Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gear on the cheap, friends at a cost

First off, I start this entry with a shameless plug for consumerism!  I have discovered a discount 'gear' site that is rivaled only by my long time favorite, steep and cheap.  Here is a link if you are interested in steeply discounted, quality outdoor gear:  The only catch I have detected so far...just like every other web site, they want your e-mail address.

Ironically, I discovered this site two days after taking on a "30 day do it challenge," inspired by a TED talk, to buy nothing new for 30 days (excluding food, health and safety items).  This is an idea that I stole from 
The Compact, a group of folks in San Francisco who agreed with each other to buy nothing new for a year.  I have admired their goals since I first heard about the idea several years ago, but have not taken any official action on the matter until now.  

To add to the challenge, in addition to discovering this new discount-gear website, I was also sent a $100 gift certificate to REI from my sister, and meanwhile, I received an e-mail from REI outlet describing how ridiculous their latest sale is.  This is a true challenge for an ex gear junkie like myself.  Though I live simply, I have spent uncounted hours on the internet, scrounging for bargains on gore-tex and merino wool, working coupons and sales and free shipping options to the best of my advantage, reading hundreds of reviews on products of all types to make sure that even though I travel with relatively little, it will be the best of the best, and it will cost me less than most people spend.  Retail prices make me scoff.

Switching gears    

It is time to start changing my expectation that at some point I will have a very clear picture of what I want to do with my life.  I have been journeying these past several years with the thought that, “hey, at some point in the future, the direction that I'm heading will become clear to me, where I'm going to “end up,” and/or what my goals really are.”  Though I have spent much time reflecting and planning and wondering and wandering, my future still seems very much up in the air.  I have the same long-term goals that I have had for quite some time: to be a good father; to build my own home; to live a life of love, learning, health and celebration while doing my part to better the Earth and all of its inhabitants.  Yet the older I get, the more opportunity presents itself for further adventure, travel, risk-taking and meeting wonderful people all over the place.  I feel much less sure of where I will be next year than I did one year ago at this time.    I often feel ill at ease about this fact for some reason, which I think is due to my own expectations as well as what I view as the expectations of the society that I live in.  It is time for me to let go of these expectations and realize that my life will be different, perhaps indefinitely so, and that's OK.

Previously, I also believed that at some point, I would get tired of traveling, and I would “settle down” in one place for a long period of time, develop community ties and a close-knit group of friends, grow some of my own food, and put down roots. The more I travel, however, the more I want to see and know and do. Already, next year is looking full of opportunity for adventure, learning, discovery and freedom. I seem to be pushing “in one place” back further and further.

Along the path, I have made several good friends. I have also met a good handful of people with whom I made an instant connection, and am now trying to keep that connection strong in spite of the separation of distance and time. After having spent a few months now in North Carolina, I am developing some great friendships with really good people. And then I'm moving on. I have already planned my bike route to New York City from here, and will be stopping to see friends in Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New Jersey along the way. For the first time in a long while, my sadness about leaving is rising to a level somewhere in the realm of my excitement about continuing on. It reminds me of the friends I made and left in Minnesota, whom I miss dearly. And the friends I made on the road, whom I may not see again for several years. And the friends I left back in California, most of whom I will not see for at least another 6 months, but perhaps longer, depending on my chosen path.

I have become the type of person who is ready to reveal myself completely and immediately to new friends, desiring relationships based on true knowing rather than surface interactions. Trust comes easy for me now, but much of the rest of humanity is not this way. Making good friends often takes time, which I have not invested in many places. This leaves me desiring to be closer to the people that I'm near, even if they don't feel the same way. I think I am on the verge of making decisions based more on people than on places, whereas the opposite has been true in the recent past. All the wild, wonderful, undiscovered places of the world will not make me happy without someone to share them with.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What I eat while biking

Going simple this time - at the request of a new friend, here is what I eat on a bike:

I watch my diet very carefully. I don't necessarily eat the same things that everyone might on such a trip. Especially since I set out on this trip not know how long I would be riding for, I have attempted to make my bike food as normal, healthy and palatable as possible. I also allow myself quite a bit of flexibility in my diet, as I believe the least healthy thing in life is stress, and stressing over what to eat is unhealthy.

While biking I aim to eat with the following goals in mind:
  • Whole foods (with as little processing as possible)
  • High calorie, good fats
  • High calorie to weight ratio
  • High nutrient density (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants)
  • Tasty
  • Within a budget
  • Organic and/or local when possible
I tend to eat lots of nuts, fruits (dried and fresh), beans, brown rice and oats. I actively avoid white flower, corn syrup (especially the high-fructose variety) and packaged foods with ingredients listings longer than a few lines. I eat fresh, green veggies when I have a kitchen to cook in and/or refrigeration for a night or two.

I seek to intake a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fiber. I eat a plant based diet. I have found that my intake on long biking days (over 70 miles) is often around 4000 calories. I weigh around 185 lbs, and my bike, fully loaded, weighs around 100 lbs. I chose to eat well rather than to have a light load.

