Lessons from a journey through Wales

Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving                  ~ Albert Einstein

During the last week I went on a solo adventure. I cycled the entire length of the country. Now, before those of you living in places like Australia or the USA get really excited, I need to point out that the country I am talking about is Wales.  But hey, that’s an adventure for me. If you don’t know Wales, it is hilly. From top to bottom, all 250 miles or so of it, are either going up or going down, though I am certain there are many more ups than downs!

It was a superb trip, spread over four and a half days, in glorious sunshine, through some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside.  I had no big plan other than to enjoy the journey and prove to myself that I could rise to the challenge.  As I came toward the end of the road, I began to ask myself what, if anything, I had learned along the way. I cannot report any spiritual awakening, or major personal transformations, I’m afraid, but I thought I would  share with you a few of the musings of my journey.

1. Take Frequent Breaks.  There were many points where I was sure I could not go on.  I was exhausted. The hill was too steep. It was too hot.  No matter how spent I felt, I was amazed how even a 5 min break, with a bit of refreshment and a stretch, was enough to allow me to carry on. It worked, over and over again.  I do have a tendency to work on tasks until they’re completed, often ‘forgetting’ to take breaks. I know now how much more re-focused and re-energised you can be with frequent breaks.

2. Have small, regular goals.  The ‘Big Vision’ – the feeling of completing the journey – is great.  It sets the direction, it inspires you to take on the challenge in the first place, and it helps occasionally to play the picture over in your mind of what finishing will be like (especially when the going gets tough).  But, what got me through was having small targets – the next hill, what’s round the next corner, what’s the next village. This short-term chunking allowed me to focus only on the immediate stage, and not be overwhelmed by the scale of the entire challenge.

3. Rhythm is all important.  This lesson only really came to me later on the journey.  It’s difficult to explain how it happened, as it was something that ‘came to me’ without consciously seeking it. But, it was quite clear that the effort required was much easier once I hit upon a steady, relaxed rhythm.  Fighting against the rhythm is tiring and, on steep hills, I found I ground to a halt the more effort I put in. Relaxing and pumping out a slower, but even, tempo allowed me to go on much longer, and I even began to enjoy hills!

I also learned two other, more trivial, lessons.

4. On trails shared with walkers – when riding along from behind and you ring the bell to alert them to your presence – it appears to be a general rule that people instinctively jump ‘into’ rather than out of the path of your bike

5. Geese are more interested in Jelly Beans than looking after their young.   Geese protecting their goslings are formidable.  My route on a narrow farm track was blocked by two hissing adults, forcing me to back away.  After a 5 min stand-off and a lot of head-scratching, I remembered my supply of energy fuel in the shape of jelly beans. I threw a handful off to one side of the track, and suddenly, protection of their youngsters was the last thing on their mind. They were distracted long enough for me to sweep past and continue on my way.

Finally, I carried with me a quote that caught my attention just before I left on my trip. I picked it up from Mona Mcclelland, and I knew it would be a useful reminder when the going got tough.  It was, so thank you Mona for this one.

“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else.    It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the little voice inside you that yells, “can’t!”    But you don’t listen;  you push harder and then you hear the voice whisper “can” and you realize the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.”  

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8 thoughts on “Lessons from a journey through Wales

    • Hmm!! Not sure sure about that Bob. Might be a bit too soon again. Sounds like you guys are on an amazing trip. Maybe one day I’ll join you. Next Olympics is Rio isn’t it? That could be interesting.

  1. Nice blog. I bet if you were to ‘iron’ Wales out you’d end up with a country the size of France. As a keen cyclist I agree with your bell observation: dogs (big and small), people (adults and children), wild animals (including deer), pheasants have all made it their business to make the conscious decision to leap into my path. Of course, those that can speak claim that they didn’t see me.

  2. Thanks for the share Louis. My grandparents were from Wales before moving to Canada. Great to learn lessons on all of our journeys. I also need to learn some of these, especially the one about taking breaks, as it is so true that my energy and focus is so much better for the task at hand when i take breaks. My journeys have been more of the emotional and spiritual kind… The biggest about remaining true to oneself, which I can see that even taking breaks could be related! It is about listening and being present with what is needed in the moment and sometimes that is taking a break. Blessings, Lorie

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