I’ve had a few people ask me if there were going to be any updates on our life post-grand tour. So, here goes.
I think it’s called an adjustment period. That time when your body is in one place but your mind is far, far away. I’m still in that phase. Steve has returned to “normal life” quite effortlessly and smoothly, whereas my adjustment has been a little more, shall we say, corrugated. It’s not that I don’t love where I live and being around family and friends and I feel grateful and lucky to live in this small, peaceful, tucked away little place that is Tasmania, but I am missing the adventure of travelling. I think constantly about the places we’ve been, the people we met, the endless variation and surprises that each day delivered. Returning to a life of clocks, timetables, deadlines, responsibility and vacuuming has been a little challenging. During our cycling life there were really only three things we had to think about each day…where we were going to go, where we were going to sleep and what we were going to eat. Now, there’s a little more to do and think about. Sigh. I am the human equivalent of the cocker spaniel that sits at the window, gazing forlornly into the distance, pining for the people who have just left. I am gazing into the distance pining for…pining for what?…Freedom? Anti-routine? Places? A living space that never requires the activation of a vacuum cleaner?… Steve’s happy. He has a comfy chair at his constant disposal and can stretch out his lengthy legs in comfort, so he’s content.
After an enjoyable year being thoroughly spoiled, loved and indulged by my parents, our little dog Rosie has managed to adjust to our return. After a few days of being more sedate than usual, as she no doubt adjusted to having her human parents around the place again, she’s back to bouncing around and hurling her 17 year old self around the house at a rate of knots. All this is interspersed with long periods of snoozing, but when she’s on the go, she forgets her age, as we should, and sprints in wild laps around the house. We stand and hold our hands up, bending our fingers into “claws” and that’s all Rosie needs to play her favourite game – “Run For Your Life From The Claws Of Death”! We don’t have to move, we just stand still, raise our “claws of death” and Rosie pelts off, racing around, skidding to a halt and then pelting back towards us, where she props at our feet, panting and looking up in anticipation, at which point we bring out the “claws of death” again. Off she goes, outrunning those terrifying, horror-movie appendages, which don’t actually move or come anywhere near her, since we don’t move or chase her, then she comes flying back and waits for more. Yep, she’s seventeen years old and never ceases to be entertaining!
While we gradually resume normal programming in our home-life routines, the trip has had an effect. I guess in that sense, our grand tour of the last twelve months can be described as life changing. It began on the very first day back home. After the reunion with our parents and spending time sitting, talking and catching up, I headed inside for a shower. On emerging from the long since used, but familiar bathroom space, I stood in my wardrobe to select my clothing for the remainder of the day. I stood and stared. I continued standing and staring. ‘This much choice is paralysing’ I thought. Why do I have all these clothes!? How could I possibly think I need all this! I don’t need all this! After a year of living so simply and getting by with a minimal rotation of clothing, standing and looking at the shelves, drawers and hangers of items, was really quite a staggering experience. Too much choice. Too much time needed to make a decision. This is ridiculous! So, the next day, after farewelling our parents, who returned home, in opposite directions, but still each only an hour from where we live (we are very central, family wise!), I immediately began dumping armfuls of clothes into huge bags to be donated to charity. I now have more empty space than clothes in the wardrobe and it feels great! Cathartic. Liberating. Just plain sensible! Well, I didn’t stop there…into the cupboards I dived, clearing out excess items in the kitchen, spare bedrooms, garage, bathrooms…on and on I went! Bag after bag was filled to be either discarded or donated. So much stuff accumulated, yet so little of it used or needed. If we can live easily and happily on the few things we used as we travelled, why on earth do I need shelf after shelf of gadgets, appliances, multiples of the same thing…why do we need so much “stuff”! Simple answer is, we don’t! So it’s gone!
Some other lasting effects from twelve months of the simple, cycling life have been:
> I haven’t sat and watched television since we’ve been home. Steve has it on, so I catch snatches of it, but I find I just can’t sit and stare at a TV anymore. Even programs I followed before we left haven’t been able to pull me in. I potter about the house listening to audio books and podcasts, or I sit and read, or I do chores about the place, but I haven’t found it in me to sit and resume my consumption of the televisual feasts that are on offer. I’ve always been an avid reader, but even more so now. Books are quieter!
> I drive slower. I wasn’t a speedster previously, but I used to sit on the speed limit. Now, I happily set the cruise control to about 10km/ph slower than the speed limit and tootle along. I don’t feel the need to rush, it’s nicer being a bit slower. I learned to slow down on the bike and I still like things a bit slower than usual. Cars overtake me and I leave them to their rush, but don’t feel the need to join them.
> I’ve become a bit sensitive to noise and crowds! Our first trip to the supermarket after our return, left me quite stressed! I usually love supermarket shopping and taking a leisurely stroll along the aisles, but this trip had me in a flap.
