We rolled out of our hometown on one exciting Friday evening and collapsed on the beach of Lake Superior the following Monday, 180 miles away from home sweet home. With 40 pounds weighing each of us down, we peddled through each day and halfway through each night, stopping only for food during the day, and setting up camp at RV parks and campsites each night. As our final summer before college came to a close, my friend Anthony and I were out to embrace our final months in Minnesota. Of course by biking halfway across the state. Along with interesting stories and rock-solid quadriceps, I gained many powerful insights from the difficult journey, insights that I would love to share with anyone that cares to listen.
(For maximum effect, play “Weight of the World” by Jon Bellion in the background as you read.)
1. A 180-mile trip isn’t actually a 180-mile trip.
Though the distance from Eden Prairie to Duluth is about 182 miles, Anthony and I biked well over 200 miles before we finally rolled up on the beach of Lake Superior. Due to our all-too-frequent stops for food and water, our inability to follow directions, and the inconvenient reality that there is no bike trail straight from Eden Prairie to Duluth, I have no doubt that we ended up biking well over 200 miles.
2. Bicycle seats are not designed for comfort.
After waking up from our first night of rest and hopping back on our bikes for a long day of riding, we faced our first, and possibly worst, obstacle: it hurt our butts terribly more to sit on the bicycles than it hurt our aching legs to ride them. Of course, being the experienced problem-solvers we are, we tied our softest, fluffiest pairs of sweatpants around our seats. This, however, did very little to relieve the awful sensation, and we were forced to put up with the pain for the remainder of the trip.
3. Everyone has interesting stories, and it’s very easy to simply ask to hear them.
On the road, Anthony and I ran into all kinds of people that proved to be interesting characters. Nobody seemed afraid to share their stories with us, two unknown kids on hybrid bicycles that rolled in from Eden Prairie. One man in Minneapolis named Bruce even gave us a more or less sophisticated speech about how society needs more interracial relationships. I have never been one to start a conversation with a stranger, but after meeting so many cool people on the road, I have gained a new curiosity about the lives of people around me and a new confidence to speak up.
4. Always bring a camera.
This might be more of a personal thing because I love photography and the places it takes me, but one of the lessons I learned on our bike trip is to always have my camera with me wherever I go. Minnesota is an absolutely beautiful state, and countless times Anthony and I could not help but stop to take it all in and snap a couple of photos. You never know when something beautiful will strike you, or when there is going to be a moment that you never want to forget, so it’s best to always have a camera ready.
5. Planning is overrated.
Before Anthony and I departed from my house in Eden Prairie, we planned where we were going to sleep the first night and which trail we were going to take to get to Duluth. We ended up searching for campsites on a nightly basis, settling at whichever site happened to be closest when the sun went down. Some may find this lack of planning irresponsible (sorry Mom), but I quickly fell in love with the spontaneity that would dominate the trip. I discovered a whole new kind of excitement that permeates life when it isn’t planned too far ahead.
6. It’s not always about the journey. Sometimes it’s about the destination.
I’m not a very experienced writer, so I’m going to take the easy route and say the feeling I got when Anthony and I came across the Duluth sign is indescribable. Not only did it feel incredibly satisfying and meaningful, but it helped me realize the importance of reflection when we reach a new destination in life. Of course it’s important to enjoy the journey. But never forget to savor the moments where you can take a step back and look at the progress you’ve made.
7. All you need is food, water, and sleep.
To me, it’s amazing that all you really need in life is food, water, and sleep. It sounds simple at first, and it is, which is why it’s so amazing. In fact, life is a lot less complicated than a lot of us make it out to be. I consider this the most eye-opening lesson from the trip, and one of the most important lessons that I will ever learn. For our trip, Anthony and I brought a water filter and bottles for water, portable snacks and money for food, and a two-person tent for sleep, and the wonderful thing is, because we had these things, nothing could go wrong. No matter how slow we ended up biking, or how frustrated we got with our poor map-following abilities, or how long it ended up taking us to arrive at Duluth, we always had water to drink, food to eat, and a place to sleep. With these three things, the state of Minnesota was ours to experience in any way we could dream of. Imagine how differently you would live your life knowing that you were guaranteed to always have these three simple things.
8. Adventure is closer than you think.
You don’t need to climb Mount Everest or travel outside the country to find adventure. All you need is an idea. One of my most remarkable epiphanies from the trip is that there are countless ways to explore the world. All you need to do is open your mind a little. Anthony and I decided to bike to Duluth. I urge you to go find your own adventure; one that nobody has ever gone on before.