7 things I learned on my 3,700 mile bike ride across the USA
Updated: Aug 19
Personal challenges are undertaken for many reasons. We may want to test, or push our limits. The purpose may be about building and extending our physical and mental health. They are opportunities for us to fundraise in a purposeful way for causes which are close to our heart. Usually, our drive to complete such challenges is a tangled web with multiple motivations.
However, what I find really interesting, having completed multiple personal challenges of an endurance nature is that I always take away lessons I hadn’t considered so intently before. It’s these lessons which mean that the experience shapes us going forwards, and why I believe we all benefit from embracing personal challenges.
Here are the 7 lessons I’m taking away from my 3,700 mile and 50 day bike ride from the west coast of the USA to the east coast.
1. Don’t let age get in the way of your dreams
Age is just a number. On this trip there was Bob from Arizona age 79. This was actually his second time completing the trip, having done it the year before! He wasn’t alone. There were several others aged 70 and a good number of us in our sixties. Fitness takes dedication but age shouldn’t be the hurdle we make it out to be.
2. Do something big!
Big is daunting. It means we may never embrace big challenges. However, this bike ride was a big challenge and here were a bunch of us embracing it. Why? Perhaps because we’ve all realised that we are all far more capable than we actually think we are – if we put our minds to it.
With 3,700 miles to clock up, often through mountainous and hilly terrain, you’d think the success of the ride was down to physical strength. No, I’d say 75% of the success is directly attributable to mental strength and resilience.
Taking a physical hit over the first week, the body then adapted and it was time for the mind to take over. It’s all about self-belief at that stage.
3. Do it NOW!
No more excuses; the circumstances are never perfect. Instead of uttering “when I retire...”, “when I get a promotion…” or “when x happens…” work out how to do what you want to do right here, right now. You are responsible for making the opportunity; don’t wait on perfect circumstances which never come.
4. Regularly review who you invite in to your life
Relationships should be intentional, not accidental. In our busy lives, it is vital that we surround ourselves with the relationships which support us. I was fortunate that many of my friends and colleagues supported me with encouraging messages, donations to my chosen charities, or simply took an interest.
However, there were also those who were conspicuous by their absence. This personal challenge mattered to me and it helped me discern who was in my cheerleading squad. I was also in the position of making new friendships through an intense experience together.
5. Relationships are like plants
Closely related to the above lesson came a realisation of how relationships need the same nurturing as plants. They won’t survive, or grow strong roots, or blossom, unless they receive care and attention. At times this will mean a dose of good times (sunshine), or sustenance (water), or encouragement (food) and at other times support (the bamboo cane!).
Make sure you take the time to look after your relationships and they will be as strong as the mightiest oak.
6. Two months is a long time
Two months away from home is a long time to be separated from loved ones. However, absence definitely made my heart grow fonder. Indeed, it was an important reminder to take time each day to be grateful and appreciative of all my relationships. I’m also making a point, since my return, of showing it too.
7. Life is short
I may have had daily route maps meaning I knew, at least vaguely, what was around the corner on my ride. However, life is not the same. You don’t know what’s coming. So carpe diem! Seize the day and get out there and live life to the full. See the beautiful world we live in and be an active part of it. On this trip I was spoiled with the natural sights of the mountains and valleys of Oregon and Wyoming, as well as the sheer force of nature at Niagara Falls. Go and embrace it.
I am grateful to all who have supported me as I took on this personal challenge. The lessons above have shown me that it’s not a case that I’ve now ‘been there, done that’ but I need to keep embracing opportunity and challenge in line with my motto ‘You only live once’. So watch this space because I’m already planning my next trip, my next challenge, which will be longer than the USA ride.