“I was driving down the road the other day and saw some cyclists ahead. I braked and waited until I could get by safely, but I’m concerned about them – the other motorists who won’t do that.”
“I saw a cyclist riding through my town last week, so I invited him over to my house for the night. I took care of him, but they won’t.”
“I stopped and gave some cyclists Gatorade on a hot day, but they wouldn’t even consider doing something like that.”
I hear stuff like this all the time – isn’t it dangerous to bike around the world with all those bad people out there? All those people who would never help a cyclist or go out of their way to avoid hitting them – they’re everywhere.
What I want to know is this: who are they? Who are those people? They certainly aren’t the people we’ve met.
In our 43 months of full-time bicycle touring as a family, we’ve never encountered them. Instead, we’ve met countless people who haveinvited us to their homes, shared a meal, filled our panniers with oranges, and hauled stuff halfway around the world for us. The people we’ve met have been of the kind, generous variety of human rather than the ones we see on the nightly news.
Traveling on bicycle makes us vulnerable – to both the good and the bad. People could take advantage of our vulnerability to rob us or run us off the road and there isn’t a gosh darn thing we could do about it. But our experience has shown that our vulnerability on the bikes makes people want to help us, to take care of us, to reach out and make our journey just a little bit better.
The people we’ve encountered have stopped on the side of the road to hand over Coke and chocolate in the middle of a long stretch of nothing. They’ve pulled out a bag of fresh pineapple after we had gone too many days without fresh fruit. They’ve leaned out their car window and shouted, “Would you like to spend the night in my house tonight?”
People have handed us the keys to their houses, spent hours helping us solve one problem or another, and sent us emails to cheer us up when we’re down. They’ve sent packages of goodies through the mail and brought other packages when they’ve gone on vacation. They’ve hidden Gatorade alongside the road, and rescued us from pouring rain.
In short, the people we’ve met have been just ordinary people who were willing to lend a helping hand when they saw the need. The people we’ve met have been just like you and me. After 43 months and 26,000 miles on the road we haven’t met them.
Why are we all so afraid of them anyway?
*****This article is part of a series of articles on the dangers of travel.