You Can’t See Everything

When I first left, I wanted to see everything. I had this idea that I might go to all 48 contiguous states, see all the major sites, eat at all the best ice cream shops, and visit all the best bookstores.

I tried that for a while. I would figure out where I was headed that day, and then make sure to stop at all the places where I thought I had to stop. I checked a lot of things off my list and learned that the things you remember are the times you got lost or break down or get caught in a storm. But I still tried hard to see everything. I went completely out of my way to ride through tiny slivers of Rhode Island and Iowa. I walked the entire Freedom Trail in Boston. I moved quickly through most places, typically staying no more than a day or two, so that I could move on to the next destination and experience the next new place.

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The Hardest Part About Riding a Motorcycle Across America

I have always enjoyed my alone time. As an introvert, social activities drain me of energy, making it easy to justify spending time by myself. I remember having numerous conversations with friends before I left in June about how excited I was to spend days without speaking to anyone else, free from the distractions of other people. That opportunity to be alone in my own thoughts, experiencing new places and reading as much as I wanted was one of the biggest factors that helped me decide to take this adventure. 

And I have greatly enjoyed having that experience. I have gone days without speaking to people, and weeks without seeing a familiar face. I’ve explored who I am and pondered big questions for hours at a time, free from distraction, as I travel from place to place. Being alone benefits you in many ways, and is crucial for understanding yourself.

But I get lonely. Very lonely. 

I thought I had been lonely before, but there is nothing that compares to the loneliness that sets in after ten hours on a motorcycle. And dealing with that loneliness has been the hardest part of this journey.  Continue reading

5 Books You Should Read Immediately

  1. Meditations – Ryan Holiday recommends this as the best book ever written. You won’t be disappointed. Marcus Aurelias simply wrote about things he learned while living as the most powerful man in the world, and managed to write one of the most profound set of lessons and bits of wisdom ever. This book is one you can read at any point in time and feel as though the writing speaks directly into your particular life situation. If you read only one book in the next year, or 10 years, make it this one.unbroken
  2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Louis Zamperini should have been the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Instead, he survived a plane crash, lived over a month on a life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and somehow suffered through years in Japanese POW camps during World War II before coming out alive. Reading this account of Zamperini’s life can be so outlandish it feels like reading a novel. The movie comes out soon, so make sure to read the book before you see it.Mastery_Cover
  3. Mastery – We all strive to be good at what we do every day, and Greene lays out a straightforward path, supported by historical examples, towards the mastery of one’s field. The road to true mastery takes years of learning, followed by a period of creative experimentation. Greene argues that the geniuses we revere, the Einsteins of the world, are simply people who have achieved mastery, and that this power can be achieved by anyone who truly devotes the time and energy because it comes from the evolution of our brains to think creatively and find patterns. It will open your mind to the possibilities of human intellect and make you think deeply about what you choose to do with your life.OmnivoresDilemma_full
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – Everything we eat is made of corn. And it’s slowing killing us. Read this book because it will open your eyes to the grotesque ways we produce food, the dependence we have on those industrialized processes simply to sustain our population explosion, and the glimmer of hope that can be found within certain people and places who believe there are better ways of eating. It will change the way you look at the grocery store and change the way you make decisions about what to eat every day.American_gods
  5. American Gods – In part, this is just a wonderfully written story. It has everything great about a novel: magic, mystery, travel, zombies. But it also critiques American society and beliefs in a particularly creative way. The story centers around a protagonist who gets mixed up in a war between the old and new Gods in America. The old Gods are those brought to the country throughout history by immigrants – Greek, Norse, and Christian. The new Gods represent those things that Americans now hold so dear – Technology, Cars, Television, Consumerism. The clashing of these two ideas, religion and modern technology, plays out in a way that is both thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking.

Slowing Down

For the majority of the later part of July, I traveled back roads. Some dirt, many paved. I made my way across Maine, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont, passed Sugarbush and Killington, stayed in Lake George, Burlington, and visited Lake Placid. These roads wind around mountains and lakes, through gullies filled with swamps, past farms and cornfields. They led me to Thousand Islands, where I crossed the border into Canada and was forced to ride down highway 401 which skirts the Northern border of Lake Ontario en route to Toronto.

