I’m still plagued by that niggling question that people regularly ask us- why cycle around the world. Once again,some one else managed to shine a bit of light on the motivations and possible reasons for traveling in an unconventional way. The extract below although written about flying a light aircraft also catches several elements cycling long distances in interesting places.
His description of living stars, and the slices of life that a cyclist gets when traveling intimately though a place. And his assertion that raw experience of the world can teach us more than any abstract theorising at a desk or in front of a computer ever can. Both struck a chord.
Both make pieces of the complex answer to the question “why?”
The Earth teaches us more about ourselves than all the books in the world, because it is resistant to us. Self-discovery comes when man measures himself against an obstacle. To attain it, he needs an implement. he needs a carpenter’s plane or a plough. Little by little, as he walks behind the plough, th farmer forces out a few of natures secrets, and the truth which he uncovers is universal.
In my mind’s eye I still have the image of my first night flight in Argentina. It was a dark night, with only the occasional scattered lights glittering like stars on a plain.
Each one, in that ocean of shadows, was a sign of the miracle of consciousness. In one home people were reading, or thinking, or sharing confidences. In another, perhaps, they were wearying themselves with mathematics. In another they were making love. these small flames shone far apart in the landscape demanding their fuel. Even the most unassuming of them, the flame of a poet, the teacher or the carpenter.
But among these living stars, how many closed windows, how many extinct stars, how many sleeping men…
We must surely seek unity. We must surely seek to communicate with those fires burning far apart in the landscape.
Wind, Sand and Stars- Antoine de Saint Exupery (1939)