Where to start

According to Tim Travis
There are four things necessary for a traveling lifestyle – income, time, bike/equipment and being excited to see the next place.

Two years ago I had the third (bike/equipment) and fourth (excitement to see the next place) in abundance. What I seemed to lack was having both the first (income) and the second (time) simultaneously. Fast-forward to now and, if I’m willing to substitute savings for income and quit my day job, I can comfortably feel I’ve got the first three covered for the near future. However, facing down the fear of the lizard brain that will never be satisfied with “enough” income (or it’s surrogate, savings) to embark on a journey such as a long-term bicycle tour has begun to feel like a Herculean task.

A reader recently commented:

It’s possible that the money issue is a red herring. An easily analyzable, quantifiable surrogate angst for the hazier uncertainties that are part of embarking on any sort of life-changing adventure.

Huh. Thought provoking, to say the least.

I’m not the only one who’s had to contend with this, of course. As Russ and Laura said before starting their big tour two years ago

Nothing is perfect. … and this thinking has stopped a lot of people.

And they started on less than half of what I’ve stashed away. It’s not like I don’t have any skills to fall back on either; I’ve not only managed to lead a nice “middle-class” lifestyle as an embedded-software engineer for the last dozen years but also had three recruiters call me out of the blue in the last week about different opportunities. As another reader recently commented:

Making money to travel on and then taking off without a return ticket need not be so complicated. … Truck drivers need just 4 weeks of training and make US$30,000 a year starting. The beauty for a traveler is that you live on the truck and do not pay rent anywhere and can save most of that. One year of driving a truck can be several years cycling in Asia.

It’s a far cry from my original goal of being financially independent before setting off, and I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. So really, what’s the greater value: dollars in the bank some future tomorrow or a life of experiences lived within my means now?

Which leaves me with contending with the fourth (excitement to see the next place). Don’t get me wrong; I’m still excited to go. The part where I’m stuck is the “next place” part. When I thought I had three years to fund (and find a partner interested in participating in and helping plan) such shenanigans I was nonchalant, believing the next destination in the journey to be almost trivially unimportant compared to the journey as a whole. Now that launch day could be imminent (immediately after jettisoning everything that doesn’t go on the touring bike) and no such partner has been forthcoming, I’m forced to face picking a first “next destination” on my own. Given winter comes earlier here in Minneapolis than many other parts of the U.S. I’ve assumed I’d head south along the Mississippi River out of necessity. While spending Mardi Gras in New Orleans is alright as a glib answer to “Where are you going?” at a party, it’s rather hollow in the personal passion department, and that’s a big deal when passion is what you’re counting on getting you through a 1500 mile first step when all else fails. As I re-learned over the weekend at a block party, I don’t interface well with crowds of strangers. Which throws any pretense of excitement to see Mardi Gras in an unflattering light. Two nights ago I mentioned this concern to some friends who’ve been to New Orleans, and was reassured that there’s much more to the city than Mardi Gras: a rich legacy of jazz, good food, and welcoming people. Sounds like my kind of hat-trick. Now where’d I put my land-lord’s phone number?…

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5 Responses to Where to start

  1. Abby X says:

    Dude, I was at that block party and I saw you schmoozing with handfuls of strangers all night long…

    I’m excited to learn you are getting more and more comfortable with the notion of actually carrying through with this opportunity!

  2. Jim says:

    On our trips together, the only non-variable has been that plans change. Ride toward New Orleans for warmer weather. Live in the moment. Receive new inputs. Change directions if/when you feel like it. The destination mentality is more suited to a guy who wants to make the most of a weeklong vacation. The vagabond tourist doesn’t have to be constrained like that.

  3. kerry shantrell jr. says:

    Where will you find maps to determine your route as you change directions?

    • Sean says:

      Good question Kerry. I have had good luck using DeLorme state-specific Atlas & Gazetteer map books in the past; they may be cost-prohibitive for this up-coming multi-state tour. I’ve also had reasonably good luck with the Adventure Cycling Association’s maps, once I learned how to read them properly. Two days ago I purchased a Garmin “Oregon 450” GPS receiver (and handle-bar mount) based on the recommendation of a friend who’s researched GPS receivers more than I have. I’m still getting familiar with it, as well as free and commercial maps for it. I intend to write more about maps in the future.

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