The Illusion of Choice

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You are, like everyone else, subject to the illusion of choice. We spend a lot of time “choosing” to be, think, or do “A or B”, when in fact the choice is already made by the options presented by others… Democrat or Republican. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, or strawberry. McDonald’s, Burger King, or Hodad’s. Shy or outgoing. Walk or Don’t Walk. Go to work or quit. Happy or sad. Like or don’t like. Even toothpaste: Total, Fresh, White, Sensitive, Foam, Gel, Paste. You think those are the only options, but they are only the ones that others think they can benefit by offering you. There is an infinite array of options between, beyond, and orthogonal to the options presented to you by business, society, government, and even your own mind. Don’t choose. Create something new.

Doing Things You’re Bad At…

Today marks the day that I’m quitting doing what I’m good at and beginning to focus on what I suck at.

For most of my life, I’ve focused on the things that I believe I am good at. Our western culture teaches us that we should find a specialty and focus on it to become the best we can be. And it makes sense; experts are generally rewarded, in one way or another. I consider myself an expert computer programmer, and I have enjoyed my experience and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

So it’s been quite an interesting journey the past few years as I’ve found myself wanting to explore the world and myself more deeply than what is defined by my career. It feels odd to focus on things that I’m not proficient in, but one thing that I have learned very quickly is that nothing can teach you more about yourself than by doing something you are bad at.

It’s something we all fear; trying and failing. But it’s also something that wakes up our minds in a way that nothing else can. When we purposefully try to do something that we have no idea how to do, we are doing one very important thing: we are disengaging our muscle memory and for a moment, becoming intensely mindful. We have to carefully observe everything around us and determine with a beginner’s mind how to proceed.

It is only in this state of complete mindfulness where we learn new skills and begin to understand more about ourselves and the world and people around us. It is only by putting ourselves into this discomfort and uncertainty that we can really expect to grow as a person.

So today I will start doing the things I am scared to do. I will ask myself every day how I am going to make myself uncomfortable. And, even though I’m scared about it, I will put myself in these situations.

Afterall, why would I want today to be the same as yesterday?

Bike Stomach

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What is bike stomach? (credit to my friend Jeff, who as far as I know, coined the term, at least in my circle of friends)

If you’ve ever done any kind of intense physical activity like long distance cycling, running, or swimming, you’re familiar with “bike stomach”. When you are done your workout, you are ravenous, and food takes on especially intense flavors. Cheap cheese curls taste like mana from heaven, and a Pismo Beach cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting makes you die a little inside in gooey, delicious pleasure. (Photo above¬†taken at Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach, CA)

 

Add to that the fact that there’s no guilt (you just burned thousands of calories), and bike stomach is one of my favorite things about cycling.

On our future tours, Steve and I are going to start blogging about our food encounters, seeking out the best and most unique food we can find in the communities we ride through. I’ve created a category on this blog callled “Bike Stomach” where our stories and photos will be posted. We’re not on tour now, but we’ll try to do some bike stomach posts in our hometown of San Diego.

Collecting Artifacts

On our Pacific Coast bike ride this summer, Steve & I reflected a lot on what it is that we really need. On a bicycle tour, you are limited to what you can carry, so you naturally spend time ensuring that you only carry what is necessary, to some extent or another. Whether it be 15 lbs or 80 lbs, it’s a far cry from how much you can put in your apartment at home.

We both realized that we have so much “stuff” at home just sitting in closets that’s never used or appreciated. We missed almost none of that stuff. It becomes just a burden to clean, find space for, and move.

So when we got home, we both started the process of downsizing. Some stuff was easy; that smart watch I never wore, for example. But other stuff was hard. And I realized what made it hard: for the most part, it’s the memories they invoke.

We, as humans, are conditioned to collect artifacts throughout our lives. Many of these items are nothing more than artifacts; representations of past travels, interests, and friends. These physical items run the gamut from cheapo souvenirs from a shop in Paris, to the quilt your mother spent 6 months making for you.

Some of these artifacts are incredibly difficult to part with. What is it that gives them this power? And how can we avoid them from blocking us from our passion to travel and live unencumbered?

I’m not sure I have the final answer, but I do have something that’s working for me. For most of the items, its power comes from the memories they evoke. Although there is something to the physical handling of these objects, most of the memories are invoked by sight alone. So I decided that simply taking a digital photo of them and then discarding them (donating, gifting, selling, etc) is enough to reclaim the physical space they are taking while retaining the meaning. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

This doesn’t work for everything. I don’t know how I’ll ever part with the quilt my mom made for me or the lock of hair from my kitty Gus. So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll need to keep a box of these artifacts around because they are so special. I try to limit the amount of space taken up with this box, but I don’t think it’ll ever be zero.

For the most part, I’ll take a photo, and then file it away and never look at it again. The memories are still there if I need them, but I have the space back. Sometimes I will think of something and look it up in my photo album, or browse through my photos, and the memories it brings up are the same as if they were physically there.

I think I have some improvements to do though. In some ways I fee like I’m merely moving the problem from the physical to the digital realm. I now have an eneormous photo collection that I maintain, backup, sort through, etc. Have I really de-cluttered? So far what I tell myself is that I already need to keep my digital photos maintained, so it doesn’t really add any extra mental energy.
Also, some of these items invoke particularly painful memories, like the clippings of my kitty’s fur. Is it healthy for me to try to detach completely by tossing these items without a photo? Or is it important to keep some essence of this part of my life with me?

I think it’s important to keep my particular goals in mind here. I’d like to be able to travel more easily, so anything I can do to minimize physical possessions, even if it comes at the expense of increased digital possessions or emotional weight, is a step in the right direction!

Who Am I?

There are some who call me… Tim?

I’m just one more cycling-obsessed guy who¬†wanted somewhere to share my adventures and experiences.

In 2016, I completed a 2,300 mile self-supported ultralight bikepacking tour from Vancouver, BC, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico with my partner Steve. We met many cyclists along the way doing the tour, but our ultralight setup and touring style stood out, and I thought that maybe our experiences would be interesting to others with similar two-wheeled dreams.

Take what you want from what I have here. It’s based mostly on my own experience, and I’m sure it won’t work for everyone, but I hope that it gives you some ideas and gets you out there. To paraphrase a journal entry I saw at a hike/bike campsite in Washington, “A lot of people talk about it. Some people do it. To those out there doing it, ride on!”

A little more info in case you’re curious: I’m in my early 40s, live in San Diego, work from home, and love to cycle. I’ve done 2 fully-supported rides (southern France and the Thailand Coast) as well as 4 multi-day fundraising supported bike rides. I’ve ridden over 7,000 miles in 2016 and probably over 40,000 miles in my life. I’ve also done my own self-supported tour from Vancouver to Tijuana in 2016.