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RoadNews Newsletter: Seven Years DownTheRoad: What has changed and what we have learned.
March 30, 2009 marks the completion of our seventh year of this trip so, it is time for another anniversary newsletter. Those of you who have been with us for awhile know that seven years is very important and symbolic because we originally thought this trip would end in seven years when our savings ran out. We wrote about this in our first book. (see Leaving It All Behind) It was not until many years later, several huge explosions of traffic to DownTheRoad.org, and a second book that we started breaking even financially and our bike trip became a new career and nomadic lifestyle. That is, if you can call living on US$20 - 30/day a career. More information about the transition in funding of our trip can be found on several new pages including Our Finances, Budgeting, and Sponsors linked to below.
In the future we plan on visiting all the bike-able places we have not been to yet including, but not in order, India, Central Asia, Russia, The Middle East, Europe, Africa, and more. Along the way there will be new books and there is even talk of a DVD movie project. (more below) We have no plans to stop traveling, writing, and exploring new opportunities!
What is new this year?
Even though our second book is newly published we are already receiving requests for a third book about our ride through Asia and it has been repeatedly pointed out that the books are falling behind the trip. It does not take a mathematician to see that we just finished a book about our second year of travels while we are entering our eighth year. I do not know what to say except we will just keep plugging away at it and do the best we can. Maybe someday, when we retire from all this, we can spend the remainder of our lives catching up. It is a lot of fun and satisfying to write and publish books but our travels come first. It can be said that we are selfish with our traveling lifestyle but it can not be said that we are greedy or just doing this for the money. We could more than double our current income if we both got Burger King jobs so this is a long way from making us rich - at least financially.
A few newsletters back I mentioned the hours of raw video I have shot since the first day and the possibility of having a professional post production specialist turn it into a DVD. This must have been passed around movie studio circles because we have received numerous proposals for a wide variety of ways to get such a project completed. Life on the road has taught me many things and near the top of the list is to be cautious when something sounds too easy or good. Sometimes I think I am too careful but at other times this hesitation has probably kept us out of trouble all these years. I had all the tapes in Yuma, and could have sent them to someone to edit, but when it came time to go, I wasn't ready and sent them to my brother to hang on to. I stashed all the email proposals to be reexamined on some rainy night in the tent. If you are one of those video producers who wrote please accept my apology for not writing back yet and your proposal will be considered and an email reply returned either way.
Our travels are always evolving in unexpected ways and the latest twist is being invited to numerous public speaking engagements. It started with the Tour De Tucson a few months ago and, through word of mouth, has grown to being booked for dozens of appearances in many sizable cities on our route. When we started out seven years ago I never dreamed I would have people eager to hear me speak or waiting in line for our autographs. Yet, I would be lying if I did not admit that I enjoy the attention. Like I said in my last newsletter; I believe this attention has something to do with the economic troubles we all face and the constant flow of negative information from the media which has spurred this increasing interest in something beyond spending money, credit, and greed. I love bringing people a positive message in this time of economic trouble and convincing them that dreams really can come true. This is all happening so fast we have not gotten used to it and it is daunting to think about where all this will lead. I hope when people actually get to know us they will see we are just like everyone else. I feel like saying, "You can ask anyone who actually knows us; there is nothing special about us. We are just plain old Tim and Cindie who clip coupons and search through the discount bin."
The only down side to all this attention is the growing lack of privacy. Now that we are in our own country we regularly get recognized in public, or more accurately, the "DownTheRoad.org" sticker on our bikes is recognized. This is especially true in campgrounds and busy restaurants where our bikes are loaded up and visible. We have also had a couple cars pull us over to chat which is a bit dangerous and very disruptive to our cycling rhythm. More than a year ago I wrote about other bicycle tourists recognizing us (sticker) in New Zealand, which still happens, but now it is non cyclists as well. Appealing to the mainstream, outside of cycling circles, is always something I am proud of. I truly love meeting other people but I sometimes miss things like quiet meals and solitary nights camping in National Parks. We understand it is excited people like this that keeps us afloat and moving down the road and we really appreciate all the interest in our trip.
What has seven years of bicycle touring and international travel taught us?
We are often asked what have we learned during our travels. This question seems to get increasingly difficult to put in words yet we have a sense of great responsibility in crafting its answer. Obviously, traveling this many years is having profound affects on us but not in ways many would think. These changes are not static but instead continue to happen slowly, as we experience more of the world and constantly reevaluate our values.
When we were on temporary trips the simplicity and freedom of a bike tour was a vacation from our regular lives of working, and surviving the rat race. Looking back at the years leading up to our departure we wonder how we juggled all the complexities of modern life. There were bills to mail, cars to fix, schedules to keep, bosses to impress, and a million other things to get done before the end of the day, month, or year. We used to say, "There aren't enough hours in a day to do all the things that need to get done." Now we have far less things to worry about and feel like we have all day to see what will come our way. After several years of living a simple existence on bikes with our possessions being limited to what can be carried, we have evolved into a simplistic yet open minded way of looking at life. Everything is beautiful in its own basic way and a great weight of worry and stress has been lifted from our shoulders. We are free to explore, learn, and drift.
Before this trip we needlessly complicated the world around us by over analyzing everything until we found faults and became angry. Traveling has caused us to make peace with our surroundings. For example, in our own country, instead of seeing good and bad politicians and political parties we see a democracy and a healthy debate. Instead of seeing National Parks that need infrastructure upgrades we see pristine mountains. Obviously if everyone were like us nothing would get done but we have never wanted everyone to be like us. This is our dream and our reality; we have made it as painless as possible.
Another big change we have noticed is our growing freedom from "want." During the years on the road, visiting rich and poor alike, the idea of "I want" will never be the same. We used to walk through stores and fight the urge to buy all the things we thought we wanted with that little piece of plastic in our pocket that promised immediate gratification. It was stressful to want something, ponder the consequences, and use restraint to deny the purchase or, give in to our desires and buy it and often feel guilty later. So many people in this world live on a fraction of what citizens of developed countries consider the bare essentials and yet find far more happiness in their lives. The most content people we have met in our travels all have a clear sense of the difference between want and need. After riding in their countries and staying in their houses we have learned to open our minds to new perspectives.
The answer is not to make or borrow more money in order to have more possessions because acquiring material things will never satisfy wanting more. There will always be something else to want. The secret to happiness is to be content with what you have and not want things you can not afford. It is much more fulfilling to feel fortunate when your work has earned enough to cover all your real needs and have something left over for extras. It is a shift in perception from agonizing over wanting something like a new TV to being excited when the household's finances have gone so well that you can have something extra. The TV is no longer wanted every time it is passed in the store but rather an unexpected reward for a job well done.
This many years on the road have taught Cindie and me to throw away the big list of things we would like to own and be content with what we have. We now find happiness in the simple pleasures of life and don't seek our identities in the things we own. It sounds so simple and idealistic but the results have been monumental.
After reading this you may be looking at your own life and thinking of ways you can live out your dreams. Dreams are individual so there is no specific advice I can give, no blue print to success, no ten steps for achieving your life's goal. The solution is as individual as the dream. I can only suggest that there are probably creative ways, often unimagined out of the box ways, to turn your dreams into reality. Patients, creativity, and guts are the tools that will take you anywhere you want to go.
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