Just Do It!
So the Nike slogan says.
As I have been "just doing it" over the last couple of years; i.e. jumping in, working things out, learning as I go, with my current cross-country bicycle journey, I have come to better understand how important that is. Granted, there is a bit of a quantum leap to be made from the idea to the action, and I appreciate how hard that can be sometimes, but, nevertheless, at some point, if you're clear on what it is you want to do, or attempt, at some point you "Just Do It!" and the most valuable part of the experience will come from everything you will learn In the Process of "Just [Doing] It!"
When I entered upon this journey, I did bring some skills to bear:
1) Being able to navigate a bicycle safely on the roads, something I learned to do in my late teens and through bicycle commuting well into my 30's after that. I also had some skills in maintaining and repairing bicycles as I worked in several bike shops over the years.
2) I know how to sew. I started sewing when I was seven years old and I worked for three different industrial sewing manufacturing companies between my late 20's and early 30's. As it turns out, I actually utilized those skills significantly in either creating my own gear, like my tent, or reinforcing the gear I had, or in making various bags and pouches to organize and store all of my gear...
...not to mention sewing many sets of "Bell's Baggy Bottoms" (and matching head-bands...) that are designed especially for riding a bicycle (or for relaxing or sleeping comfortably off of the bicycle).
3) I understand how to eat in a nutritionally efficient and cost effective way - as necessary (meaning, when I am on the road, I am more than happy to also eat pretty much whatever my hosts put in front of me, or the very rare restaurant or "fast food" meal). My "Food Basics" series of blogs goes into much more detail about my general diet preferences and practices.
4) Educational Background - I spent my last five years of college education attending the University of Maryland University College taking most of my classes on-line. I chose this university in part because it put a Heavy Emphasis on research writing; i.e. we had to do one or more research writing projects in every class. As I wanted to strengthen my own writing skills in this area, I was glad to have the added pressure from Having to do so regularly in an academic environment. Furthermore, especially in my last year, I "bulked up" on my Government, International Relations, and Political Science classes ending with an Introduction to Constitutional Law. This was in addition to a full "Social Science" curriculum including everything from Anthropology to Neuroscience. In other words, I had the background to integrate everything else that I was later to learn from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and from Paul K. Chappell.
5) Written and Verbal Communication Skills:
a) Journaling - In addition to the writing work I completed while in college, I have been "journaling" for over two decades now, which, I must say, has been probably one of The Most Important things I have done to develop my own "self-awareness". I consider it a form of "active meditation" in that not only does the process help me to become much more aware of my thoughts, the physical exercise of Writing Them Down almost always results in additional insights and understanding, especially if I am struggling with a particular experience, relationship, concept, or feeling.
b) Public Speaking - I participated as a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking club, for seven years, which gave me multiple opportunities to practice not only my public speaking skills, but also my leadership skills as I acted as Vice President of Education for my club for most of those seven years.
c) Marketing and Sales Copywriting - Just prior to the end of my enlistment in the U.S. Navy, I attended two multi-day, professional seminars where I was introduced to various principles and techniques for sales copy-writing, website related development, and "search engine optimization". Unfortunately, I did not get to put all of the information I received to immediate use, and so I see this as one of the "weak spots" in my skill set. Nevertheless, I still have all of the instructional materials and when I have the time and opportunity to Focus More on those skills in particular, I am confident that I can improve.
d) General Writing Skills - Besides being a highschool student of the indominatable "Ivy Hawkins" (who, by the way, also taught my Mother when She was in highschool), I had the opportunity to attend a two day seminar at the National Institutes of Health conducted by Duke Rhetoric Professor George Gopen. The focus was on "Writing from the Reader's Perspective". Although I do not edit my writing here with a fine-tooth comb, in future writing, I will be putting much more of what I learned to good use. If you are interested in some of the basics of what George Gopen teaches, you can find more in this article: "The Science of Scientific Writing". (And don't let the title distract you too much, the principles apply well beyond the fields of science.)
e) Computer Literacy and Networking - Again, I would say I'm doing "okay" in this area, but there is definitely room for improvement. As I think I have mentioned already elsewhere in this blog, I've struggled just to get pictures to load on this "Blogger" platform using my iPad. And I certainly have not excelled in developing videos, etc., etc. So, again, given more time and focus, I'm sure I could develop those skills further.
6) Tracking and Primitive Survival Skills - In May of 2011, I attended two weeks of training in Primitive Survival Skills through Tom Brown Jr's Tracker School. It was Really Intense and loaded with useful information. Although I have not been forced into a primitive survival situation during my travels thus far, there is something to be said for having more confidence on the road - should that ever be the case.
7) Self-Discipline - I feel I need to give credit where credit is due and I owe a lot of credit to my eight years in the U.S. Navy for helping to strengthen my self-discipline and "will power". Knowing what I know now about the development of the Frontal Cortex in the first 25 years of life, and how learning more self-discipline during those years is critical to being able to practice it later in life, I really wish I had joined the military in my early 20's rather than in my early 30's as I suspect some areas of discipline might be more "second nature" to me now than they are. Nevertheless, I will continue to do the best I can in spite of what I feel now as a deficit in development of that part of my brain and one that I do not know that I can further develop or recover at this point in my life. (Questions regarding further development or recovery are ones I hope to pose at some point to Human Behavioral Biologist and Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky.)
So these are the skills and abilities I brought to the table when it came time for me to "Just Do It!" And I have learned more along the way as I have been "Just Doing It!" I have refined my equipment load and maintenance. I have made some progress in utilizing internet networking, etc., but again, I can feel my weaknesses there.
And there is something else that is coming into play that may surprise some of my readers: In actuality...I'm a closet introvert! I honestly do not "enjoy" attracting attention to myself, although, in order to spread the message I feel needs to be spread, and in order to continue to fund this journey that I am on, I have to draw at least some attention to myself, and I have to at least let people know what my needs are so that they can support my journey if they so choose. Otherwise, the journey comes to an end - or - another "interruption" while I figure out some other way to make it work practically and financially. (For more info on this please check-out my "Please and Thank You" page.)
The last advantage/benefit from "Just Doing It" is that with each person I talk to, with each challenging argument, with each question, I have more opportunities to Practice Communicating and to let the ideas and answers come in that unique synergistic way that almost invariably results from that kind of Relating Directly With Other People. And although my internet and marketing skills may be weak, they have become stronger with my efforts thus far, and I have certainly had more ideas about how to approach marketing and fundraising even if I haven't had the wherewithall to follow through on all of them.
As I have explained to many people along this journey, I feel all of my skills and abilities, both the developed and undeveloped ones, are being called upon for me to do what I am doing right now, and it is definitely some of The Most Satisfying and Meaningful Work I have ever done in my life...as well as the most challenging! Nevertheless, I am doing what I feel "I" can do, because of the skills and abilities I have. Not everyone can do exactly what I am doing in exactly this way, but I sincerely feel that everyone is called upon to do What they CAN Do as well these days, to help make the world a better place for now and for the future of humankind and all other beings on this planet.
After "Just Doing It!" again for this past spring and summer, I may have to take another break, and "Just do..." something else for a while to re-build my energy and resources. In other words, "The Plan" is still in flux - as it has always been - and I will keep everyone updated as the details solidify.
In the mean time, I once again Thank Everyone who continues to support my efforts and the Cause of Peace! And if you are not "Just Doing It!" yourself in some way in your own life, then, maybe it is time you did?!
Pedaling for Peace
On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.