When you bicycle you are close to the land. You pick up the aromas of the different landscapes you glide through.
At times you inhale lavender, heather, pine, sage, or unfamiliar scents you can’t identify. Strong winds might buffet your body as they fight to blow you off the road and keep you from moving forward. In turn, soft breezes will caress you and push you towards your destination. We started our around-the-world bicycle trip in England and Scotland. Besides the elements, I learned on this ride that the history of the land affected me also.
From Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, we took a ferry to Ullapool on the main island. Traffic was sparse on the roads. The summer daylight extended past ten o’clock in the evening. With our stronger, more conditioned muscles, we biked easily and hit a good rhythm. I loved the green all around us, which felt exotic and fresh after years of living in dry, brown Southern California. We glided by grand estates, castles, and fields of cattle.
Even though we followed the main road down from Inverness, there was minimal traffic. About five miles after Inverness, an inexplicable mournfulness fell over me in spite of the stunning nature and the occasional stately castle. I thought I suffered alone. Decades later, discussing our trip, we both recalled the deep melancholy that had swept over us at times during our ride through Scotland. I’ve since learned that we traveled right beside the area of the famous Battle of Culloden. Our spirits must have picked up on the sadness that permeated the land from so many souls who had lost their lives there. Highlanders had rebelled against the English for decades in the Jacobite risings during the early eighteenth century. On April 16, 1746, Scottish clans fought in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart so he could regain the throne. The battle was fierce, bloody, and short. The Highland clansmen lost almost two thousand men in the hour-long battle against the better-equipped English, who lost only fifty men. That was the Highlanders’ last battle.
Staying open to the sensations and emotions we pick up as we travel and bringing a sense of curiosity is enlightening. Learning about the history of the places we visit is illuminating. Have you ever been struck by a strong emotion in a place you visited without realizing why at the time? Did you research it and find a correlation with the site’s history?
You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.
Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery