A few months ago, I wrote a post about the opposition I faced when telling people about the changes I wanted to make in my life. Well, after having been on my leave for a week now, I still receive negative or unsupportive comments occasionally; but I have decided not to focus on the negative. While we can’t control what people say about us or to us, we can control how it affects us. I know that we can’t always pretend it doesn’t hurt, but if we focus on the good things, the bad things seem so much smaller. So, I would like to take some time to talk about the support I have received from family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.
It’s probably less surprising that a stranger would support such an “extraordinary” endeavor, since they don’t know you and can’t consider all the other factors in your life. However, there are so many people out there that are making big changes that it’s becoming common (at least, they keep popping up more and more on the internet). I received several comments of support on a previous post from complete strangers. I know the sample size here is small and biased, but it still counts towards upping my positive attitude!
As for acquaintances, I have hosted something like ten cyclists and a few other travelers in the last few months, and each one I tell about my goals has encouraged me to go for it. They all have different back stories: some have given up jobs, some are in school, some are on a leave like I am, some are solo, some in pairs or groups, some have six huge bags, some have one tiny bag. But what they all have in common is that they love traveling by bicycle and encourage others to chase their dreams! They may not know everything about me, but they do know a lot about bicycle touring, and when they are all encouraging me to do it, it’s hard not to believe that I can do it too.
Talking to friends about my trip is mostly positive and practical. The majority of my friends are excited for me, and I really appreciate their encouragement. Some of my friends are cyclists themselves and have offered their expertise and/or recommended resources and contacts which has been extremely helpful. Some friends are skeptical, but tell me I need to do what makes me happy. Many coworkers are confused and/or concerned, but mostly I get practical tips about safety and constructive questions to help me think of everything. A few friends and coworkers legitimately think I’m crazy for wanting to leave my job to go on a bike tour alone. There’s no changing their minds, so I listen to their comments and consider them, but ultimately am still convinced I’m making the right decision.
My family loves me the most. I know that of all people I talk to, they have known me the longest and will be most likely to weigh their decisions toward caution for my safety and overall well being. For this I love and appreciate them, but unfortunately, it’s kind of a double edged sword. They want me to always be as safe as possible, which means maintaining stability and comfort, and not taking obscure risks with unforeseen consequences. However, just because you love someone doesn’t mean you know what’s best for them in every situation. Since no one in my family takes a significant interest in bike touring, they know virtually nothing about the significant number of people who are doing it around the world, the variations in ways to tour, the general safety of touring, or the community involved with bicycle touring. To help mitigate their concerns, I explain these things, and send them resources. Some relatives have accepted my choices and have moved on to providing me with support, advice, books, and other resources to help. This small shift has helped me brighten up significantly.
When you make a big change, there will be people who call you crazy. There will be people who say you can’t do it, and there will be people who will be afraid for you. You should not disregard these thoughts or concerns, but take them for what they are. Try to evaluate their concern (whether it’s founded in fear, envy, solid facts, or something else), and instead of letting it weigh you down, use the information you learn to make a more informed decision. If someone is afraid a country is too dangerous, consider if this is opinion or fact and whether you should reconsider going there. If someone is afraid you are incapable of doing something, evaluate your own body and decide for yourself, maybe you need more training or to take smaller steps before making a big leap, or maybe you really are ready right now. In the end, once you have considered all legitimate concerns, any other negative comments aren’t valuable and can be disempowering. Instead of focusing on these, find the people who support you and remind yourself of the reasons you wanted to do whatever it was in the first place. Believe in yourself, make a plan; don’t be afraid to fail because if you do you’ll never try. The only way to succeed is by risking failure, and even if you do fail, you’ll still learn something about yourself you never knew before.