Everything around us in life reflects value systems. As I mentioned in a previous article I also moonlight as a professor. The common theme of what I teach revolves around cities whether gentrification, bikeability, community development, urban history, and so on. That might be odd admission particularly in the mountain biking world, but I love cities. I love BIG cities. But I also love the wilderness.
Regardless of what class I teach one of the common themes that arises is this notion of value systems when it comes to where people live. You see, where we live for the most part reflects a value system. I will usually start the semester and say something like this ... "If you tell me where you live I will tell you what your value systems are, how you vote, etc." Why? Most often when people move they land in a place or a part of the city that reflects their values whether the family-friendly suburbs or the higher density city center (and other places).
This conversation and thought experiment also plays out in the mountain biking community. I hear and see it all of the time. Mountain bikers loading up their bikes to "escape the city" and lose themselves out in the wild ... hucking off built features, digging in the dirt, and simply enjoying time outside. There is something simply amazing about getting outside and riding. Just yesterday I had my own reprieve as I explored new (to me) trails and had a blast navigating new junctions, figuring out which trail to take, and secretly hoping to get lost.
But what if we had it all wrong? What if the focus of our adventures was about what we were escaping to and not what we're escaping from?
I understand that for many living in the city is "suffocating." I hear it all of the time from my students, particularly those who grew up rurally or in the suburbs. They use words like "suffocating, congested, overwhelming," and the like the describe the city. But I want you to pause for a moment. Reorient your thinking. We have an incredible privilege and opportunity to load up our bikes and head out for some near or far trailhead or adventure. Rather than thinking about "fleeing" what if we instead thought about "embracing?" Meaning, what new adventure awaits or is on the horizon that we're embracing? We don't ride to leave but we ride to re-create. To think and experience again the thrill of adventure and the unknown.
It is easy while out on the trail to be distracted as our minds recall the previous days or weeks. Sometimes stress wells up. At those times it is easy to catch a pedal on a rock or a handlebar on a tree trunk because our thoughts are somewhere else. This happens to me all of the time. When I notice it I slow my breathing, fix my eyes on the trail before me, and utter to myself ... "let it flow." I repeat that over and over again until I'm focused. That may sound silly but it is my trigger to reorient myself to live in the now.
For me mountain biking is not an escape from anything. It is an escape to living and being fully present, basking in the beauty around me, and enjoying the camaraderie of others I'm adventuring with.
What are you escaping to?
Words by Sean Benesh, Loam Coffee Founder and Brand Manager. Photos by Shane Wiebe.