Back to the Future
Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 7:00AM

The big problem with reality is that you have to live on society's terms. In going back to the life I came from I am obliged to consider the future. I wouldn't mind if it could be the fanciful future I want for myself, but to achieve a future on my terms I have to navigate society's terms first. It is amazing how the future is thrust upon us constantly in life and from such a small age too. In school we are told to get good grades so that we can get into college. Once in college we have to get a good degree so that we can get a good job. These good jobs only force us to plan a career-path.  Once we have a good career we can look forward to the next thirty years of mortgage repayments so that we can own a house. Of course, we must also be sensible in terms of contributing to our future via a pension or indeed insuring against unknown future events. It's all a bit bland really. Whatever happened to dreams?

One of the reasons why I decided to go travelling was that I had no picture of my future in my head. While I'm currently drifting, I'm not that spontaneous that I could continue along this path indefinitely.  Indeed, I still wish to be productive and to contribute. As uninspiring as some people's picture of the future is I acknowledge that all the above things are important to some degree. I would just not emphasise their importance to the degree that society currently does. As my future was a blank canvas in my head I decided I needed to take time out to paint a picture of it.

But where do you start?

I guess I wanted to be able to connect to the things that stirred me inside. These are riding my bike, trying to take a nice photo, the odd moment when I write with great zeal and finally, provocative thought. These four things were to be the main components of my trip. Traveling through foreign lands and unfamiliar cultures by bicycle has been pretty provocative to say the least. Naturally, the website has made me feel productive on the writing and photography fronts. The interesting thing is that I still want to focus my energies on these areas.  I could easily have finished the trip and said; biking, never again. This in itself is very encouraging even if I can't see down the road with these things. I may not do any of the above to a professional standard but if I sow the seed and give them energy then maybe over time something will germinate and bloom. Thus, the next chapter in my life is really a continuation along the same lines. This means that I will continue to suspend reality. I will still be productive but I will not be working in a productive capacity for society; taking an income and paying taxes on it and all that.

I am sure it is not that much of a surprise to people that I am working on a book at the moment, although I'm not being very disciplined with it. My travels only inform part of it. I don't think there is anything particularly unique about what I have done so converting a ca. 120,000 word blog into a manuscript is a waste of time. However, the blog is there to mine for material if I need it. When I started the trip I wanted to run two blogs. One was to be a kind of Polaroid – very light-hearted, experimental and simply snap-shots of moments in time that when put together would tell a very random story. The other one was to be quite dense and abstract and deal with all the provocative thoughts I was forced to confront while on the road. Of course, maintaining a blog takes a lot of time. In the end I ended up with just the one blog that was neither one thing nor the other. Thus, I am now trying to write the more heavy-going blog since my perspective is a rarer thing than simply the traveling. I'm committed to finishing it, not simply because I hope it will read well and can be sold but because it will allow me to complete a lot of half-thoughts; thoughts that may provide clarity as to what I should pursue next. The book is a journey in itself, so once again I find myself on a road unsure of where the ultimate destination will be. I hope I can do a good job of it but if it is not a successful venture then no big deal. I wouldn't be the first person not to have finished a book or indeed failed to have a book published. The challenge is not so much in getting my ideas onto the page but in weaving some complex material (although I would argue it is simple) into the context of a story that makes my point of view both accessible, relatable and compelling enough to read. The reality is that I'm not really a writer. I'm more a thinker but I can't say that to people without being slapped around and told to get over myself. Obviously, I am not attesting to the quality of any thought but thinking is what I innately do best. However, I view a thinker's craft as one of words. The art of expressing an idea is to encode it with great energy in both the spoken and written word. If I can learn to speak articulately and write eloquently then that is half the battle and I may have some chance of monetising my thoughts. Who knows? I'm still uncertain as to what they are.

I also endeavour to pursue photography. I have been sorting through my better photos and I'm still left with the realisation that they are only marginally above average. There is some reasonable composition at times and naturally the foreign locations make them interesting in themselves. However, they are mostly point-and-shoot with an emphasis on composition and the intent of shooting from a different perspective. In some ways I achieved what I set out to achieve in that I never expected to be able to use anything from this trip, rather that the trip would be part of my schooling in terms of trying to form a bond with the camera and create a perspective that is unique to me. Looking at the pics on my computer they are not sharp enough to reproduce. They will inevitably be a treasure chest of memories on Picasa but it is good to know that I still have a real yearning to improve. I have been studying some books in an effort to move it up a notch and I have just completed on my first photo assignment; portrait shots for a friend's professional website. It all went very well considering I had no studio or lighting equipment with which to work. I had to work with natural light and figure out suitable locations to shoot. I was happy with my execution and thankfully it seemed to come quite easily to me. As far as I'm aware photography is considered an art form. The difficulty of the arts is that painters and sculptors typically have part-time jobs to pay the bills since despite any acclaim there is limited money to be made from the sale of their works. Some are very successful but most struggle. Of course photography has a commercial element to it that makes it a viable career choice for someone who can find their niche. Commercial applications include wedding photography, studio photography, photo-journalism, corporate head-shots, architectural project shots or indeed fashion shots. 

I guess I'm also responding to prompts I've had from people who tell me that I should pursue photography or write a book. I see a lot of flaws with my work but there must be something in it if (some) people respond as they do. Their voice is a form of market research, which suggests some level of demand even if I don't know how much and in what format. If you don't put yourself out there then you won't meet the people who can bring you on. I guess this is what I am trying to achieve, to produce something on my own account so that I can engage with the kind of people that I want to hang out with. I'm not meeting them as I currently have no voice but If I express myself then maybe I'll find what it is I'm looking for. I don't know but it's all I have to work on for the moment. As I said in the last post, rowing back to reality is always an option. It's the soft option for me so for now I will avoid it as I still feel the need to go beyond and experience a different kind of reality.

But what about the bike? I love to race so I am doing my best to get back into racing shape. No easy task considering I want to move it up a level next season. I'd love to ride the Ras, Ireland's internationally renowned 8-day stage race. This may be too ambitious but I will train away and see if I can discover something resembling class. Winter in Colorado has not advantaged me. I was wondering why my form was poor and then I realised I haven't actually done that much training. I spent November getting cul de sacced as I tried to find my way out of the city to train. I have lost 15 days on trips to NYC (no complaints). I have also lost 15 days to snowboarding (again, I'm not moaning). The most damaging has been the weather, I have lost another 28 days due to snow and a few cold snaps. All I can do is chip away.

Ok, I have said too much.  I'll be on again soon.


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