The first thing I read after my mid-year performance review was Biking Bis‘ book review of Travels with Willie, Adventure Cyclist, by Willie Weir. I received this book Friday evening, and I finished the book by Monday morning. I found the book hard to put down.
I’ve only rode one tour so far, so the book still had many how-to’s that I could pick up on, not only for bike touring but also for traveling.
Willie’s most interesting concept involves getting out of your comfort zone, and knock on doors. The phrase initiating kindness refers to Weir’s premise that people want to be kind but are scared, given the craziness of how the world is perceived. He says this often leads to “home-cooked meals and soft feather beds.” He thinks the simplicity of his loaded-down bicycle (or “passport” for social exchanges) immediately shows the vulnerability of the bike tourist, who is often times taken in with a rich cultural exchange. . . much more so than an isolated campsite has to offer.
Willie personalizes copies of his book to your request. Mine was "To the best aquadumper this side of the Mississippi"!
The first part of this idea identifies that the definitions of adventure he has looked up all include “risk or hazard,” as opposed to pleasure, rest, or relaxation (vacation). Not every vacation needs to be an adventure, but an adventure has more discomfort and will probably be more memorable. The second, implementation, involves fending off the naysayers. The people who get you to worry for worrying’s cause. His method is asking the worry-warts “Have you been there (in that location, situation, etc)?” If they haven’t, he has no problem shrugging them off. I wish I had this piece of advice before going to Kenya during civil unrest, in January 2008.
Go with the Flow
As Tuna and Bender say, allow yourself to “flow with the go,” by Willie’s methods this is by not over-planning before or during the trip. Willie learned to avoid commitments after having to turn down a complimentary horse-back tour, only to later be ditched with the company he previously made plans with. Now, he uses the phrase “Maybe I’ll see you or maybe I won’t.”
Andy gave me my touring mascot: Strawbranch, the frawg. Willie tours with Zeb, which is a zerbra stuffed animal that lifts his spirits and aids conversations on tours.
The Privilege to Lift Off
The final chapters conclude that Americans have the privilege to travel because of our stable economy and government. Additionally, to start an adventure — especially for extended periods — requires the traveler to expend the majority of energy to leave home relative to the psychological energy needed on the adventure; this is similar to space shuttle lifting off versus traversing space. If I want to get to Willie’s expert level of bicycling touring, I have plenty of work to get to. At any rate, it’s a great read for any dreamer, frugal traveler, or bike enthusiast out there. The book is available on Willie’s website.