Readers of my last post will be aware that I had let the stench of disillusionment leak into my psyche. I have retrospectively named this slip towards negativity my ‘blue period’ and am happy to declare that it is well and truly over. Returning from illness and the joys of more inspiring cycling had already been in collusion to help eek my mentality back to its accustomed optimism before I finally had the hallelujah moment I craved and the dark clouds left to haunt another unfortunate soul.
Camped up in the desert, as has been the norm for a while now, this time about 20 miles south of Constitucion, I broke out of my self-absorption and took the time to turn my attentions skyward. Sounds like an obvious thing to do on a beautiful clear night but I see every sun rise, every sun set and every moon cycle and thus have become rather blase´about the wonders of the solar system. To use the terminology of Carlos Castenada; I’ve been looking for a while but haven’t been seeing for a time. That night there were sadly no luminous eggs around, but as I enjoyed my evening brew the stars jumped at me from the moonless abyss like tiny electric sparks, each carrying a story to shame even the most ardent traveller. I recognised a chain of humility that stretched beyond my limited comprehension; there I sat truly humbled by nature, perched on a planet in turn insignificant within its own Universe, and what that sits within I have no right to even speculate.
If its broke then fix it. My spirit was starting to flag so I have made a concerted effort to change my approach. Mexico is different to the US and Canada and I have to adapt… you wouldn’t feed a cat dog food, even knowing it would probably eat it. I was getting isolated by my self-sufficiency and obsession with saving money. But I will not get a medal for finishing the tour with a bit more money in the bank. My reward is the richness of the experiences I can take with me into my future. Thus, I am staying in my first hotel, I am eating in my first restaurants, and with it being forced to interact and expand my Spanish vocabulary. I will not be that guy who smothered himself in bravado only to crumble in the face of the very adventure he set out to have. I’ve read others blogs, one in particular of a cyclist running a few months before me who abandoned his trip in Mexico City, the romance and appreciation had left him so he packed it in. He is happy with that choice and I applaud his honesty and guts in following those instincts.
How I felt just a couple of weeks ago bares no resemblance to my thoughts now; I was disillusioned and scared, now I am brimming with excitement, my throat dry for the thirst of adventure. The dark clouds that lifted as I sat taking energy from the stars took with them the desire to simply move south, leaving behind the true essence of the tour. Its like I’d stepped in some dog shit which has finally ceased clinging to the tread of my trainers. But more disturbingly, to continue the analogy, although I obviously didn’t like the smell following me around, I was in some ways more concerned about other people’s reactions to the unsavoury odour than my own suffering.
I had garnered a determination to move south based in part (not wholly by any stretch) on the wish to see the flag on my Spot map move towards Central America and know others might be looking on in awe at my movement. It is hard for me to admit that I was starting to be driven by my actions in the eyes of others, possibly slightly inevitable though when you write a blog and invite others into your world. I was battling within myself, struggling to work out why I was doing this and you were my convenient justification of last resort. My Mum said a few weeks ago that I was getting an ego and you can’t argue with your Mother. It is meeting a few other cycle tourists that have helped me put that ego on a high shelf to gather dust and release me back to the honest flows of the adventuring spirit.
That said, this is my journey and I’ll do it how I want. At its inception my attitude was that I wasn’t even bothered if I didn’t make it to Tierra Del Fuego, so long as I stayed honest in my intentions. My pure search for freedom has become clouded by the twists and turns of touring reality, and starting this blog has played a major role in warping the focus of my motivations. I stated at the start that I was originally opposed to broadcasting my experiences to the world, this was to be a personal and intimate experience. Then things snowballed and I’ve been glad at having this avenue through which to express myself. Jotting my thoughts down as I am right now forces me to look backwards and assess my experiences. If I didn’t write then I’d always be looking forwards and rarely taking the time to analyse where I’ve been and what I’ve learnt. But the benefits have come at a price; it takes time to construct these posts, time that often comes at the cost of exploring my surroundings.
Somehow I have also managed to build a body of loyal followers, with such flattery comes obligation. This blog is taking away from my freedoms and runs counter to the ethos that drove me to board the plane to Alaska nearly a year ago. But it was an idealist that touched down in Alaska where as a realist sits in front of this computer now. As I grow and my ethos evolves I have learnt that pure freedom is vacant, I need a certain level of responsibility and relationships to exists. Who am I if I don’t exist in the eyes of others? This is not vanity, just my manning up to the admission that I am a social animal. And this is how I justify to myself sacrificing a certain degree of liberty to ‘VeloFreedom’. This blog is me but what you read on these pages does not define me.
Pragmatism, commitment and determination are all essential attributes for me to ‘succeed’, but I can not afford to lose sight of the fact that all my efforts are supposed to me channelling into the same pot… the jar marked ‘fun’. The day I cannot see anymore enjoyment on the horizon and feel I can grow better elsewhere is the day I go home. But the last couple of weeks have been a stark reminder of how fickle the mind is and how easy it would be to hastily condemn myself to a lifetime of regret. I miss my family everyday and think a lot about the moment I shall step off a plane and into the arms of my Mother. But when that dream becomes a reality I want my chin to be held aloft, confident in having stayed true to myself and let that inspiration run its natural course.
So the upshot of all this is that I’m going to put all my efforts into exploring Mexico and not escaping it. Today I admitted another short fall in my approach by going out and investing in the Lonely Planet guide to Mexico and a comprehensive Mexican road atlas. I have abandoned the temptations to deviate from my original intentions and decided that I shall be travelling north from La Paz, and not taking the easy option south across the Tropic of Cancer. In a couple of days I’ll get the ferry up to Topolobampo in the hope that I can catch the train from Los Mochis up to El Divisadero in the heart of the mighty Copper Canyon. Frequently lauded as ‘one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys’ this would be the most functional of treats. Although telephone calls to the railway operator seem to suggest I won’t be able to take my bike on any of the trains I figured I’d turn up anyway and give it a go. If a few Pesos don’t lubricate the possibility then I’ll just accept the formidable challenge of cycling into the Canyon. I look forward to hiking another Canyon landscape before remounting to forge a route south-east down to Mexico City. I’ve taken a lesson from the Honey Badger… I don’t care! I’ll go where I darn well please, that’s why I’m on a bicycle after all. When this dawned on my that night south of Constitucion I couldn’t sleep with excitement. I couldn’t sleep the next night either… its Christmas and all the presents under the tree of Mexico have my name on them.
I am not out to change the world and my adventure only gains significance in my commitment to writing about it. Let us not forget that this is a glorified vacation constructed on foundations of pure selfishness. And I certainly have no justification to get depressed for my life is easy… keep enjoying your Monday mornings at work folks!