“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
On 9 November 2015, I posted a blog about my first round island cycling expedition and shared it in the Love Cycling SG Facebook group. Some members of the group found it inspirational, and others expressed the desire to try doing their own round island cycling trip too.
I believe something about the blog post must have struck a chord in the audience’s heart – one that goes beyond the mere thrill of discovering new lands. The cycling journey served as a sort of personal retreat or soul expedition for me. Usually, as I travel to explore places, I also get to know myself in the process, exploring the inner recesses of my soul, embracing the dark side as well as the light side.
For example, the dystopian landscape in Tuas in the far west of Singapore could very well be a reflection of the dark regions of my soul – my fears, my sorrows, my hurts and pains – that have been repressed; hence, I found the landscape increasingly depressive the further I cycled into the territory. But by facing the darkness within me even as I faced the “darkness” around me, I would come to terms with the inner turmoil, and bring about healing and peace to my soul.
Another thing that struck me was that I was unprepared for the stark reality I saw in my journey to Tuas and Jurong industrial estate. Although I used to work in Jurong industrial estate for a few months back in 1997-1998, I couldn’t comprehend firsthand the full extent of the industrialisation because I had travelled to the workplace by bus back then. In comparison, cycling had a way to expose me to the raw elements of the environment around me – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the fatigue of travelling – in such a way whereby I could literally and metaphorically soak in the kind of energy and ambience of the environment around me. When I was travelling in an air-con bus, I was mostly oblivious to the nature of the surroundings, or the condition of the environment, and I didn’t notice keenly the fine details, such as the unsightly smoke from the chimneys, the rumbling noise from the excavators and trucks, the caustic smell of chemicals from the factories, and the harsh conditions in which the migrant workers had to endure as they lived in dormitories near the factories and worked day after day being exposed to air and noise pollution in the industrial area. I have come to realise that travelling in motor vehicles tends to insulate us from the harsh realities out there. Cycling (or walking for that matter), on the other hand, engages us with the reality around us more intimately and has a greater power to shape or change our perception and experience of life wherever we go.
Last but not least, I noted that a reader commented “Riding alone is tough, good to have company next time.” Well, one reason I chose to ride solo was so that I would be able to travel at my own pace, and make decisions on the fly on which routes to take or when to stop and rest. If I were to cycle in a group, I might not be able to keep up with the pace if the others were cycling on road bikes and I might have to drop out along the way. Much as there would be safety in numbers if we cycled in a group as we would be more visible to motorists and we could help one another if any one of us encountered a punctured tyre or experienced health problems or some other unexpected emergencies, I was prepared to take the risk to cycle solo in this long-distance expedition, and I ensured that I took time to study the maps and packed sufficient food and other necessities. I also made sure my mobile phone would be functional at all times. That said, one lesson I learnt from this trip is to have a second battery charger on standby in case the first one runs out of power during the journey.
Like the above quote says, it is worthwhile to stand up for my right to feel my pain in the midst of the mass anesthesia that is being administered to numb us all in the societal system, through propaganda, entertainment, mass consumption and so on. This reminder has given me the inspiration to post some further contemplative thoughts on my first round island cycling trip above.
“The quieter you are, the more you can hear.” Ram Dass