I still remember laying it all out on the living room floor the night before our trip, lining the items in rows like we were playing a game of memory.
Toothbrush, camp stove, cycling shorts, book of poetry.
How would we know for sure what we would need to live for three months on a bicycle?
Who knows what we would encounter, how many flat tires we’d get or how long we’d go before hitting the next grocery store?
In the summer of 2009, my partner Henry and I traveled 1,500 miles on a tandem bicycle, with just one Burley trailer carrying all our most-needed possessions. We didn’t know it at the time, but this trip would be a precursor to our next adventure- building a whole house on a trailer, (though not a trailer that could be pulled by bike!).
The trip taught us about living with less. It clarified what material goods we actually appreciated after a long day of biking. Some things were worth pulling over mountains and through the head-winds of North Dakota. What we didn’t need actively weighed us down. We ritually re-accessed the contents of our bags in the mundane process of unpacking everything each night and packing it all up each morning. We were glad we brought that emergency blanket we used for cold, rainy nights in our tent. But whose idea was it to bring a 5-pound bag of unshelled peanuts we were always too tired to deal with? Or that “camping-sized” cast iron pan?
We had to be prepared, but we also had to give up a certain amount of control over the situation. There was no way to pack everything that we might need or want, so we had to confront the possibility that we might get a little cold sometimes or bored or sore.
But, there is a new sense of freedom once you are willing to let go. There is something to be said for not always being prepared. When you don’t have what is perfectly prescribed, you are opening yourself to a more creative, spontaneous and sometimes silly existence. For us, this meant we had to unabashedly stroll into a bike shop in Fargo with a few broken spokes tied in place with scrap wire. It meant we had to have gas station dinners of tortilla chips, salsa and energy bars at times. It meant we had to laugh at ourselves for wearing bike shorts around town when our other clothes were dirty.
This was just a short trip, but it was one that made a huge impact and gave us a taste of what living with less can be like. If you can imagine, this is how some people live for years.
Living in the tiny house (which we are planning to build in the Spring) will be a different experience, with more of the comforts of home and trappings of convenience; but I am hoping that by downsizing and reassessing the things we’ve collected over the years since the trip, we will find that sense of freedom again that comes with letting go.
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- What I Learned from Carrying Everything I Owned on a Bicycle - February 2, 2013