This past Sunday I was enjoying a late summer day of cycling the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath with my local bicycle club. We came upon a bicycle tourist. I recognized the telltale signs of a seasoned bicycle tourist; a bike laden with front and rear panniers (saddlebags), a sleeping bag and tent.
I know from my single weeklong bicycle touring experience last year that when people see a bicycle fully loaded they are very interested in “the story”. They want to know where you are heading and where you are coming from.
I approached the cyclist and commented on her homemade recycled kitty litter box panniers. They were quite ingenious. I wasted no time in asking about her story. She works at a community bike shop and was cycling solo from Natchez, Mississippi to New England. She had been on the road over a month and had about another month to go before reaching her destination.
At one point in our conversation I asked her how many miles she had gone and how many miles she had remaining. She shrugged her shoulders and told me that she does not track and count the miles. Her words were, “She finds counting miles to be too confining and only makes her anxious.”
As I continued south and she continued north, I began thinking about her story. I must admit I am very jealous. I would love to take off for a two month bicycle tour. I can make up about every excuse in the book why I cannot do it. The reality is that I probably could swing it. Her comment about not tracking miles it what stuck in my mind.
She actually left me with some good words of wisdom on how counting miles is confining and leads to anxiety. I tend to measure most of the successes and failures in my life in quantifiable terms. I count miles, calories, pounds, money, possessions and many other things. In each of these cases, the count either ends up on the success or failure list.
My accounting for everything in a measurable manner does often lead to anxiety. I know I am anxious when the scale moves in the wrong direction. I am anxious when I tire in trying to make the final miles on a long bicycle ride. Anxiety easily intimidates me as I move forward. As positive as I try to be, my analytical approach to success and failure does limit me.
This cyclist had it right. There are times when you need to look past the miles and instead look forward to where you are heading. She most likely had already travelled 1,000 miles and had about that many remaining in her tour. She had an uplifting spirit and pleasant attitude. She was happy to be where she was today and looking forward to the journey ahead.
I wanted to highlight this chance encounter to my readers. I know many are weight loss surgery post-ops who worry about the pounds, calories, grams of protein, minutes of exercise and all of the other things we measure to maintain a healthy weight. It’s too easy to define yourself a success or failure from these counts.
My bicycle tourist reminds me that it is all about the journey and not about where you have been and what you have done. Don’t let the past creep in and define you today. The quote, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, might seem very simplistic. But in its simplicity, there is a lot of truth. Yes, it is indeed about the journey and not the miles.