Why?

I like riding around on my bike, and I’ve got a bit of an autobiographical streak. So, naturally, I’ve put up a blog about bicycling. But I’m also a bit obsessive about the reasons I do things. So as I went along, I kept asking myself: What’s the angle; what’s the point?

I decided to tally up the pros and cons, and respond to the cons.

For bicycle touring in general:

Pros:

  • It’s very good exercise
  • I will learn from, and enjoy, many new people
  • It’s long-range personal travel with a low environmental impact

Cons:

  • I could donate my money to a charity and it would benefit more people
    I plead no contest to this one. Of course it would be more charitable of me to stay indoors, with my nose to the grindstone, and pass every extra dollar on to those less fortunate. But I also need to attend to my own well-being, and that’s what this travel is all about. Time on my bicycle is “me time”, selfish by design, just like any other grand adventure such as climbing a mountain, dancing in a musical, or struggling to beat a master at chess. I’ve just … got to try and do it.
  • By traveling, I am not in the workforce, and am instead a tourist
    Part of the reason for this trip is to learn more about the things I enjoy, and to get a wider perspective on the ways of making a living in the world. I feel like my decade as a computer programmer has given me tunnelvision, and even though I am surrounded by people who know very little about computers who nevertheless make a respectable living, I have no concrete idea of what their work feels like. I do not intend to stay permanently out of the workforce; in fact I know I would soon go crazy living that way. After basking in the warm glow of making a real contribution to important work, I’ve discovered that it feeds my adult soul in a way no perpetual childish indulgence ever could. Though I’ll be exploring as a tourist, I’ll try to be tactful and unassuming.
  • My desire for travel as entertainment is an example of western decadence
    Again, no contest to the guilt tripping. I’m reminded of a certain distasteful political figure from Alaska. She stood in front of a convention and declared, “When my kids graduated from high school, I didn’t send them on some backpacking trip around Europe for the summer. No, they got jobs.” The audience applauded her. A few years later, after she became a multi-millionaire, she loaded her entire family onto a converted tour-bus and took them on a meandering joyride all over the country. I fully admit that my own vacation time is decadent compared to the situation endured by millions of less fortunate people, but I can swear at least one thing to you: I will not be a stinking hypocrite about it.
  • Constant motion doesn’t give me in-depth exposure to any one place or people
    This is a shame and I hope to remedy it by doing some follow-up investigation of the more interesting places I see. On the other hand, the constant motion certainly invites me to compare and contrast.
  • Little chance to form long-term relationships
    Again, a problem that I hope to at least partially overcome through follow-up. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t be on the road forever – I’m too much of a homebody to do this perpetually. During the downtime, here and there, perhaps I can do other things to sustain the connections I make along the way.

For the site:

Pros:

  • By collecting my thoughts I can learn more from the journey
  • Friends and family can see what I’m up to
  • I’ll have a scrapbook for later
  • It’s fun!

Cons:

  • I’d feel compelled to maintain it instead of exploring “in the moment”
    Well it’s not like I’ll be spending hours every day staring at a keyboard. That would be my old job! Har har. Besides, I’ve done some work with my gadgets to make the blogging process efficient. If I find myself turning down the chance to explore so I can write about what’s already happened, I should ease up on the writing and just take pictures, or mutter into a voice memo, instead.
  • People who want to harm me can figure out where I am
    In my previous trips I’ve discovered that the real threat is not premeditated actions from a distance. It’s opportunistic locals who see me passing on the road, or see me dining in a restaurant, and feel like messing with an outsider. Also, making my location available online will help my friends figure out what happened if I end up tied to a tree somewhere. Presumably after being held at gunpoint and ordered to “squeal like a piggie!!”
  • People will think I am showing off
    I know plenty of people who have better gear, better legs, and more distance traveled than I could ever hope for, so everyone’s got adequate cause for humility.
  • I’m making yet another island of information which would be more useful if spread around elsewhere
    Now this is an interesting point. Ken Kifer’s Bike Pages and Sheldon Brown’s Technical Pages are wonderful resources that every cyclist should explore, and if I can make a meaningful edit or addition to those, why shouldn’t I just contact the creators directly? That way, more people could benefit from what I learn, instead of the relative few who might stumble across PokingThingsWithSticks. Perhaps I should look into that once I’ve got some decent content up here.

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