Doored!

For those of you not familiar with the concept of “Dooring”: v. To Door. To be so closed off from the world that as you exit your big steal bubble (ie: car/truck) you throw open the door without looking, without so much as glancing in your mirrors, and inconveniently snag a passing cyclist. Often, said cyclist’s wheel will connect with said door and the rider will pitchpole over their handlebars, momentarily learning to fly. Alternatively, if your bubble was for example, a big delivery truck, said cyclist’s wheel might roll under the door, slamming the rider front-on into your metal barrier, using instead their body to stop their 15mile an hour momentum.

Saturday morning, on my way to work. Same route, same time, same bike – everything is normal. I’m cruising along at a good clip, down a bit of a downhill. Less than a foot away from me, a door opens into my bike lane. A huge metal truck door. My bike flies under it, my body slams into it, and I bounce off sideways into traffic, hitting my head on the bitumen as I land. Lying in the middle of the road clutching my bleeding, potentially broken hand, I think: Oh shit, I just got doored!
I’m fine. My hand wasn’t broken, just jammed and bent a little. My neck didn’t fracture either, just sprained. No helmet on my head (wear your helmet!!!), but it’s fine too, no major concussion. The swelling and bruising everywhere else are on their way down and my neck is freeing up. 5 days off work and my paycheck will feel it. I can type this post using my right hand finally, though making a fist still hurts. As soon as it fully heals, I’ll be shaking a clenched fist at every delusional, unobservant vehicle out there.

For christ’s sake – LOOK FOR BIKES. Seriously.

 

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New Equator – The Documentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a weekend! What an extravaganza! Life begins to return to normal now, but the memory and love of such a beautiful event will stay with us forever. Looking over the photos I’m reminded of the love and community that we all shared. Friends and family from around the world, and from right here in Madison, to unite and celebrate Love!

Each one made such an effort to be here – from hitch-hiking adventures to  last minute plane departures, there was a story in each arrival. Seeing so many of the people we adore all in one place, supporting us and unifying us, was… unforgettable and indescribable.  And the unimaginable hours put into food, bikes, co-ordination, and a million other things – an extravaganza would never have been possible without so much help. We felt touched, blessed and eternally grateful for the mission effort that went into pulling it off. Thank you packages are on their way!

Head on over to Flickr for lots more photos:    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilyluck/

And lots more coming soon! We’ll include an explanation in the thank you notes on how to upload YOUR photos to that flickr account too. We’d love to see them! Big thanks to Chris Hoppe for these snaps – the ones we have so far are beautiful!

New Equator – A Commitment Ceremony

On this little coin-sized circle, there is a place called Madison, Point A. It sits amongst green fields of dairy cows, people with large cheese appetites, and a whole lot of bicycles.

On this same coin-sized circle, there is another place, called Brisbane, Point B. It lies next to a big bountiful river, miles of white-sanded coastline, and a whole lot of surfboards.

There is magic here. If one were to tilt the world on it’s axes, if one were to – fall in love for example – one would discover that by drawing a connecting line between these two locations,  one would pass right through the centre of a Third important point, point C.

This point is of a much smaller nature, on our coin-sized circle above, but it’s name is Port Vila. It belongs scattered amongst 80 islands, millions of fruiting coconut trees, and a lot of water – the salty kind. Now, this is really the most valuable of the points to you, dear reader, since without it – this moment would not pass. RIGHT NOW, you would not be reading this blog. You would not have stumbled on this character “Lily Barlow” and you would certainly never have heard of “Charles Brigham”. Port Vila, Vanuatu is where it all began.

Don’t worry if you missed it though, it happens. Beginnings begin all the time, and it is a rare occasion when everyone can make it. Plus, guess what? There’s a whole other beginning happening in just Three Weeks! It’s called the New Equator Extravaganza – A Commitment Ceremony. It will be held at Point A, AND it will be dutifully blogged and logged on this here very website. There will be photos of the food, photos of the people, and photos of all the decorations that have been accumulating in my living room the last few months!

