2,000 days away

Banner image of rhombic calendar with snow in background.

The world is full of empty numbers. Ages, grades, dates and dollars – they’re all around us. But find a number polished and round, turn it over in your mind, and suddenly it matters. It becomes a milestone.

I can’t help but think this one is important.

Mike on Bike in front of Welcome to Inuvik sign on the Dempster Highway in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Where it all began . . .

I’ve been on the road for 2,000 days. On a chill summer’s morning in 2009 I left Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories and started pedalling east. Now I rest in the mountains of New Zealand, at the opposite end of the world, and wonder what it all means.

In my early travel journals I find the words of someone angry and young, someone who thought the world would look best under his boot. I was wrong. My journey brought me as close as anyone can come to nature. I slept on the earth, under the stars. I was burned by the sun and numbed by the snow, day after day, and not once was it a victory. I didn’t conquer anything.

Mike on Bike camping on the shores of the Black Sea on cycling tour of Turkey.

Camping on the shores of the Black Sea in Turkey

Nature is not an obstacle, nor something to be overcome. It’s family. I am inseparable from it, and it from me. I walk through its woods for guidance and climb its hills for company. Never do I breathe more deeply than on its salty shores.

If there is an end to the beauty and enormity of this world, I haven’t found it. I’m overwhelmed at every turn, and in my smallness I am grateful. I could disappear into the ocean without a ripple. I could wander in the desert and the wind would wipe my footprints from the sand. Such insignificance isn’t a burden – it’s a revelation. It’s freedom.

My ego isn’t dead – it never will be – but travel has changed it. No longer do I take myself so seriously. I seek no comfort yet find it wherever I go. I worry less and care more. I find the best in people, in situations, no matter how bleak, because I have faith. In goodness. In tomorrow.

Mike on Bike recovering from dengue fever in Merlong hospital as part of bicycle tour of Indonesia and southeast Asia.

Recovering from dengue fever in a Sumatran hospital

I’ve learned, too, what mustn’t rattle that resolve. From the first, I refused to let people fill me with their fears. It was a cold choice, and it was right. I pedalled through lands said to be littered with terrorists and thieving Gypsies, and all I met was love. I’ve been nose to nose with a bear and pushed my bike across crocodile rivers. Guns were pointed at me, fevers shook me, hunger hit me hard.

Maybe I should have been afraid, but often I wasn’t. It was for me alone to decide.

After all this time, my fears are few. I’m most scared of the person I was before I left, the boy with a bottle who pushed people away so viciously. It pains me to remember how smart I thought I was, yet how far I was from the answer.

Mike on Bike at the Fire and Water Park in Tehran as seen on bicycle tour of Iran and the Middle East.

At the Fire and Water Park in Tehran, Iran

And believe me, people are the answer.

Don’t trust all you watch and read. Friendly faces are not doomed to black and white photographs from the good old days. They’re everywhere, in every colour, and they are waiting for you now. Share their warmth, their laughter. Embrace them, touch their wrinkled hands and let their children play on your lap. Seek them out, offer all you have, and you’ll find the last thing you ever expected – yourself.

Is it naive? Am I a romantic, a dreamer?

I hope so.

In my time away, I’ve lived a lifetime, and nothing would be easier than believing I’ve seen and done it all. I could cling to the tough times and twist my heart into the soul of a cynic. But I won’t. I’m here, on the other side, more in love with the world than I ever was. I’m proud of my goofy grin and my purple prose. They are my badges of honour.

I may not travel another 2,000 days, but then again, I just might. For all I’ve learned on the road, I still don’t know how to quit. That lesson will come in time. Until then, I’ll keep moving, because it’s exactly where I want to be.

Mike on Bike at the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe volanco on New Zealand's north island.

The summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe on New Zealand’s north island

Banner image based on “Rhombic Dodecareuleaux Calendar 2013
by Philip Chapman-Bell, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

15 responses to “2,000 days away

  1. Beautifully written, as usual. So true are your words. The world is a beautiful and loving place to be embraced with a full and open heart. Mine was burst open with love in the mountains in Pakistan 🙂 Go well on your path. If your journeys continue to inspire your “purple prose”, we your readers are the lucky ones and look forward to another 2,000 days 😉

    • Karen, your comments always make me smile. I’d love to hear more about your adventures in Pakistan. I’ve never been and I’m not sure if I’ll have the chance anytime soon. Thanks for reading and for letting me gush about the road. 😀

  2. Greetings Mike,
    Thank you for sharing your insights. It is a most beautiful journey that you have embarked upon; the connection between individuation and the whole.
    Safe travels and may it keep expanding.
    Onward and Upward.

    • May it keep expanding, indeed. I hope this is just the beginning, a prologue to something great. Thank you for your kind words. All the best to you! 🙂

  3. In a world full of anger and hate, full of hurry and worry, your words of hope based on the everyday things you have experienced over your 2000 days of travel are so healing. Whatever the motivation that put you on that bicycle, know that your travels and your willingness to share, expand far beyond the miles you put on your bike on any given day. Thank you for believing in people, regardless of their address or origin. The world needs more people with such openness to see the goodness we all possess. Great post, and best wishes this holiday season. Margaret

    • The sad truth is that anger and hate fill our televisions, not our world. We’re taught to lock our doors and close our minds, and it’s a terrible pity. With few exceptions, I’ve experienced nothing but kindness around the word – the real world. Race, religion, politics and poverty changed country to country, day to day, but the core of the human spirit was always the same. It’s one of love. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for sharing your kind words. Happy holidays to YOU as well! 😀

  4. Hi Mike Great to read as usual. Wishing you much happiness over the festive season and in the coming year. Hope you are staying in New Zealand a little longer one never knows I may get there!! Many hugs Juliax

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