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My family and I have just come back from our first Cycling holiday.

We went to New Zealand. I was so excited about it. I’ve always enjoyed cycling (even though I don’t do it very often). I love to be out in the fresh air with the wind blowing in my face and the feeling of freedom I get when whizzing down hills.

We pedaled approximately 45km per day, which gave me a lot of time to think. There were so many metaphors about life that came to me during this trip that I felt compelled to share them with you.

Prepare and be prepared

As is the case with anything we do in life, preparation is vital! I am the type of personality who jumps in a new car and starts to drive without reading the manual or checking a map. I hopped on my bike that first day and with great gusto led the charge along the dirt road. It wasn’t long before I realised that no amount of enthusiasm could carry me through the thigh burning, uphill struggles that awaited me. I should’ve trained!

Be properly equipped

Not only did my thighs burn and my chest heave, but also my poor bottom was sore and very uncomfortable. The second lesson learned: no matter what project you are taking on; get the right equipment. My husband saved the day when he produced cycling shorts with a padded bottom and a cushioned seat cover that he had packed.

Enjoy being out of your comfort zone

Many of the cycle paths through the mountains were narrow, windy and had a sheer drop on one side. I’m not a fan of heights. On a few occasions, I felt my body tense in response to my mind’s signal that I was out of my comfort zone, which resulted in me being a bit wobbly on my bike, creating the very thing that I had wanted to avoid – veering towards the edge. When there was a large stone on the path I would see my husband cycle around it, yet I always ended up heading straight for it because we get what we focus on.

Look forward

I remember when I was learning to ski, the instructor kept telling me to look in the direction I wanted to go and everything else would follow. It’s the same with learning to drive a car for the first time, the temptation is to look at your feet and check the pedals, but doing this can result in crashing. I reminded myself to look up and forward. As soon as I did this, my mind calmed, my body relaxed and I once again continued enjoying the scenery. In life too, a good lesson is not to look back and don’t look down, but keep your head high and look forward in the direction you want to go.

Clarify your why

I really loved the cycling, except for the one time that the wind blew me off my bike. I know that sounds hilarious, but it’s true. The wind gusts were so strong that they literally caught me sideways and pushed me to the ground, not on soft grass but hard, stone gravel and it hurt. “Why am I doing this?” I asked myself quite a few times. And every time there was a positive answer: time with my family, exercise, pushing myself, trying something new, away from the computer. When my brain remembered all these positives it let go of the negatives. It’s an important question for all of us to ask ourselves about everything we do.

Embrace challenge and change

People say a change is as good as a rest. I disagree. I would argue that a change is much better than a rest. We often feel challenged by change, and that feeling creates adrenalin. It is that same adrenalin that tells the body if we are excited or afraid. A change wakes us up, makes us more alert, on guard. When we rest, we stay put, we may ruminate, the brain and body slow down, and it is often harder to get going again. Whenever I got momentum on a downhill tar road during this trip, I wouldn’t stop for anything. I used that momentum to help me up the next steep incline, I rejoiced in the speed and the opportunity to rest my legs. There is no freewheeling through life, but it is certainly easier when we have a bit of momentum. Treat yourself to a change, get some momentum and just keep going.

Enjoy the journey

Initially all I wanted was to get to our destination at the end of each day. The thought of a warm bath, glass of wine, hearty dinner and good book drew me like a magnet and it was all I could think about for the first few days. However, towards the middle of the week, I found myself wishing the days were longer, I didn’t want to be indoors all evening, I didn’t want my family looking at their mobile phones. I realised that I loved the sensation of freedom that cycling gave me, I enjoyed being in nature again, I liked the picnics that we had on the way and the jokes we shared. I was actually enjoying the journey and this is a great lesson to learn in life. We often wish away challenges, we dream of when our kids are off our hands, we concentrate on booking the next holiday instead of appreciating today! Stop and take time to be mindful right here, right now.

Laugh at yourself

The mind is so powerful that it will give up way before your body does. We so easily talk ourselves out of doing things, even if we know they would be beneficial. The secret to staying on track is to learn to switch off your mind. When we remove negative thoughts, we deny the opportunity for negative feelings and thus prevent access to negative behaviour (giving up). Some days we cycled through heavy rain and I felt miserable, but then found myself laughing at the scene: a family of four alone (the only idiots daft enough to cycle through this weather), cold and hungry and tired. Yet for some reason it made me laugh, it was invigorating and it was amusing. The more we laughed, the less we cared about the weather.  You can choose to feel good on the inside, regardless of what is going on in the outside world.

Nothing comes without hard work

Behind every glory there is always a story. On Facebook, we posted a picture of us at the finish line. 300km completed! Woohoo! Behind that moment of glory, as you have just read, is a story of bruises, sweat and tears – and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Have you done anything like a cycling trip too? Let us know in the comments.

  • A great, simple, inexpensive, healthy way to self improve. Love it.

    Reply

  • I agree, getting away really refreshes you.

    Reply

  • I try to get away for a few days to recharge the batteries.

    Reply

  • Just getting away for a few days helps clear the mind wonderfully.

    Reply

  • I like the ‘teaching’ from this. It has also made me think about what adventures we could try as a family.

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  • I’m from the Netherlands and lived there till I was 38. I never drove a car till I was 41 and was used to do everything on the bike in weather and wind, rain, snow and ice. I was used to bike on average 2 hour per day on normal working days and during holidays we sure did day long bike trips. It’s lovely !
    Now I hardly bike and my condition for biling is sadly gone :(

    Reply

  • Sounds like a great adventure, except I’m not a cyclist. I’ve owned bikes, but we’ve never quite been a good match.


    • Doesn’t have to be cycling, if you love walking or swimming do that. Just great to get out in the fresh air and have time to think!
      Anne

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  • I ride a bike – but have not been on a cycling trip, but I have been on long distance rides and it is good for clearing the mind.


    • Clearing my mind was the part I loved best too.
      Anne

    Reply

  • The best part is cycling down hill. You don’t need to pedal. If it’s a twisty track you may need to slow down, especially if it’s a narrow track with a big “drop” down the side if you fall off.


    • You’re right the best bit is down hill, but unfortunately (like life) we have to get to the top of that hill first!
      Anne

    Reply

  • I love cycling but never have been on a trip,great idea!


    • There are lots of ‘railway’ routes that follow old tracks – easier than mountains!
      Anne

    Reply

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