Turns out, if you spin the World around a little, it lands in Perfect Balance: right in the middle of Love, Trust, and Commitment. It’s a good idea to draw it coin-sized too, so it doesn’t look so big. That way, people you really really love and miss and wish could be here, will look at it and think “oh, Point A is so close to us here at Point B, there’s a dotted red line right to it”. And Voila! You will have yourself a grand extravaganza, with people coming from far away lands just to ride a bicycle, camp in a tent, and laugh with two pretty ordinary folks 🙂

 

Three Years

June 28th… no, actually – June 29th – marks a special day for me …  Three years ‘on the road’ (an anti-climactic cancelled flight to Thailand delayed me a day). Or at least, Three years since Australia, since Family, since Bubble-o-bills, Milo, and Three Monkeys chai. A few special occasions of relief – Peter once, Mum twice, Dad in San Fran and Sister a whole fabulous 3 months in Barcelona. While floating on Ramble I even got a package full of Milo tins for my birthday. But special treats aside, I’m now into my fourth year away.

Mum and Lil in the Caribbean

Family in San Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away from what? I’ve built myself a Home in many places since, I’ve found new Friends, new Communities. I’ve relaxed on beautiful beaches, been to great gigs and slept on many a couch. But… … none of them have been Byron beach, none of them have been Mr Laneous at the Shire with the crew, and none of them have been Mum and Peter’s plush white sofa. I’m slowly losing my accent, gradually warming to the cold, and I’m even saying things like “Sofa”! I’ve learnt to spell like an American, speak like the French and eat like the Dutch.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, when I left in 2008. I didn’t know I’d find True Love,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nomad Bases,

and Bicycle Touring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sure as hell couldn’t have guessed I’d be living in a small city in the Mid West, building a northern hemisphere Home. But it’s a good thing I did, since that’s exactly why I left – to explore, to learn, to grow. Now, I have new words, new (old) boots, and a Whole New Family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I still dream of mangoes by the kilo, signs that say “Watch for Kangaroos” and especially, I dream of waking up on that plush white Couch, or camping amongst Bottle Trees on Dad’s farm “DeHavilland”.

If I were ever to make plans, I would say: I plan on this being my last year away. I plan on catching the sailing season in February, and riding the trade winds all the way HOME. I plan on Kilometers and Capsicums and 40 degrees Celsius. But plans are for fools. I’ll just wait and see.

How open should we be?

Advice for a hitch-hiker might be: Be as open as you can, trust your intuition, empower yourself, learn from others, and enjoy the long, free road!

As a hitchhiker, couchsurfer, solo-cyclist… In fact, as anyone involved in any kind of financially free lifestyle, there are important ways to approach things and valuable lessons to learn. One thing I learnt early on was that it is a deep-rooted philosophy of mine that we should take what we need and give what we can. That means that if you have a roof you can share, you ought to. If you have food to give, do so. If you can spare a seat, you should. And most of these ground rules have come from receiving. From being offered everything from couches to temples, caviar to bread, sports car to back-of-the-truck rides. Such generosity from others spawned in me a firm belief that I must give back whenever I can.

So to suddenly be faced with a living situation involving people who feel quite the opposite about this philosophy, is somewhat disheartening. I am trying to understand more about personal space, about fear of danger, about not wanting to give what you don’t need to… but with no room for compromise it’s feeling awfully bleak. Do we really want to live in fear of ‘something going wrong’? Do we really want to base our choices on the (more unlikely that likely) chance of danger coming our way? Because for every fear we choose to obey, a thousand loves are lost.

We could be living open, living free, giving what we can and taking only what we need. Rejoicing in the goodwill, appreciating the lessons, the stories, the help that travellers can offer us. We could swollow our fears, hitch and be hitched, couchsurf and be couchsurfed, love and be loved. We could do all of this with a clear head and an honest intuition, and in doing so avoid the dangers and reap the benefits.

And we are not powerless, even once an unsavoury situation is upon us. Often, while hitch-hiking or solo travelling, people have asked: “But what would you do if ‘the wrong person’ found you?” My answer is of course, firstly, that I choose not to live in fear, and to project positives… but then I answer: “If something were to happen, I would assert my power, remain calm, and deal with it”. It has happened, once or twice in thousands of interactions, that I found myself with someone who wanted to push a little too far. By following this philosophy and process, it has never turned ugly.

