Lesson learned while biking across America

By: Shadeed Shihan Columnist

This past summer four other guys and I embarked on a 48 state bike ride. Crazy much? We like to call it motivated.

Due to personal circumstances, I had to come back to school, but the rest of the guys are still on the road. They actually just made it halfway – 24 out of 48 states. On the road we endured obstacles as a group, but learned profoundly about ourselves, people and life in general. Here is my take on the journey: Peanut butter tastes good with everything. No, literally, everything. Butt sores are real and painful. It took one of us out for an entire week of biking. Everybody has a story. It might not be the most interesting story from your perspective, but it is a reminder that you are not the center of the world. Sometimes, all you have to do is listen. At times, it’s one of the hardest but the most respectful things you can do.

You are capable of more than you imagine, both physically and mentally. People generally had this notion that we trained for months in advance. In reality, 6 a.m. spinning classes for about a month was the most intensive riding we had done, pre-departure. The day we took off, was the first day all five of us rode together, with all our gear. True story. The glass is half full. The kindest of acts were displayed by the most random strangers. And these acts of kindness often involved inviting totally random, five 20-something-year-olds to their home, feeding them and providing a shower. You learn to draw the line between wants and needs. Each of us carried one pair of pants, a couple pairs of underwear and socks, three T-shirts and most importantly, a book. It’s okay to wear the same T-shirt three days in a row. A little stench never killed anybody.

For every uphill there is a downhill. Remember this the next time you are working hard at achieving something, whether it be a class, a project or a relationship.

As long as I was on the trip, which was about 4000 miles, we spent no money on lodging. I’m proud to say it’s been the same way since I left – and they’ve biked over 6000 miles now. A warm shower, a comfortable bed and a hot meal can at times be considered yearnings of the mind that one can live without. So next time you consider a road trip but have to think twice about it because lodging can be so expensive, think again. You can survive. It’s more fun that way, anyways.

Backpacking across Europe or South America can sound very lucrative. But it might mean emptying your wallet of every quarter, nickel and dime. America is diverse – the geography, the geology, the lifestyle – it has so much to offer. You just need to look around to find something, or someone, to fall in love with.  Your concept of what’s important changes. Things that really matter – like time – become more valuable and you learn to spend it wisely. And things that are trivial – like money – become mere agents that enable you to function effectively.

Shaheed Shihan is majoring in mathmatics. He can be reached at [email protected]