Lonely (In a Crowd)

People have asked if I ever get lonely on solo tours, with hours or days between major cities (or even small towns), but I’ve never felt lonely while on the bike. On the bike things are always in motion. There’s sometimes a peaceful zen-like state, yes, regardless of the beauty or struggle raging all around, but the very act of moving has always distracted me from getting too introspective. Things like physically maintaining balance, avoiding road-hazards, fluctuating blood sugar and the constantly changing state of the body manage to make the zen-like moments while I’ve been piloting a fully-laden touring rig all about the being in-the-moment piloting of the fully-laden touring rig, and sometimes appreciating the scenery, too. Introspection tends to strike me when the body is still and the mind is spinning away, sleeplessly grinding up and over the what-if’s, woulda’s, coulda’s and shoulda’s till sheer physical exhaustion blissfully stops everything.

On solo tour, yes, there is much time spent alone, which makes the chance meetings of random strangers (generally one or two at a time) welcome opportunities to indulge in human connection-through-conversation, even for this introvert. What surprises me is how alone I’ve always felt in a crowd. Case-in-point: last weekend’s annual company meeting ended with a colossal dance party; hemmed in between a massive wall of sound and the cataclysmicly pulsating lights was a grotesquely gyrating mass of humanity easily 3000 bodies deep (oh, the humanity). I couldn’t even begin to thread my way through the costumed crowd without the aid of earplugs and three beers’ of liquid stupidity^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcourage (don’t worry, I took the tram home to avoid the risk of injury) , and it took the rest of the weekend hiding in my apartment with the curtains drawn to recover from the ordeal.

It’s funny how it took being lonely in densely-populated Europe to make me realize I’m actually a very social person: I dearly miss my people, my tribe of friends and close acquaintances I’ve carefully curated over the last nine years since I re-discovered my love of bicycling and woke from my fitful nightmare of over-consumption and suburban conformity. Fascinating how we can’t see what’s right in front of us. Call it human nature.


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