The point is though, I know where I stand when it comes to couch-surfers, hitch-hiking and this giving philosophy. But how to do I stand united with the people I live with, if our foundations are so opposed?

A winter in waiting

Somehow, after three years of regular blogging and almost weekly updates – six months rolled by without a post. I firmly believe it’s better to write poorly than not to write at all… and yet I find myself hesitating, criticising, and eventually denying, any pen to pay process.

Which is a shame, since my new life in the Midwest has proved an opportunity for new thought patterns, critical attitude analysis, and some seriously profound lessons. With very few local friend outlets, I ought to have used this platorm to help sort through feelings.

That’s the way it goes with depression though… the less you do, the lower you get, and then the less you do. I’m really not familiar with depression – it sounds so severe to me. But I suppose being sad for extended periods of time counts. Maybe the language isn’t important.

There is a phenomenon here calld S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder… a.k.a Sun Absence = Depression. It is definitely real, I learnt that much. But I wouldn’t want to attribute all of my misery to a lack of sunlight and an extremely long winter. True, it did snow last week and I am growing quite tired of feeling cold, like inside bone cold, but there is a lot more to it too.

It’s moving to a new place, any new place. It’s having a partner with a broken leg that won’t seem to heal. It’s being ready for an Australian home then having to wait. It’s integrating into a new family. And each of those have such a huge range of emotions associated with them that putting them all in a line like that seems almost meaningless. The good news is that whatever the block, whatever the dark cloud… it’s clearing. People are slowly moving outside again, friendships are being formed, and I’m gradually learning old lessons about attitude ownership, personal power, individual freedom in relationships.

I still want more from Charlie that he can give me right now, I am still building up trust with his family, and I’m still searching for my mission here in Madison, but the sun has thawed the icy lakes, and maybe the ice in me too. Things are flowing once more. At least i”m writing again. At least i’m touring again. Yep: I am writing this from the road.

Just a little loop – Madison-Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison…  just enough. Bike touring ‘courage’ seems so hard won, and so easily lost – but after a 90 mile day yesterday, in good time and with a smile, I remember –  I can still do it. Tomorrow i’ll bike into Madison, along the same route I took in June. Then, I was introducing myself to Charlie’s town… this time I’ll be coming home. My home.

Courage: n.

Most of our dictionaries will tell us “courage” is the ability to control (or conquer) fear. I’m often cited for being ‘courageous’ while out touring, hitchhiking, or traveling as a solo female… and yet: none of those exploits instill much fear in me. A little anxiety certainly, a healthy dose of anticipation, and perhaps a touch too much excitement, but fear? No, the open road speaks to me of possibilities, of adventure, of freedom. Societies initial ‘impending doom’ scenario is soon superseded with the reality of universal care, and though we may walk out the door in fear, soon the sky opens, the road widens, and your oyster tastes sweet.

If we have an understanding of what to expect, of our tools and our surroundings, then we are much less likely to be gripped by fear and therefore less likely to be feeling Brave. An outsider, who has never ridden a loaded bicycle on a deserted road, undoubtedly encounters uncertainty, insecurity and fear at the mere mention of it. But to the rider, who has become accustomed to life at a 15mph pace, and who has a map of all the waterholes, it has become a grand expedition, a soul-building, freedom filled experience. Our amount of courage is in direct proportion to our depth of fear.

So, I think it’s safe to say that while ‘out there’ on the highways and byways of the world, I’m not being very courageous. That’s not to say I’m not a courageous person. On the contrary, I like to think of myself as being very brave and bold. In fact, I just moved into a small house in a Midwest town knee deep in snow, with my lover (short one fully functioning leg) and his mother – with the somewhat delusional intention of ‘settling down’. If that doesn’t take courage, I don’t know what does! After three years of constant movement, and a childhood built on sporadic upheaval – being in one place with four walls and a roof, and looking for a job – well, it’s a little scary. Add to that a body and mind that don’t know of weather below 10 degrees Celsius, and you’ve got yourself some serious fear.

We congratulate our explorers on their bravery and we question our comrades who stay at home, but you may not have to rage the flood, or roam the field or climb the mountains crest – for a little bit of courage, just add fear.