On March 27, 2013

This is an attempt to answer the question What do I think about while biking?

Lets have a little background. I cycle 4-6 hours a day on average. That’s time I’m in the saddle; it doesn’t include breaks. That’s a lot of time to be alone in my head. To help answer this question one day I stopped and took voice recordings as a sample of the many diverse topics I ponder. This pondering was very meta; it was hard to think without thinking about thinking. I believe this exercise helped me and will give me more structure to my wild pondering. I find myself coming back to a variety of topics, they come in no particular order of importance. This is not an all inclusive list (obviously).

Being alone I think quite a bit about my friendships. I miss having my friends nearby. I contemplate friend groups and how they always have a central theme: work friends, college friends, high school friends, climbing friends, etc. The common thread in these groups is some sort of shared experience. It ties people together, making them closer. The more challenging the experience, the tighter knit the group. I’ve experienced trying to get different groups to hang out together but there is always some sort of divide beyond the casual and polite interactions between the groups. The divide is that lack of commonality. As my college friends move around the country I realize how it will take more work to maintain those friendships and it will be hard to continue to keep that commonality with such great distances.

I also think about how much planning went into this trip. My map is so old because I bought it in high school. That’s when I knew I wanted to go to South America. I already knew I wanted to do this. I didn’t know I wanted to do it by bike or I wanted to do it for this long but that’s just how it turned out. I think I do this with all big things in my life, I think about them a lot. Everything has its purpose. … This trip gives me time to think about my future. Once I start working and making money things will change. I’ll change. I want to figure out how I want to live my life. Lifestyle, what’s important to me, what I want to do, what I want to make time for. Climbing, cycling, new friendships, free time. I’m challenging myself to kick some bad habits – wasting time on the Internet mostly. I want to be doing something with my life, it’s short, I gotta live it. I’m staring at the Andes right now! It’s great, I’m in the middle of nowhere. This is life. This is living. I don’t ever want to think back on “those good years” as the highlight. “One time I took that trip down in South America, man, that was the highlight.” – I don’t want that. I want the highlight to always be next year or coming up in six months. I want something big to be happening. Life is short you gotta make it fun and worthwhile. Part of my thinking is planning out how to do this. I have a goal of traveling abroad every year. This goal may change but part of travel for me is to bring things into perspective and help me figure out what I want to do. That’s what part of this trip is about. I’m setting big goals and defining those goals.

I think about mistakes I’ve made in college. I don’t dwell on them or kick myself for handling a situation incorrectly, I just try to think of how I would handle them differently. I’m trying to learn from my mistakes. I’ve never really had the time to do this and I think it’s a good practice that I’d like to continue after this trip.

When I’m in big cities I hang out with a diverse group of travelers. Most people who hang out with me notice that I’m reserved with new people, but with my close friends I don’t hold back. I like listening and trying to figure out other people before jumping into deep conversations. I like to hear uninhibited viewpoints and question the causes of their views rather than offering my own opinion. It’s fun to see how different everybody is. When cycling I try to incorporate what I learn from other people to challenge my own political and social ideas, forming some sort of mosaic of an ideology.

The difference of traveling by bus. Bus you chose destinations, cycling you choose a route. I get to meet random people that you can’t by any other means of transportation. Every cyclist I meet on the road has an instant connection with me, a bond. It goes back to my discussion of friendships and the shared experience of cycling through South America. We stop and exchange stories, tips, and places to stay as well as what we’ve seen thus far. I think about their trips after meeting them. I take into consideration their tips and formulate plans to incorporate their suggestions into my next few days. I like contemplating different traveling styles of cyclists too. Some are on a mission to get a certain number of kilometers done by a certain date. I feel this would be restricting for my particular style of travel. First, I can’t plan that far in advance or that detailed. Second, it does not allow for spontaneous decision making.

So to answer the question in the shortest way possible, I analyze different aspects of my life and create goals for my future. I’m not wasting these countless hours of reflection.

P.S. I thought about answering How have I changed? but decided to leave that up to others to decide. I barely recognize that guy in the first picture.




El Shincal

3 Responses to “Thoughts”

  • Wow, great stuff, Mark! I wish I could join your journey and bonce some ideas off you.
    I love me short jaunts on my bike to organize my thoughts. I cannot imagine where my mind would wander on an expedition of your magnitude. Keep living a reflective life.
    Pedal On!

  • Ben thinks the second picture looks like you. Also, he liked your beard.

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