“I have to get out,” I said to Steve, “it’s too much. There’s too many people and it’s claustrophobic!”
“But you like supermarket shopping,” Steve reminded me, “and you loved shopping in Waitrose and Tesco and Sainsbury’s.”
“The aisles were wider and they were big and open and all the people kind of spread out and it didn’t feel like this. It’s too crowded,” I moaned.
So we left fairly swiftly. Now I avoid the supermarkets in the bigger towns and stick to the smaller, quieter offerings in our village. How precious and pathetic I have become!
So all in all, the experience of twelve months of peaceful cycling has left me more appreciative of, and in need of, a simple, quiet life!
Of course, on returning home, I couldn’t wait to go for a run. I love running here and I have a favourite loop that takes me along our road, then along country roads, up hills that look across to the mountains and farmland and then through bush-lined roads and back home. It was magic to be back running through those peaceful places in the early mornings, as the sun was coming up.
Or, I’ll run around our village and I love that too. I’m someone who tends to say “hello” or some such greeting to anyone I pass and our village always gives me close to 100% strike rate on the return greetings, or even before there’s a return greeting, people greet me first. It’s a lovely, friendly place to be. On my first run in the village, I passed a man getting out of his car. He smiled and said, “Good on you. Good running.”
“Well,” I said, “got to keep things moving.”
“Good on you!” he replied with an accompanying raised thumb.
Another time I passed a man who smiled and said, “Keep goin’, yer only half way there!”
I laughed. “Yep, the end’s in sight!” I replied.
Then I ran up behind two ladies walking along the path, who stepped to the side to let me go by. Just as I was saying thank you, they said, “Well done, good work.”
Friendly, friendly people. I get that every time I run here. Smiles, “‘mornin’” or “hello”. Love it!
When I don’t go for an early morning run, I go for an early morning bike ride. Morning’s are definitely the best time to be out and about.
We may not be travelling via wheels and pedals every day anymore, but the bike life has continued. Steve started a new job this year, at a new school which is only 20km from home, about a third the distance of his last school. So, most days he rides his bike to work. My job takes me all around the state, but on those days I’m in the office here and Steve finishes later so his finish time coincides with my finish time, he’ll call me and I’ll hop on the bike and ride in and meet him and then we ride home together in the early evening. It’s great. On one such day recently, we were riding along and stopped on the side of the road, under some gum trees.
“Only Appleby Hill to go,” sighed Steve. Now, this hill, about 1km from our gate on our road, is our nemesis. Whether riding the bike or when I’m running, this darn hill delivers a dose of steep right when we’re in shouting distance of home. It used to be a bit of a doozy, but now, I figured, in the scheme of things, with the hills we’ve tackled over the last year, Appleby Hill is a kitten.
“It’s nothing!” I replied to Steve’s sigh, “compared to what we’ve ridden up.”
“I know,” he agreed, with an air of resignation, “but it’s still a hill.”
“Well, you just have to change your brain state for a while. So, when you approach the hill, shout out in your most hearty and cheerful voice – ‘Hello Hector Hill, isn’t it a lovely day! I’ve come for a visit.”
To this suggestion Steve let out a laugh and appeared unconvinced.
“If you sound like the hill isn’t a challenge, but is instead, a most pleasant place to be, you can trick your brain into enjoying the whole experience,” I explained encouragingly.
He still didn’t look convinced and must have thought my odd sense of humour had taken a turn for the downright strange. Off we pedalled though, in the direction of home, with Appleby Hill just around the corner. I was in the lead and as I approached the hill, I was all ready to shout out, “Hello Hector Hill…” just to get get the ball rolling and convince Steve that acting like a complete pedalling weirdo was perfectly acceptable, but before I got the chance, I heard Steve’s voice behind me, loud and clear, “Hello Hector Hill! Isn’t it a lovely day. I’ve come for a visit.” I joined in and so there we were, to odd cyclists, powering up a hill, joyfully greeting the incline with cheerful statements about the day and our appreciation for the opportunity to visit this grand slope of steepness! Luckily, we live in a semi rural area, so there was no one around to hear our shouts of greeting to the road terrain, except for a paddock of bemused cows. We made it up that hill though, with smiles all round!
My love of the Netherlands remains. So, feeling like an honorary Dutch person, I now ride my bike to do the grocery shopping. I clip on the panniers and ride down to the village, then gather my items, pack the panniers and ride home again (up hill!). I haven’t quite mastered the skill, demonstrated by those wonderful Dutch ladies, of simply slinging the shopping bags over my handlebars and pedalling off, but give me time!
We had some traditions during our travels and we’ve started a new one – Sunday Pedal Picnics. As a homage to “elevenses” and “arvos”, every Sunday we load up the panniers with food and the Trangia and pedal off somewhere to have an outdoor picnic with the bikes. It’s a nice reminder of all the great places we stopped for elevenses.
