For reasons I won't discuss at length, I was stranded at a pizza shop in Fredericksburg for 3 hours this afternoon. A few other folks came and went during that time, and the staff buzzed about behind the counter as they prepared orders that, I could only surmise, were destined for delivery. For the most part though, I was alone for those 3 hours. I have always prided myself on my ability to entertain myself, and I figured 3 hours wouldn't be a big problem. I could work on my blog, send a few emails, perhaps even facebook for a while. I felt proud that I was so comfortable being alone. I am surely more highly evolved than the group of teenagers across the shop who couldn't go 10 seconds without texting or 2 seconds without using the word "like" as they engaged in what today sadly passes for communication. Then it hit me: I wasn't alone as long as I was online. I started to think about how much time I actually spend alone, and I started to wonder how much time any of us actually get to spend without the influence of others. The answer is not much.
One of the big reasons I wanted to do this big year on a bicycle is to experience the time alone that life in the gasoline-powered real world often denies us. This alone time is equally exciting and terrifying. While it is exciting to have the headspace to explore myself and my place in the world, it is terrifying to think what might happen if I run out of original thoughts or tire of personal analysis along the way. One approach might be to slowly and deliberately explore the layers of myself and how I integrate into the world beyond my own body. Perhaps, instead, the challenge is to free my mind from precisely this sort of analysis and simply experience biking, birding, and existing without respect for what it all means in the larger context of my life. I suspect that my actual experience will pendulum between these two extremes, and I know from personal experience in this first month that at least some of the time will be spent cursing my circumstances at that particular moment. I think at this stage of the journey, I simply need to enjoy and respect the alone time I am afforded before the birds interrupt it.