The 102km journey I took today on a cycling trip to activate South Australia with the Global Goals today I think is a great analogy and comparison to working towards the success of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development…
Like a new campaigner or someone starting to realise they want to be a part of the solution and work towards a better world for people and the planet I took off with the wind behind me pushing me down the quite country road where everything was easy, exciting and a sense of significant progress. But then…
The first shower of the day came in making it cold, uncomfortable and wishing for better times. Many people get off their bike at this stage and say ‘not me, I’m not strong enough for this’ or hoping that change-making will remain fun, easy and that initial progress was achieved anyway.
As someone who has done a decent amount of bicycle touring (and social justice campaigning) I don’t mind the rain because at some stage in the future you know you will be dry! The significant breakthrough of making it through the rain and the first signs of challenge and uncomfortableness for working towards a better world, is that you have shown your own worth and know you can face a rain shower, or challenge again in the future. You’ve had the experience and it may suck when it happens again but you know you have survived it before.
Again the sun returned, I dried out and this wonderful tail wind on an empty smooth road continued reaching 50km is just two hours, while knowing it was going to be about 100km for the entire day! It’s important to rejoice in those moments, not fear the next challenge and remind yourself of why you do what you do and just how special it can all be.
Shower number two. It came up fast as I was looking at my map for next directions and I spied a water tank and small shed nearby and quick went for refuge. I still got wet but not as wet as if I’d been on the open road. It was about having the experience to look for something, take some kind of cover and be ready to get back on the bike after the worst had past. Campaigning and change-making benefits from experiences from challenges, just like cycling, challenges like the ridicule for caring, the non-believers in collaborative positive change, and the self-doubt in it all being worthwhile, as examples.
Following the rain was a wet road with lots of water spraying on the trailer and my back but no use in caring as this is bike trip, that’s what happens!
My research into routes suggested a dirt road alongside a state nature park and a chance to really be off the main roads and see something you may never see from a tarmac perspective. The dirt road was wet, bumpy and muddy and much slower than the previous 50km leading up to it. But soon I adjusted to the change in pace the bumps and avoiding the softer spots that would slow me down.
The muddy dirt road turned into a smooth track and the feeling was electric. You feel a pioneering spirit, the sense of adventure and proud that you’ve tried a path of more uncertainty and reaping the benefits. In the case today that trail turned into a path of soft sand, oh no, bad choice, I knew I should have taken the tarmac road! According to my map the sandy path should only be a km or two to a bigger looking line on the map so it is probably just this small section – optimism and hope!
The bigger track was an even bigger and softer sandy trail! The map said the next line on is a while away… I’m not a big fan of turning around and going a long way around so on we go hoping for better conditions sooner than later and it’s not like I am in the middle of the Great Victoria Desert, just a small sandy track in Western Victoria!
I tried a mix of intense tiring cycling on the harder soft bits and mostly pushing my bike through the softer soft bits. Again you learn to accept your predicament and know the only thing to get you through will be determination and lots of training and experience from the past. After nearly 2 hours and 10km of soft sand a hard dirt road appeared, and sooner than expected having got into the rhythm and acceptance of soft sand for as long as it would take.
The jubilation of being able to cycle back on a bumby dirt road – so good, so much progress, so satisfying! Change-making is designed to have to face challenges, like choosing an unknown cycling path, so when we roll up our sleeves with determination, acceptance and resolve to get through it and we are then better at the previous challenge level that seemed much harder before (muddy dirt road).
The dirt road turned back into tarmac and with no water left and no break for a long time a country pub appeared out of nowhere that had cold rain water, an outside picnic bench and people to share my story of conquer with!
In years of cycle touring and change-making I know it is the long game that counts. When the rain, the headwind or the soft sand comes it is time to dig in, become resolute and know it will be slower or harder progress. Without sticking at it we will never have the experiences of the tailwinds, downhill and smooth paths and if we are not on our bikes to begin with!
If you have started taking your first set of Teaspoons of Change, or been doing it for a short while, know there will be challenges and progress may feel invisible or stagnant, but if we are not doing anything then there is no chance for change.
I live by the idea that: small actions multiplied by lots of times is what creates big change, just like each rotation of the pedal, or step through soft sand.
Time for me to eat ridiculous amounts of food, because I can, and a satisfying sleep – the other benefits of cycling, and maybe change-making!
(Note: in the end I didn’t ration my food so well so was a light dinner saving enough to get to my destination the following day! However, a car of people who turned up to the campsite late shared with me some matches so I could start a fire to keep warm and gave me some of their leftover food – so as with the Global Goals we can all get there in the end if we work together!!!)
Pics of the camping spot at Bailey Rocks – beautiful eh!