The transition from country road to interstate is one I’ve made countless times throughout my journey. It triggers a shot of adrenaline, as you quickly shift up into fifth gear, taking the machine to its limits in order to match the speed and power of the trucks and cars zipping by the entry ramp. My motorcycle is really not all that fast. It’s five speeds are realized at only 50 miles per hour, making the transition from 50 to 70 or 80 one that requires serious metal and determination.

Once on the interstate, you settle in at 60 or 70 miles per hour and watch the scenery blow by without much of an opportunity to really see anything. There isn’t typically much to see anyway, apart from concrete embankments and the occasional overhead crossing.

On this particular occasion, merging on to highway 401 headed towards Toronto, I happened to have a strange conscious realization that cars kept passing me. Granted, this happens frequently, but on this rode, in this moment, something seemed different. On this particular stretch of road, I seemed to have a realization that I was simply moving slower than everyone else. Cars blew past me like I wasn’t even moving, each coming up behind me before impatiently exchanging lanes and moving off into the distance.

And in that moment, I realized that I’ve slowed down. Being on the road has forced me to do so, as each occasion where I’ve rushed to be somewhere or meet someone has led to problems.

The motorcycle overheated when I rushed to make it from Tennessee to DC in a day. I got stuck in traffic and was thoroughly soaked when riding as fast as I could to Boston. On the day I was determined to do 400 miles for the first time, I felt a slight resistance as I opened the throttle near mile 350, panicked upon noticing that the rear tire looking harrowingly thin, only to learn that in actuality, my chain needed tightening upon arrival at the shop the next morning. These problems, some bigger than others, but all stress inducing nonetheless, seem to have an uncanny ability to arise in each occasion when I start to rush myself.

When arriving in Toronto, this theory of my slowing down was confirmed by the speed at which everything moves. People walk as fast as humanly possible. Busses and taxis rush around town, depositing their passengers with nothing more than a brief wave of the hand. Service at restaurants becomes a game of brevity in words in order to shepherd in the next set of guests. And yet I moved as if in slow motion, always behind everyone, stopping and staring at buildings and shops, taking in sites that everyone around me took for granted.

I used to be exactly like this, if not even more so. I reveled in efficiency, planning my morning down to the minute, using every walking moment as a time to catch up on an audiobook or the latest podcast, rushing from meeting to meeting without so much as 30 seconds between each one. There is great power in efficiency, and I am sure that I will go back to many of these old habits because of the benefits of routine and order. 

And in fact, I must confess that I have rushed myself even after having this realization. Making my way from Erie to Chicago, I rushed to do my first 500 mile day, which led my bike to shutter and the tachometer to shoot to redline just as I entered Chicago, leaving me stranded on the shoulder of an eight lane highway for two hours before the tow truck arrived and only further confirming the importance of slowing down.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve constructed my imagination of time and space with the visualization of large walls, each of which constitutes an Event. The size of the wall depends on the size of the Event, obviously leading some Events to dominate and cloud the visibility of future Events or overshadow more recent Events whose wall can’t compare.

This method is one that worked extremely well in an academic environment. Exams and project deadlines become large walls that demand serious attention to overcome. The end of a term looms in the distance as a constant exciting reminder of the freedom that comes beyond it.

But this method, by its design, creates what I’ve come to call “The In Between Moment.” All the time between Events simply becomes time leading up to that Event. This time is now simply the time in between the things that are important, and I would rush to move through it in order to reach those all important Events. Further, when an Event grows large enough, it overpowers everything and demands constant attention in thought, regardless of whether or not that thought provides any benefit.

The constant attention required by the road while riding a motorcycle has forced me to change the way I perceive these Events. In each of the instances where I’ve been in a hurry, I have used this old model, viewing the destination as an overpowering Event and the ride required to get me there as an In Between Moment. And this leads me to not really enjoy that ride. It becomes a chore, something that must be done in order to get to some greater prize: the destination. And in my hurry to reach that destination, I have faced problems and made mistakes that have made my hurry simply futile. 

So I’ve slowed down. I’m beginning to live in each of these “In Between Moments,” rendering them obsolete by their very definition.  

I still move fast on occasion, but I move fast because I like going fast, not because I’m rushing to get somewhere. I move fast because I love the sound of the wind rushing past my face and the roar of the engine as the world moves all around me. But I take it all in, I try to be in tune with my environment and enjoy the miles. I slow down the way I think and simply live in each of those moments. Not In Between Moments, but Moments of their own.