Here is my usual shopping list for foods to eat while biking, per day (not including dinner or breakfast):
  • 1 fresh apple and one orange: (these are the easiest fruits to find local and/or organic) I often carry a 2-3 day supply. During summer, fruit stands and grocery stores are plentiful on rural roads. Nothing beats an orange late in the afternoon for a refreshing pick-up. Slicing the apple and eating ½ in a sitting, with peanut butter or cheese is a great way to go.
  • 1 lb of trail mix: I make my own mix, depending on what is cheap and/or organic at the local store, including peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, pumpkin seeds and any other dried fruits/nuts reasonably priced.
  • 2-3 granola bars: One of the more processed foods on my list. I look for bars with short ingredients lists which have no corn syrup and limited corn products, and whose first ingredient is whole oats.
  • 2-4 ounces of whole grain crackers: Triscuits, Wheat-thins or their Earth-friendly imitations with a larger variety of grains.
  • 2-4 ounces of cheese: High calorie to weight ratio, goes great with crackers or apples, satisfies deep hunger.
  • 2-3 carrots: I always get the fresh “bunch” carrots, which are skinnier and fit well in a water bottle when the greens are snapped off. They'll stay fresh and crunchy for a week.
  • 2-4 ounces of peanut butter: I often dip my carrots into the jar. Also good on apples or crackers.
  • Dessert: Cookies often fit the bill here, and break most of my guidelines, but they are tasty, full of calories and carbs, and can be a wonderful psychological boost. I've become particularly fond of Barbara's raspberry fig bars. I also keep dark chocolate on hand.
I have camped in about half of the places that I've stayed, but usually take layover days at the home of a friend or couch-surfing host, and thus eat dinner and breakfast indoors more often than not. Here's what I eat when camping:

Breakfast is either:
  1. Old fashioned rolled oats (or a multi-grain mix), cooked with a handful of trail-mix for 5 minutes. Honey and cinnamon added to taste.
  2. Granola and powdered milk.
For dinner I eat brown rice and lentils, prepared, with little variation, in one of the following ways:
  1. Onion, garlic, cajun seasoning and, if available, dehydrated refried black beans. A one inch cube of cheese sliced up and added at the end, if available.
  2. Onion, garlic, curry powder, cayenne and whatever fresh vegetables are available (often broccoli). Add honey and peanut butter at the end.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love or Money

Wonderful greenery has sprouted up all around, and my mood has brightened with it. In the past several weeks, I was selected to interview for a job which I very much wanted. My travel expenses were covered to Canton, NY for the interview, which lasted 2 days and included a hike into the woods. After 2 weeks of waiting, and being informed that they had narrowed the selection down to myself and one other candidate, I was informed in a very polite and straight-forward e-mail that the other candidate had been offered, and had accepted the job.

At first, I was quite disappointed. The job would have entailed all of the aspects of life that I am currently most interested in, including wilderness, outdoor recreation, community, sustainable lifestyle and leadership. But the simple prospect of the job had me distracted for weeks. Had I landed the job, I would have continued to be distracted by the need to prepare my equipment, finances, living situation and travel plans for the job. Because I did not get the job, I was able to immediately be more present where I am, and I believe my performance and happiness here have increased substantially because of this.

Spring has sprung here in NC. Leaves are popping out on all the trees, blossoms continue to bloom and fall, insects and birds are flying about, and the frogs and crickets hum a sweet melody in the evenings. The scent and sight of wildflowers catch the senses as they peek through the grass and trees. The sun warms the bones, and the water is finally warm enough to take a quick dip. I have been thoroughly enjoying teaching children about connection, cooperation, adaptation and adventure. I feel that I have hit my stride here, and the next couple of months will flow by smoothly.

Though I have not posted a blog in some time, I continue to write when the inspiration hits. The following are bits on subjects that I felt strongly enough about to put my thoughts into words:

Free Time:

"The man who has a lot to do usually keeps his general views and opinions almost unchanged; as does each person who works in the service of an idea. He will never test the idea itself any more; he no longer has time for that. Indeed, it is contrary to his interest even to think it possible to discuss it." - Nietzsche

Who has time?

Who has free time?

Not the working man. Not those with bills to pay and errands to run and friends to stay in touch with. Trips to plan and food to eat and mouths to feed and blocks of nothingness to put in order. Relaxation and recreation  must be scheduled. I will take a nap here, or when I am exhausted, and cannot spend energy thinking any longer. The months and weeks ahead seem to fill up faster the more organized we become. Now that I have a calendar, my calendar is full. And TV will fill up the other blank moments.

So, I ask again, who has time?

I had time when I was traveling. Time to sit and think and read and write and contemplate. And now that I am a working, productive citizen, plugged into the grid, doing my part to make money circulate in and out of bank accounts, I once again have no time. Luckily, I am spending my working hours with people I enjoy, doing work that I find worthwhile and fun. But I do not have the time I would like to sit and think and envision a different way of doing things. How am I to break free of a system that I spend 8 hours a day participating in? Why do I have such a strong desire to do so?

Free time is a privilege that few enjoy.

