Back to School.... by Bike (part 2)

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

reflective images of a bike arriving at Fredricton

If Part One was freeing myself from the shackles, Part Two was being blinded by the light. In non-Plato's-Allegory-of-the-Cave terms, this was the hump of the trip. A lot happened over the course of the last 9 days.

Over 900 km and the equivalent of two solid days of biking will take a toll on anyone. However, this was not just the biking. There were tears and tantrums, hours spent lost and confused, torrential downpours and wicked winds that cut my speed in half. Quebec was not for the faint of heart. Or lungs. Or abs. Or legs. Taking all that into consideration, Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

So has this venture been worth doing? Most certainly. Has it been sustainable? That is a question that can not be answered so easily. Let's look at some of the logistics of it. Going to University (from books, to moving between places, to unnecessary possessions that come your way) is inherently not sustainable in terms of consumption, especially if you are going to school out of town. That said, the insight and experience you acquire while you study is infinitely formative and endlessly invaluable as you embark into adulthood, stumbling through the jungle that is "the real world". With this in mind, I made the choice to attend University, more specifically live in residence out of town. I opted to have a drastically new experience than the one I would acquire staying in my hometown and living in parent's house.

This leads me to my next point.
Yes, transporting my body by bike to Halifax is more sustainable than plane, train, or automobile. However, this creates the issue of stuff. It would be impossible to bring everything I will need for 8 months of school on my back and couple of bike bags, let alone all that combined with my travel gear. So how does one get their stuff to university? My parents and I weighed pro-con on the different options and decided that with all the unnecessary packaging, intermediate trips, and fuel costs, flying my belongings to Halifax was not a realistic possibility. So alas they are driving. This is something they were going to do if I wasn't biking, so not having me, my bike, and about 60 lbs of gear in the car will require the car to use, in theory, less fuel, but in actuality this difference is negligible. So how is this journey contributing towards a sustainable future?

The answer is simple. When you travel, no matter if it is backpacking through Europe, volunteering in South America, or, in this case, biking 2,000 km across a continent, you have the inevitable realization that you need less. When minimalism becomes manifest, your whole life simplifies. Last fall, I backpacked through Europe and found that near the end of the trip the 70 L pack which, at the onset of the trip, was "bare bones", contained stuff that I didn't use for 3 months! Needless to say, upon my return to Canada, I saw the possessions that littered my room in a whole new light. As a result, I began a systematic cleanse that, for lack of a better term, I entitled my "inventory of stuff".

This pursuit of living simply has continued to this day and is a journey I encourage everyone to take. It is frustrating, humiliating (in the best way possible), and overwhelming if attempted all at once. So I continue on this quest with no end in sight, but in doing so I have acquired an abundance of optimism that makes a sustainable future all the more foreseeable. A simple mantra to make this more manageable is "Be More, Need Less". This can mean working out using your own body weight instead of buying that bowflex, not purchasing new clothes unless your lifestyle demands it, or simply incorporating reusable containers into your daily routine. It's certainly not easy, and requires far more planning than the alternative, but, in the end, for you, your wallet, and the environment, it's win-win-win. After all, nothing easy is worth doing!

~ matthew - guest blogger

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