This week I’m back in Snowdonia for five days of quiet work away from the office and to cycle. I’m staying in a lovely campsite just outside Dolgellau, at the southern end of the national park. It’s an area I love, not as dramatic as the north, but with beautiful rolling hills and deep forested valleys, I think it offers some of the best cycling in the UK.
You can ride for hours along tiny lanes and not see a car, the riding is lumpy, with steep climbs and breath-taking, scary descents. Riding here always reminds me of cycling in the mountains of France. Sure, the hills are nothing like as big, but you get that same feeling of commitment, of seeing the road climb up into the distance. Its steeper here, more like riding in the Pyrenees than the Alps. I love the challenge, the feel of my legs burning, screaming out for the gradient to ease.
Some days ago, I replied to a comment made by Sade on an earlier blog post “The Day I Gave Up”. She expressed her concern that I was too focused on the destination rather than the journey. I agreed with her in my reply which I have copied below:
“Thank you for your very insightful and well-judged comment. I do indeed focus too much on the destination. From an intellectual perspective, I know that life is about the journey, but I find it exceptionally difficult to live by that creed. I’m so driven, and it is a constant battle for me. I put my ambition and work in front of everything else.
I know this is unhealthy and often counterproductive. It damages my personal relationships and makes me near impossible to live with. This has been brought into sharp focus this last week with the ongoing debate surrounding the breakup of James Cracknell and Beverley Turner’s marriage. Your words have given me pause for thought. Thank you”
Out cycling yesterday, I was struck by how different I am out on the bike these days. I took up cycling in 2007 and was, typically for me, obsessive and compulsive in my riding. I would train on the bike 40 or 50 hours a week. Thinking about how far and how fast I was cycling. Always dreaming about the future, setting big cycling goals and hoping to fulfil them.
I stopped cycling some years ago, work took over again, and I didn’t find the time to ride. This year things are different. I’m making time again but riding in a different way. I don’t keep track of how far I have cycled or any milestones. I love the feeling of being out on my bike. I might plan a route, but it’s not based on any kind of achievement, it simply passes through the most interesting landscape I can find.
Here in Snowdonia, I look for the smallest lanes, the wiggly ones that no one wants to drive a car on. These days on the bike I’m no longer running away from my demons, obsessed with the destination, stuck in a destructive mindset, believing that its achievement will somehow right the wrongs in my life.
Today, regarding my cycling, I’m surprised by how little I need outside validation, I’m deeply happy and thankful when I ride. I have reached a point where I’m living in the moment, loving the life that I have, feeling a deep connection to the landscape.
Then I climb off my bike, back to my reality. Back to my hunger and ambition. Back to my demons and obsession with the destination. Sade’s comment has struck home. I’m going to see if I can make some changes. I want to find the same peace in my day to day life as I experience on the bike. I guess the first step is self-knowledge and the desire to change.
Are you thinking too much about your destination and not enough about enjoying your journey?
As you can imagine, I don’t feel qualified to give any specific advice! Maybe all we can do is to be kind to ourselves, forgive our weaknesses and be understanding that we are doing our best. Your journey is a winding pathway with many twists and turns.
If you can see the beauty at each turn, if you can share those moments with the people you love, then you will live a life of joy and wonder. Your destination becomes yet another stepping stone on a never-ending pathway. Long before others believe, you must believe it’s possible.
Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.