In the Summer of 2012, I decided to take one big step towards an adventurous life by joining the 4k for Cancer on a cross-country bike ride from Baltimore, Maryland to Portland, Oregon over a 2 1/2 month period. My adventure began with me hanging over the toilet and ended with a tan that was far from sexy. It really doesn’t sound too glorious, but there are a few things that were.
Here are five things my cycling adventure taught me:
1. Life is more beautiful on a bike.
Something about the breeze on my face and row of cows staring at me seemed to captivate me. When your range of distance relies solely on your two feet, you absorb more of your natural surroundings that you’d miss in a bus or car. The lack of speed forces you to use your senses at a slower rate.
My parents met me and my humungous calves in Portland when my cycling adventure was over. We stayed a few days longer to take in the sights and to experience the hipster culture that Portland had to offer. Once I stepped onto a tourist-filled coach bus, my senses weren’t tingling as much as they were used to on my two-wheeled mode of transportation.
2. We can live more on less.
I had to fit all my makeup and animals into a small, carryable duffle bag. Don’t worry, my animals were stuffed. That’s when I realized that maybe I could leave my eyeliner and Mr. Snuggles at home.
In 2 1/2 months, I rotated the same 5 shirts every week and changed outfits at least once a day which made the rotation even more frequent. After a couple weeks, you got used to the same clothes. And, yes I washed them (usually by hand). YES, by hand. Did you read that, Dad?
Without the extra baggage, you begin to learn the value of what you have and realize what you don’t need. You don’t realize how much you can live without until you actually live without it.
3. Strangers actually care.
With all the hate in the world, it’s can be hard to see the sun through all the clouds. During our trip, we stayed at churches, non-profits and sometimes in the privacy of people’s homes.
You may think, “it must have been difficult to find housing in every city and every town you traveled to”, and yes, you’re absolutely right. But then, when you find that special person who takes you in as if you were their own child, you also begin to wish they were your real parents. You wonder where these people have been all your life, but then again, I live in the midst of Washington, D.C. chaos.
4. Stress is self-inflicted.
If you imagine yourself biking cross country beginning tomorrow, you’d probably feel a teensy bit stressed out. Besides waking up at 3 am, surprisingly, biking cross country wasn’t too stressful. It takes a couple weeks to warm up to the fact that you will be sitting for hours on end, but without the added stressors of work, class or personal drama – the day-to-day duties of biking cross country were very minimal with the ability to take in the sights. Of course, having a cool group of cyclists to hang out with helps tremendously too.
Now, with my daily habit of being anxious and stressed, I began to realize the toll of stress on my body and the importance of staying grounded. Stop and breathe. Don’t let your anxiety wander too much. Your body and mind will thank you.
5. You can never say “thank you” too many times.
You may think fundraising $4,500 before even going on the trip may seem daunting, but trust me, people will support you and think you’re so crazy that even the strangest of strangers will donate. Lucked out with the most supportive friends and family a girl could have, we campaigned at school events, online and even on the side of the road.
One thing I regret while being a naive college student was not giving written, personal “thank you”s to each and every friend and family member for their donation. Thank you for not only supporting one of the most humbling and life-changing events in my life but contributing to help young adults battle cancer across the nation. Some of my friends and family donated not only once, but two or three times! Wow!
All-in-all, you can never say “thank you” too many times in a world filled with givers. Acknowledgement goes a long way and it gives them credibility for their actions. Who doesn’t love getting a little credit?
Completing the 4k for Cancer Portland ride will always be a memory to look back on. Even though you won’t catch me on a bike as often as the Summer of 2012, you will find me with a kinder soul and backpack conquering the outdoors with the goal of seeking my next adventure.
Until next time.