all be a happy memory I’m sure.

  8. James says:

    In a word ‘Yoga’. My adventure is not as arduous as yours but it still brings with it plenty of ‘mind’ games, and i’m certainly on a mental adventure, spending lots of time alone too.
    Yoga has been the 1 spiritual thing that I have spoke/read about that actually seems to make sense, develops with time and is not connected to a certain religion.
    There are many points, but check out the ‘yoga sutra’s’: little gems.It keeps you fit too which is a great bonus.

    We as humans are lucky to have intelligence, but sadly it can also lead to mental torture too, but its good to remember that its all in our heads. My wondering has led me to these (and more)

    1. Be nice to others and treat everyone as equals (share & let others know you love them, esp friends & family as they matter most)
    2. Keep healthy and rested so we can stay positive – hard part
    3. Enjoy the moment as much as possible and keep track of all that is good

    In conclusion: Be good to yourself, be great to others and appreciate the amazing world we live in.

    Looking forward to meeting you again man and would be cool to hook up for an ‘adventure’ ;)
    J

    • Dave says:

      Ta for this J. Yeah the time in your own head thing is tricky isn’t it?

      They’re great points. Keeping perspective can be hard sometimes but it’s definitely one of the most important things.

      Your adventure is so rad. Proper Captain Hook stuff. [for anyone reading James is living on a tropical island in Tonga and swimming with whales – http://www.juplar.com] Just checked in to your site – look forward to update and seeing what’s been going on. Hope last few weeks have been ace.

  9. Eiljah says:

    Hi There,

    I was on the road for 5 years on and off, and I can resonate with your sentiments. I feel like my experience at first WAS glamorous, but as days turned to months, dread with the theme. I felt like the eyes that would gaze at me only saw the dirt that stuck to my gear and clothes, and my conversations started to become a depressing story of meaningless wanderlust. All in all, I would say that if I were to take on some more touring in the future, it would have to be with a group, and not too extended; maybe across the country at best.

    My heart goes out to you, and I hope that meaningful thoughts, and compassionate actions arise in your journey. Extended isolation is trying, to say the least.

    Realistically,
    Elijah

  10. Tony Smith says:

    This writing is good, your observations I believe are real and true. I have done enough hiking in the back to know the mental game. I also understand the mental game sufficiently to know that you are very strong in many ways. Thanks for sharing.

    From Charleston SC; been following you since beginning.

  11. Menno Dekhuyzen says:

    Hello Mark,

    I am very curious about the knee problems And what made them disapear?!

    Also I do read your blog with great interest!

    Whenever you have an extended trip like you are having now,
    there are always ups and downs!

    I do read a lot of blogs And they all have these issues after a while!

    Why not write about this issue!

    I think it Will show the whole picture, not only the fun part!

    I did a 6 months Cycling tour in 2008. Party together with others, party On my own.
    I did experienced the Same dip others had!
    On the whole, this was a trip of a lifetime!
    I would never wanted to have missed it!
    (I started in Atlanta going along the coast to Virginia Yorktown. There we started the TransAm followed by going north, alone, to Canada. Here I followed part of the kettle valley trail over the Rockies where I “did” the Icefield Parkway to Jasper. Here I did take the train to Toronto where I continued towards the East coast, great great great!)

    The less exciting parts (Kansas) belong to the trip as well as the most beautiful parts (like the Icefield Parkway)!

    Keep the blogs coming! I love them!

    All the best,

    Menno

  12. Bill Maylone says:

    Hey Dave, Great Vent! Now I’m trying to figure out what its all about. At first you sounded ready to bag the whole thing, then it sounded like what your doing is just a blip in comparison to other adventurers. The end sounded like a reconciliation of the last nine months of madness.
    But then again, it sounds like the mental part of that trip really is a “big mental part”. Your body will follow your mind wherever your mind decides to take you.
    Hope your well. That’s your best blog in a while!
    Bill

  13. Gary Foster says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve got a few thoughts on your “Reality & Covering It Up” blog.
    In my opinion there’s nothing that can make a reader more connected to a writer than honesty and I certainly felt the honesty in that blog, but I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself with the statement “covering up the truth in fake positivity is disengaging and it’s see-through.” your a good writer Dave and a person can read between the lines reading your blogs and can certainly get a feel for your mood, so don’t put down your positivity, it’s a natural and valuable part of your personality so don’t try to change your style.
    Another thing that I thought was interesting was your mention of athletes and putting in there 10,000 hours, I always thought the thousand hour thing meant
    that in life a person had to devote a minimum of 10,000 hours to truly be skilled at anything, which I feel applies to a lot more things in life than most people realize; seemingly inane things like interacting with people or planning ahead or marriages and careers things like that and it seems to me of all the things your doing out there that the 10,000 hour rule doesn’t really apply to your bike riding aka being an athlete (even if you think your not) ( remember when I told Wendy “you can’t fed that to him. The man’s an athlete!” when she fed you jam squishies) because I think the skill of marathon bike riding can be mastered in a hundred or so hours tops, there’s not much room for technical improvement after that, so my point is that I think your an intelligent guy that needs to be developing so it’s understandable that riding would be your Achilles heel.
    On another note I wanted to let you know that the few hours Wendy and I spent with you has had a positive effect on us, we’ve taken up an interest in cycling. I’ve restored my old Falcon 10 speed from the 70s that I told you about and Wendy got a new bike for her birthday yesterday and we’ve outfitted them both with Brooks saddles ( that we’d never heard of before we met you ) and another thing, neither one of us had ever heard of “Into The Wild” until we read your blog and Wendy was at a garage sale a week or so ago and what did she see sitting there on a table but that book, she bought it and plans to read it. (she things it might help her understand her sister a little better).

    Take care of yourself Dave,

    Gary and Wendy

  14. […] work – it’s always better when it’s honest. Even if you’re worried you’re putting too much on the line. You should get scared before hitting publish. That’s a great sign. Writing is not about key […]

  15. […] the last post definitely acted as a bit of a release. Setting off from Fort St John after publishing it was like […]

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