The great divide
Six bypasses got my heart two years ago. "They are going to cut you open," says a troubled and slightly tipsy friend the day before the surgery. After surgery follows a rehabilitation period. I want to take this a step further Tham usual patients and aimed on a long-distance bike ride.
Together with my wife, I cycle to the Mediterranean three months after surgery. The helm is about: I sport a lot, eat healthier, try to enjoy the here and now and throw quite a few Burgundian pounds overboard. I feel as reborn with all those diversions. Only the stress of my management job - in my view the cause of my heart condition - I can not get under control. Because my employer does not want to offer me another job, I resign.
To clear my head completely, I am going to cycle the longest mountain bike route in the world: the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The route follows the watershed of the Rocky Mountains from the border between the United States and Mexico to Canada.
I want to think about my future while cycling the Great Divide. It would be logical to work as an interim manager. But what do I really want? I hope to find out during the trip and decide to open up to everything I encounter along the way.
In fact, in the Rocky Mountains I leave everything behind. I say goodbye to luxury life, social life, working life, predictable life, the agenda of life, the worrisome life. My wife - the love life - goes along. As a team we trudge across the mountains, share the views and enjoy the simplicity. But even with the two of us there is silence during the long journeys, we meet ourselves repeatedly and there is plenty of room for self-reflection.
The watershed of the North American continent eventually becomes the turning point in my life. I have never been so intense, but at the same time lived so simply! Wild camping in the middle of nowhere is a bull's eye for this former luxury horse: one with nature, the grandeur of the mountains, the infinite emptiness of the landscape, the physical and mental challenges. We meet great people and celebrate the stress-free life of eat-sleep-ride.
I realize that I have never been so happy. I feel that I am inspired and inspired by the diverse impressions, situations and encounters. I feel strongly during the heaviest and most feared parts of the route: the rugged Gila Wilderness in New Mexico and the totally empty, flat and especially dry Great Basin in Wyoming.
We are hit by material problems, headwinds and thunderstorms. I feel a strange jealousy when I meet travelers - hikers, bikers, motorhomes - who are further than I, who have said goodbye to their stressful lives. I am touched by the unconditional hospitality of locals, such as Nita, the hostess of The Toaster House in Pie Town, who must cry silently when she hears that thirty miles away two dear hiccups have been killed by dehydration. I feel void and at the same time privileged when we enjoy an unprecedentedly detailed starry sky. I feel like a survivor when we filter water from a trough full of algae, mud and droppings in the middle of the desert.
But I keep cycling with my inner question: what am I going to do when this journey is over? I come to few new ideas and I am mainly thinking about possible revenue models. I find it difficult to think about the future while I enjoy it so much now. Eventually I return without answer, but this inner journey has opened my heart and my eyes.
Once at home there are our two cars, all my suits are hanging in the closet and I see for the first time what a huge amount of stuff we actually have. The awareness of 'simple and intense' quickly makes way for the realization of 'much and insignificant'. I finally come to the realization that that fat car, all those useless possessions, every day in the suit to work can not be a goal in my life. At the same time I get homesick for the cycling adventure and the feeling of freedom that is inextricably linked to it. This rich and happy way of life in all respects is such a contrast to our work and life until now.
Four weeks after the Great Divide I have a plan. I want to get back on the pedals and start a next cycling adventure: a trip around the world. Of course my great wife wants to come! We will be leaving next summer. The items are sold. I hang the sports car and the suits out to dry forever!
Translation of an item in the journal De Wereldfietser ("the world cyclist") and De Vakantiefietser ("the holiday cyclist") in The Netherlands and Belgium respectively. April 13th 2018.