Second Wind: How bicycling around North America changed my life

In the summer of 2004, I sold or gave away most of my belongings, quit my job, vacated my apartment, and hit the road on my bicycle.  The plan was to travel with the seasons, spend the winter in the south and go up the east coast with the spring.

After I finished biking 7,000 miles (map at right), many of my friends and strangers said I should write a book.  On the fifth anniversary of the trip, what I wrote instead was "an experiment in community-supported literature" -- those who paid up front to subscribe would get access to an essay every month, each reflecting on a different aspect of life that I learned about in my travels, and heavily illustrated with my photos and stories from the journey (which are public, but which I'm in the process of reorganizing).  The first essay was released in August, 2009 (five years from the start of the trip) and the last in May, 2010 (five years from the end).

Ben's touring rigIt's now the tenth anniversary of the trip (2014), and I'm in the process of revamping the book.  You can still get access to the whole thing for just $5!  Unconvinced? Read the Calling chapter for free!  Consider it a sample of what you'll find in the rest of the book!

Since it's all online, you have the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and contribute anecdotes of your own to enrich the experience of other readers.  The format is mobile-friendly, so you can read it on your Kindle or iPad or phone or whatever, but if you prefer to do your reading on paper, there are links to a print-friendly version as well.

Here are the essay topics:

  • Calling (August 2009):  What does it mean to have a purpose in your life?  Why do so many of us have trouble finding our purpose, and what can we do about it?  Why does making a big commitment (such as selecting a college, or hitting the road for a year, or buying a house, or getting married) seem to help things come together?  How do we know what to commit to?
  • Belonging (September, 2009): My early career was focused on community building -- and then I pulled up my roots.  When I finally found an idyllic community, I joined it -- and then pulled up my roots again.  What is behind our need for community?  Why do we feel that community is not as strong as in former generations?  Where is community still thriving, and why?
  • Possession (October, 2009): Many people were surprised by the way I got rid of my possessions before I left -- some by the fact that I did it at all, others by how much effort I put into finding it new homes.  What is the nature of the commitment we make to our stuff?
  • Suffering (November, 2009): Buddha said the nature of life is suffering.  So how come most living things look so happy?  Why do people passionately pursue activities that other people find unendurable?  What is endurance anyway?
  • Hospitality (December, 2009): The flip side of belonging is being made welcome.  Hundreds of strangers helped to make me welcome nearly everywhere I went.  Why?
  • Independence (January, 2010): What do we mean when we say someone is independent?  Having evolved in a web of life and society, is it even possible to be independent?  Where is the boundary between the individual and everything else?
  • Punctuality (February, 2010): I've always been a stickler for being on time and used to be a compulsive watch-checker, but while traveling I put my watch away and lived by the sun and seasons.  What did I learn about nature time as opposed to clock time?  What about subjective time?  What do we need to be on time for, anyway?
  • Hygiene (March, 2010): What is cleanliness really about?  Why do normally fastidious people stop worrying about washing when they go camping?  Did Jesus have an anachronistic insight into bacteriology in Matthew 15?  What's so great about pooping in the woods?
  • Convenience (April, 2010): Convenience gets a bad rap among hard-core environmentalists, but a lot of environmental gestures (such as recycling) wouldn't be feasible without it.  What are some of the conveniences that made my bike trip possible and enjoyable?  What do I wish had existed then?
  • Creation (May, 2010): What do we mean by Creation?  What is the relationship between it and God?  Between it and ourselves?
  • Appendices (TBA): stories and observations from around the country, culled from my original journal entries and correspondence from the road.

Please note: When you buy a subscription, an account will be created for you which you will use to access restricted parts of this Web site.  You will receive notices by email when a chapter is revised or when someone replies to your comments. 

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