So far we’ve had every Pedal Picnic in sunshine, which we weren’t so lucky to have all the time on our travels. Many an elevenses was spent shivering in rain. Ah, glorious memories though. In fact, since we’ve been back, we’ve had all of two days rain. All that rain we attracted while we were travelling and barely a drop since we’ve returned. Ira has not been called into action once and is enjoying some well earned rest. All the sunshine and long summer days, mean we can enjoy evening pedals, after dinner walks through the bush with Rosie and warm and sunny Pedal Picnics for our new Sunday tradition.
We recently had a wonderful experience with some fellow touring cyclists. Steve happened to see a couple at the supermarket and got chatting. They were a French couple, spending the next few months cycling around Tassie, so Steve offered them a place to stay if they needed it, or if we could be of any help. It turned out later that day, their planned accommodation had fallen through, so they came and stayed with us for a couple of days and that’s how we met Melanie and Loic. What a delightful couple. We laughed and swapped travel stories and stories of Tassie and France and Switzerland where they are now living and it was a lovely couple of days. See what bikes do. The wonderful people we have been lucky enough to meet and continue to meet, all part of the great world of pedallers! It truly is the friendliest way to travel!
We mustn’t forget our dear two-wheeled troopers though. While we have been pedalling, picnicking, hosting charming people and soaking up the sunshine, we have not neglected our wheelie companions. We treated them to a service. We explained to the bike mechanic what we had done and what needed looking at and he assured us they would receive a tip-top tune up. An hour after leaving them at the shop, our phone rang and the mechanic was informing us of something extra that needed doing and were we OK with that? We said to go ahead with the maintenance. Then…the phone rang again. Something else needed doing. So it seemed those poor, hardy, faithful bikes had been in desperate need of some TLC! When we eventually picked them up, they sported new chains, exceptionally sensitive brakes, smooth gears, some new spokes for Steve and all in all, I think they breathed a sigh of relief that all their dodgy bits were now in order and they could stop trying to hold themselves together with a wing and a prayer. They’re sorted, ready to pedal on!
So that’s a run down of our post-adventure life. Some changes, some new traditions and for one member of “Team Tassie” a somewhat extended adjustment period is still on the go. We are lucky though. Lucky to have the amazing experiences we’ve had, which now pepper our dinner conversations, as we remember this and that, this place and that, this experience and that person. The memories haven’t dimmed at all for me. We are lucky to be where we are too. We have the pleasure of our nightly visitors to remind us of the lovely place we live, with a group of wallabies that come and sit outside our windows and nibble away. They’ve even been coming quite early, while it’s still light and we can sit outside and watch them. Even Rosie sits and doesn’t mind them visiting (probably helped by the fact that, with her age, she’s fast becoming as blind as the proverbial nocturnal flying creature) but still, she doesn’t mind sharing her patch with some additional furry critters.
I have definitely learned to appreciate the simple things in life though. I’ve come to appreciate that happiness comes from experiences, not purchases. We don’t need “stuff”, we just need to live. All we need is to get out and experience. Experience a new place or a familiar place, meet new people or familiar faces, dear friends or family. That’s happiness. That’s life. That, costs not a penny. We live in a society that barks at us to buy this or that, to consume more and more, to accumulate at all costs. Why? Why do we need that? Don’t we have all we need? The answer in our case is…yes. We have all we need and more, so all we need to collect from this point onwards are more magical memories. That’s the treasure that matters, not a cupboard full of clutter and endless bits and pieces. The simple life brings simple pleasures and I for one…love that!
So, to end this comeback blog post I will sign off with yet another attempt at verse, as I ponder my new found appreciation and love of simplicity. To those who have read this, thank you again for reading and following and checking in on these two Tassie tourers. It’s a joy to have you with us.
Ode To The Simple Life
“Come hither and purchase,” comes the cry
from banners and advertisements saying “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
“Thanks for the offer, but no,” I reply.
“I don’t want, or need any of that,” says I.
We don’t need “stuff” to be happy or content,
so despite what the ‘ads’ say, money needn’t be spent.
Our lives can be full of riches galore
even if we (gasp! horror!) spend no more!
It’s experiences and people of which I speak,
the moments around us that we choose to seek.
The things that bring happiness can cost not a dime
if we look at what’s around us and just…take…time…
…to enjoy new experiences, or new things to see,
those give us memories and are totally free.
A walk, a run, a meet up with friends,
a bike ride, a picnic, the list never ends.
We have all the stuff we could possibly need,
we don’t need more to feel we succeed.
Objects or clothes don’t measure a life,
it’s moments in time, and of these we are rife.
A life that is simple, uncluttered and fun,
a life where there’s joy in a ride, roam or run.
We’ve learned to appreciate that simple’s just fine,
because memories, not “stuff” give us life’s rich gold mine.