Are we home yet? More pros and cons of living on the road.

Trip update. Still living in Pinecrest, Florida, with my colleague Giovanna and her family. This week has been devoted to preparing for the presentation today at Florida International University. It is called Getting down to business: Management accounting for T&I Professionals. I designed the course to teach break-even analysis and basic organizational skills to any kind of freelancer. I will be presenting on this topic again in Philadelphia in April. Today’s program is an all-day workshop with hands-on exercises.

Off Key Largo

Fishing for snapper off Key Largo with Alan and Rebecca

When not working on the presentation, I have been running errands, meeting with the local translators and fishing on the reefs with my hosts.

So what’s not to like about living on a bicycle like this? This week, I finish assessing the experiment.

  • Personal relationships. PRO. I have learned that I enjoy my own company. I have never spent so much time by myself. I like the simplicity of not having much to own or worry about, the Spartan accommodations along the way, and the lack of responsibility for other people. CON. It gets lonely on the road. What I discovered was not a sad loneliness, as one feels when missing a partner, but the realization that I cannot form new, lasting relationships living like this. At best, I can reinforce existing ones, which is a major personal achievement of this trip. Most of the friends and family that I have visited, I have not seen in many years.
  • Holidays. PRO. I have genuinely enjoyed spending the holidays with new friends and different places. Life on a bicycle took me away from the consumerist society, leaving me free to tap into it on my terms. CON. I have not sent out Christmas cards for two years now. When I realize that many of the friends that I am visiting have kept the connection alive only through loyal adherence to the Christmas card tradition, I feel that I am giving something up if I do not find a solution to this.
  • Managing the calendar. PRO. Life is simpler now. I don’t have weekly commitments to rehearsals, meetings, classes, etc. What comes up is easily remembered. CON. Keeping up with long-range, repetitive appointments is tough, e.g., medical and dental appointments. I missed one medical follow-up, because it was scheduled six months ago and I did not see it off the display on my computer. I just got a chip in an incisor, which I will have to have evaluated soon. I missed my January dental visit. These things are not insurmountable, but they take more attention to set up living like this.
  • Eating out vs. cooking in. PRO. I have learned that I genuinely enjoy being able to cook in, even if it is just in a kitchenette in a hotel suite. I am not a gifted cook, but I do appreciate being able to control what I eat. CON. Eating out is more often than not the only option, and the choices have been dismal outside major metropolitan areas. Even eating with a host family may not be ideal, although I have been lucky in this regard. With only one exception, all the people who hosted me were eating healthfully in various ways.
  • Hospitality. PRO. I have met so many wonderful people that I am humbled by the love and generosity around me. Some were already friends; others strangers. All have enriched my life. CON. I cannot reciprocate while I am on the road. I don’t feel obligated, because I believe in returning favors by passing them on. But it would be nice to be a host again.
  • Clothing. PRO. I wrote about the convenience of living in spandex last week. It really is comfortable, and I can confirm that we Americans have taken casual dress about as far as we can. Absolutely nowhere was I completely out of place, and often my bicycle kit was better dress than the attire of other customers. CON. Boredom. I like my suits and sport coats. I miss wearing my bow ties. I already tried carrying shorts, polo shirts, belts and sport coats, as well as more bicycle jerseys. It’s simply too much weight and space, but I miss it.
  • Church and social life. PRO. Everywhere I have gone, I have been welcomed in church on Sunday. Often, I have been able to sing in the Choir, and I know that if something were to happen to me, that my fellow churchgoers would have my back. If there ever were a reason to feel part of something bigger than myself it is my Church. CON. I can’t really stay and become part of the different communities that welcome me. I don’t like having to leave a great choir the week before a beautiful Evensong is coming up, or miss a really great concert, because I must hit the road.
  • Sharing the road. PRO. I have found that people really do drive friendly. As long as motorists can get around me (i.e., at least two lanes each way), the traffic flows smoothly and without incident. I have learned to appreciate quiet bike paths that cut directly across town to make the trip more efficient, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find generous shoulders and decent pavement on most major roads. This means that I have been able to pick the most direct route, more often than not. CON. As rare as they are, the rude passengers (it’s never the drivers: they are on the other side) shouting invectives at me as they go by do raise my stress level. So far on this trip no one has thrown anything at me, but I always ready for that, too.

So, how do I feel about this life on a bicycle? I like it.

In a way, I have committed myself to continuing to live like this for at least the rest of 2014, because I need to make my way to Philadelphia this spring, then up to Canada and over to Chicago for the ATA Conference in November.

The most significant emotional drawback of all the CON’s that I listed over the last two weeks is the fact that one cannot build a personal relationship that was not already there, if one must keep moving on. Of course, if I go back to places that I have been, I can sustain and even grow relationships by correspondence. However, I have not gone back to any place – yet. Nor have any of my new friends jumped on their bicycles to ride with me, although that is not as unlikely as it may sound.

Now that I have proven the experiment, I expect to spend a month in Charlottesville every six months, repacking and organizing for the next long ride. I no longer feel obliged to continue to live on my bicycle, because I know that I can. Thus, I may go back to Charlottesville, pick up my car to drive it to a buyer’s location, and continue by bicycle. Or I may take passage in the Queen Mary 2 to Southampton and continue this ride in Europe.

It is important to remember than I am not a retired traveler. Every week, I make compromises in my traveling to ensure that I can continue to meet my clients’ needs. They don’t need to consider where I am, as long as I can deliver what I promise. That juggling act is part of the adventure.

Until next week,

Smooth roads and tailwinds,


5 thoughts on “Are we home yet? More pros and cons of living on the road.

  1. Interesting self evaluation. I think you have nailed the whole situation on the head. I think Maybe you are traveling too light. Try a very small travel trailer, and a very small dog. Seriously. I have a small S-10 Chevy truck (1997 vintage and 374,800 miles) and a 14 foot travel trailer. It has a kitchen, desk area, full office sized swivel rocker chair, porti-pottie, micro, ac, fridge, 32 inch flat screen, queen side bed and ample storage both in the trailer and in the camper on the back of the truck. I carry my bike and an inflatable boat with an electric motor. My two little Chihuahua’s love to go camping.
    Previously in the late 70’s I lived in a 19 foot travel trailer for several years while working as a Union electrician and traveling around the country.
    I think if I had a dog back then I never would have left the road.


    • Dear Peter —
      Wonderful input. I have looked enviously at the people with simple (read, small) camping arrangements like the trailer you describe. I have always known that I could do something like that. I even have a tow hitch on my car. However, I wanted to use the bicycle for the purposes of the experiment, to force the trimming to its extreme. I may be travelling too light, but I have not thrown anything away. I will try another mix of stuff when I repack next month after the Southern Swing 2013. Still using the bicycle/bus/train paradigm, however.
      The other reason for not going automotive is that I hope to replicate this experiment in Europe next year (2015). When I get back in the autumn of 2015, I may decide to expand my arrangements, or perhaps just keep operating from Charlottesville.
      Pets are out of the question, because I am already familiar with the barriers of international quarantine and the lack of flexibility that a pet imposes (restricted from hotels, unable to suddenly get an airplane, bus, or train somewhere, etc.). I like other people’s pets, and they seem to like me, too. That’s fine.
      SR&T, Jonathan.


      • Definitely do the Europe trip. I am going back for the third time in July. The doggies stay at home and a pet sitter comes in twice a day. For a unique bicycle lifestyle check out Amsterdam.


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