Tell me about yourself:

I long to suck the marrow of life! With every year, every week, every experience, I learn more, I love life more, and I realize that there is so much more to know and do. I love human beings. I think we are amazing in our capabilities as a species as well as as individuals. Our capacity for love and imagination and creativity, organization, construction, passion and atrocity, our ability to fight through tragedy and overcome, our ingenuity and complexity and shared experience.

For the last several years, as an outdoor educator and wilderness guide, I have pursued a line of work which satisfies my deepest cravings. To connect with nature in its wild, living state, to know my place in nature and the world. To use my body every day to work and live and educate and recreate in beautiful, healthy, diverse outdoor environments. To connect with people who share my vision and values and sense of purpose, and to the challenge myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I strive to keep an open mind, even though I realize that I have formed strong opinions and many of my experiences reinforce them. I strive to really know people, in a way that surface conversation and casual friendship do not satisfy. I'm a lover, and I give affection to nearly anyone who will accept it.

I have a wonderful family whom I love and get along with incredibly well. I've had an easy, fairly stress-free life growing up in California with supportive, understanding parents who, to this day, are working toward many of the same long-term goals that I am.

A Brief History of the United States of America:

Nearly 400 years ago, a group of Europeans escaping religious persecution sailed across the Atlantic to a newly discovered territory. While there were several million people already living in this land, they did not have guns, and so the Europeans took land from them, pushing them out of whatever lands they wanted for themselves in a bloody conflict lasting several hundred years in total, until these natives were relegated to small plots of fairly useless land, after being killed and moved and lied to until they had no trust or confidence left to fight with.
The Europeans did well in the new territory, and more arrived steadily from Europe. England declared the new land as one of its colonies, and so it was until the people living there got tired of laws from across the ocean, and decided it was time to start their own country. The revolutionary war rid the new country of its English shackles, and a group of visionary men with compassion and foresight, except for the fact that most of them were owners of African slaves, got together to write a constitution for the new country. The USA began on the verge of the industrial revolution. Natural resources, which were plentiful in the new land, were being grabbed up everywhere, as was land. Soon, every piece of land was owned, and the nation had expanded across many miles to another ocean.
To support the growing industries in the nation, railroads were constructed coast to coast, and with them came the invention of the corporation, a large business entity originally intended to complete specific projects chartered by the government. In the early 1900s, the automobile was invented, and the nation decided to make a network of roads for this new technology. In order to fund new business ventures, and to buy the new automobiles and other expensive new stuff, the nation came up with a banking system in which people could borrow money and then pay back more money later. Everyone went for it, and now more debt is owed than the actual money that exists in current circulation. Another system, the stock market, allowed people to buy small fractions of big companies, and to profit off of their piece of that company when the company did well.
Meanwhile, most regular Joes continued to work for a living, at new factory jobs which paid well after little training. The nation produced lots of stuff, people spent money on the stuff, and everyone was happy for a while. After a while, the stock market had trouble growing any further because everyone had already bought everything they could. The stock market, silly thing, is based on the idea that businesses can continue to get bigger and more profitable every year indefinitely, which would require both indefinite extraction of resources and an indefinite expansion of consumers, both of which are not possible. So the stock market crashed, making lots of rich people less rich, and lots of poor people completely destitute. Then we decided to employ lots of these people to build roads and dams and trails in parks, which worked pretty well.
Not long after, we got into war in Europe and Japan, which somehow always manages to cheer everyone up. During this war, plastic and TV were invented, and now everything is made from plastic, and everyone watches TV. About 15 years after this war ended, another war started in Vietnam, and people weren't so happy about the new war. It was in a place most people hadn't been and didn't know anything about, and they were confused about why we were there. For the first time in a long time, people started to question whether the government really know what it was doing.

Meanwhile, immigrants from all over the world continued to pour into the USA because they could get pretty good jobs, work hard, and provide a comfortable life for their families in this country. It was a dream that many people shared. There weren't a lot of other places that made it possible to earn and save enough money to start your own business, get higher education, or buy a house. Plus, with the debt-based banking system, everyone could borrow enough money to do what they wanted to do.

International business corporations started getting bigger than governments. Rich people kept making more money, and everyone else eventually stagnated. Rich people were very interested in keeping everything the same, keeping the money going into their pockets, so they continued to make the stock market seem very important. They tried very hard to convince everyone that making money was more important than having a healthy planet to live on, which seemed silly to lots of people. Advertisements on television convinced a lot of people to buy things in order to make themselves more attractive or more powerful, which none of the products could actually do. But people kept buying lots of useless products anyway, and this helped the rich people spend more money convincing everyone that they should make and spend more money.
Meanwhile, people were becoming sad, depressed, physically unhealthy and spiritually unfulfilled. At this point, they all had a choice to make: Continue supporting the system that says money is most important, that buying and making money are what we should focus on, or start something new. A new system which says that health and happiness are important, which says that having a happy, healthy family with bright futures to look forward to is what this country is about, not money and buying things. Lots of people were confused by the messages they kept getting on television every day, telling them that buying things is very important, and that they need to be more attractive and more powerful. But most people who tried hard managed to find a partner to love, without the need for all those products, or all that power. The biggest thing that split these lovers apart, however, was money. What will the people choose? Love or money?