It‘s incredible that with such a simple artifact, a bike, one is able to ride for 500 kilometers in 4 days and on the way visiting colleagues, seeing new cities and countries, talking to people on the way. It‘s so easy! I know that other cyclist would travel the same kilometres in 2 days. And I met cyclists that came from the Czech Republic, Norway or Bielorussia and carried tents with them (I was lazily sleeping in hotels or bungalows). But here I talk about normal people like me, only moderately sporty. Almost everybody can do it, day more day less.
Travelling in this way made me aware that we are an inextricable part of nature. Motorisation destroys the possibility of such insights. In a car, or even in a train, the changing in landscape is like zapping on TV or surfing social media. On the bike, or walking, you become part of the landscape, its smells, temperature, colour, wind. You become landscape. At first I saw this #sabbicycle as a metaphor that I would not offer as a practical solution to our pressing problem of carbon pollution. But now I would suggest it as an aesthetic experience. Take a multimodal route combining trains and bike to your next conference! You will learn something personal and universal.
I realised how ugly are our manufactured city environments. We got used to it, but when I emerged from a day cycling in the woods and along the fields and got in city traffic I felt pity for all those people sitting in the cars and looking at other cars. Cars should be brought out of cities!
The beauty one experiences away from the ugliness also leads to some other beautiful thoughts. Beautiful in a sense that you are thinking how to improve your surroundings. Reading the conference papers I have to discuss at arrival, I discovered myself taking more constructive notes. Continuing thinking on the meaning of the paper to be discussed also on the bike. And feeling that for academe to have a future we should resist attempts to make it a prevalently competitive business of journal hits.
I also engaged in some easy forms of mindful meditation during breaks. They were very empowering giving energy for the next part of the day. But they also helped me connecting back to my community. To being not only part of nature but of human nature, with its social ground. Often, during or after meditation, even my parents visited my emotions, my mother, who supported me by commenting my posts and sending voice messages, my dead father hugging me on the bike through the winds, my wife and children, and friends and colleagues. That’s all we have.
And we have our only planet, which, as Latour is currently saying, is not a big ball launched in the universe, but, essentially, as a living planet, just a tiny flat surface of interdependent life connected to the sun. That we need to protect if we want our social communities to prosper. And that’s the intuition that led me to this #sabbicycle project, now almost finished.
Although, probably, it has just started.
[…] slow travel may actually enhance and enlighten thinking, help in being more constructive, and engage in more meaningful work. Scholars at the Freie Universität Berlin have recently published a pledge to “voluntarily […]