We learn something new everyday – or so goes the old saying. Years ago, when I was going about my normal, ordinary life as mother, wife, and teacher, I’m not sure I truly believed that. Sure, every once in a while something popped up and I looked at it and said, “I learned something new today!” But every day? Nah.
Things are different as I’m touring the world on my bicycle. Now, each morning I wake up and think, “I wonder what I’ll learn today. I wonder what new situations we’ll find ourselves in before we lay our heads down tonight.” I can say with all honesty that I learn something new every single day.
Now that we are nearly to our goal of Ushuaia, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my sons have learned on this trip from Alaska to Argentina. Yes, they’ve learned a lot of ‘school stuff’ – history, geography, cultures, languages. But the real value of our journey goes beyond that knowledge.
The real value of our trip is all the ‘other stuff’ they’ve learned since we set sail from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska over two years ago. It’s the other stuff they have learned that will carry them through life and help them climb over obstacles and figure out how to get through tough times.
Perseverance: You’ve heard the saying – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. My sons have lived it. Most days on our journey are easy – the sun is shining, winds are favorable, and roads are good. But then we have our days when things are not quite so nice – we battle headwinds, get soaked by cold rain, push our heavy bikes through mud or deep sand, or climb hills that never end.
That’s when my sons shine. Those are the days when they jump in with every strength they have to overcome the obstacles in their path. They are determined to reach their goal and are willing to push through tough days, knowing better times lay ahead.
One day in northern Peru I walked the streets of Trujillo with my boys and complained about everything. It seemed like Peru, itself, was conspiring against us – bad hotels, bad food, bad headwinds, bad, bad, bad. I was miserable and was about to throw in the towel.
“Mom,” Daryl said. “It won’t do any good to complain about it – complaining won’t change anything. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other and get out of this area into a better place.”
I wish I had his wisdom.
Teamwork: I’ve heard it said that being able to work as part of a team is one of the most valuable skills a person can have for today’s workplace. If that’s true, Davy and Daryl will shine – they’ve learned how to be part of a team.
My sons have figured out there are times when they just need to do it to get all four of us to our goal. The day we entered Guatemala comes to mind as a good example of teamwork – we wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t all pitch in with everything we had.
That particular day we faced a 23-km stretch of dirt road. It was one of those roads lined with fine dust, and every time a truck came by it spewed massive clouds of dust into the air. We pushed on through the clouds, bouncing and jiggling over the rough surface.
Three kilometers from pavement, we hit the hill. A steep climb through terrible road conditions. I climbed off my bike to walk. Shortly thereafter, Davy climbed off his. And then John realized there was no way he could pedal up either. We laboriously pushed our heavily-laden bikes up the hill, but it soon became apparent John and Daryl wouldn’t make it up with the tandem.
“Davy!” John called out. “I need you over here!” Davy is the stronger of the two boys and was needed on the heavy tandem. Daryl ran over to take Davy’s bike so his brother could help Daddy.
John and Davy worked together to get the tandem up the hill, while Daryl and I struggled with the two singles. It didn’t take long to realize we wouldn’t make it up either. Daryl put Davy’s bike down in the dust and helped me push my bike fifty yards before we stopped, gasping for breath. While Daryl held my bike in place, I walked back down to Davy’s and brought it up.
We played leapfrog with the bikes, slowly working our way up the climb. It was interesting to see the boys use whatever strength they had and to pitch in where they were needed. We didn’t hear a single word about “my” bike or “your” bike – if they were needed to get someone else’s bike up, that’s where they went.
That’s what teamwork is all about – jumping in to help the team reach their goal. It’s not about doing my part only – whatever is needed for the team is what we’ll do. Davy and Daryl have learned the value of working as a team and know that it’s only working together that we will reach the end of the earth.
Take Baby Steps: Any big goal won’t be accomplished in one giant leap – it’ll take a whole series of baby steps. When you put enough of those baby steps together, you’ve done something big. The key is to keep your eye on the goal and take baby steps to get there. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It’s easy to lose sight of where you’re going; to lose sight of the forest for the trees. It’s easy to get bogged down and give up before reaching your destination. If you remember it’s all about baby steps, you’ll make it through.
Davy and Daryl have learned to set small goals – some days it’s just making it through the mud and muck of today and getting back on solid pavement; other times it’s braving a cold rain in order to reach a warm dry house, and sometimes it’s reaching a city 500 miles away. But each one of those baby steps brings us one step closer to our goal.
Deal with detours when they happen: Too many people ‘what-if’ themselves out of reaching for their dreams. What if this happens? What if that happens? If you focus on the what-ifs, you’ll never go anywhere.
Detours will happen as you reach for any big goal. As you take those baby steps, there will be times when you come face-to-face with some diversion you hadn’t planned. You have two choices – try to forge ahead with your original plan, or go with the flow. It’s usually better to go with the flow.
Know before you start that detours will happen, and accept that you’ll deal with them when they arise. You can’t plan out every eventuality – don’t even try. When it happens, use your knowledge and experience to come up with the best solution you know of and move ahead.
My sons have learned that lesson well, and just take each day as it comes. If there’s a problem, we’ll deal with it. If not, we move on. It’s as simple as that.
Someone once told me there are four basic steps to doing anything big:
1. Decide what you want to do
2. Come up with a plan to get there
3. Start walking
4. Go back to the drawing board
I think that’s exactly right. Figure out what you want to accomplish and consider the steps you’ll need to make it happen. Then go – and know you’ll change your plan many, many times before you get there.
Davy and Daryl have gained a wisdom I can only dream of through their years traveling the world on their bikes. They’ve faced difficult situations and have figured out how to overcome them. They’ve learned how to plan and implement big projects. They’ve learned to work together for the good of the team. They’ve learned they can do anything if they decide it’s what they want to do.
I have no doubt that wisdom and knowledge will serve them well in the future.