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What if your past isn’t a lead anchor that weighs you down, but a bright ball of energy that lights the way and leads you to happiness beyond your wildest dreams?

You’ll often hear people telling you to let go of your past. I think most of us need to do the exact opposite.

Sure, you might go through difficult periods in your life when something that already happened is weighing you down. But this is usually just a temporary situation.

For most of the time, for most of us, our past really doesn’t get in the way. Our memories just aren’t that good. 

Now here’s a new and exciting thought: What if your past isn’t a lead anchor that weighs you down, but a bright ball of energy that lights the way and leads you to happiness beyond your wildest dreams?

I have another blog that was strictly business for years and years. I never told anyone about bike touring through Italy. Sometimes I was worried my clients would find this website and leave me.

but when I began sharing my past, it made my business stronger and better and even more fun.

With that in mind, I have a few questions that I want to ask you.

What did you love most, want most, dream about when you were twelve years old? What about when you were twenty? Is there a hidden, neglected passion that could become a part of the work you want to do or the life you want to live today?

What about the hard times in your past? What struggles did you overcome? What failures did you have? What did you learn from them? How can you apply that knowledge today, right now?

Here’s a final bit of homework for you. Go through your attic, your basement, your closet or your storage unit and find an important relic from your past. It might be a photo or a toy, a piece of jewelry or clothing. 

Take it out and put it somewhere in an honored place where you will see and touch it every day. Use it as your talisman, a constant reminder of all the treasures you have stored up in your past. 

Mine is a clay ocarina in the shape of a turtle. I wore it on a silk cord around my neck when I traveled around the country on freight trains, and when I traveled around the Mediterranean as a tour director and an English teacher. 

For years I kept it in a drawer, but now I’m wearing it again. Every time I hold it I get feelings of excitement and optimism. 

What treasures from your past experience are waiting for you to rediscover them? 

Your adventures aren’t only about showing up. The paths you walk will demand more of you. Think of bike touring as an example or a metaphor. No matter what adventure you’re planning, you need to be holistically prepared.

Your adventures aren’t only about showing up. The paths you walk will demand more of you.

Think of bike touring as an example or a metaphor. No matter what adventure you’re planning, you need to be holistically prepared. You’re an complete human being, not a pair of legs.

On a long bike tour, you could be in the saddle for 4-6 hours most days. And I want you to have some energy left to enjoy yourself when we get to our destination.

Biking takes its toll on your back, your arms, and your joints. You have to build those up, along with your legs. 

I’m not a trainer or a physical therapist, but here are a few basic principles that will help you.

Challenge yourself

Don’t push yourself. Don’t torture yourself. But you should always give yourself a little healthy challenge.

Think three months ahead, and aim to be a little better, stronger, and faster than you are today. 

This means going just the slightest hair’s breadth beyond what’s easy or comfortable today. 

Focus on pre-hab

A big part of your training should be about preventing injury. Work on your core and your back. Get really disciplined about warmups and stretches. 

Include a lot of movements and exercises that you won’t do on the bike. Running, jumping, push-ups, pull-ups and burpees should be a foundation. If you have time, throw in some acrobatics, yoga, or martial arts. You’ll thank yourself later.

Your muscles are like armor when they are toned. They can hold your limbs in the right position and prevent things from being wrenched the wrong way. Strong muscles help you snap back from a twist or a fall. Take care of all of them.

Also give yourself plenty of easy days to rest, recover, and grow.

Use your untapped resources

If you haven’t already been using this secret, you might be surprised at the immediate boost you get in power and stamina. 

Most people rely on their quadriceps when they bike. But all your quads really do is straighten your legs. The other part of the equation is in your gluteus maximus--your butt. 

There’s a lot of muscle down there, and it rarely gets sore or tired. Think of this as the main force, driving each leg down like a piston. The quads are just assistants.

If you’re not sure how to engage your glutes, stand up and pretend you’re kicking a soccer ball that’s behind you on the ground. This will give you the feeling, and then you repeat that when you’re riding.

If you’re not literally thinking about a bike tour, this principle can still help you. What untapped resource is right in front of you (or behind you in our case), that you can start to use immediately?

Ride

Yup, you gotta do it. Hours of biking, several times a week. Maybe you already do this. I don’t do enough of it.

First, get solid on all the other principles. Use your butt, challenge yourself, and get in the habit of exercising all those muscles that you don’t think you’ll need. 

But then, once you’ve done that, get on your bike and ride. As much as possible. 

Get used to riding, have fun riding, and get used to having fun riding. 

Every single person is a temple, carrying a sacred fire within. When you combine your passion with self-discipline, you can wield the power of your sacred fire. 

Every single person is like a temple, carrying a sacred fire within.

Do you have a purpose, something you strongly believe in, something you want with a burning desire?  When you combine your passion with self-discipline, you can wield the power of your sacred fire. 

This sacred fire is one of the secrets of the ancient Mediterranean.

A long time ago, a traveler named Aeneas carried the sacred fire of Vesta, as he crisscrossed the Mediterranean sea, looking for his final destiny. 

Roman coin showing Temple of Vesta
Temple of Vesta on Roman coin

Vesta became one of the most important gods of ancient Rome. Most of the Greek and Roman gods are depicted as people, but Vesta is more obscure.

A few rare statues and engravings show Vesta as a woman, usually veiled and with very little detail. Instead, she’s almost always represented as a fire. 

Fire was often a violent, destructive force, but Vesta was the goddess of hearth and home. She was the benevolent side of fire, the energy that cooks our food, the source of light and warmth. 

Vesta was also described as “the fire of Earth,” or “fire of life.” Vesta was the life force, the energy of life itself. Vesta was a symbol of power, energy, passion--but all of these things contained and controlled. 

Aeneas carried Vesta’s sacred fire relics across the sea, seeking a place for them to take root. She was the fire that fueled his mission and destiny. 

In fact, the whole story of Aeneas begins with fire. The city of Troy was burning. 

You’ve heard the story of the wooden horse. It was the end of the Trojan War, but this was just the beginning of a new story for Aeneas. 

Aeneas escaped from the fallen city, and led his family and a large group of survivors on a journey around the Mediterranean. 

Eventually they made their way to central Italy. Aeneas married the princess of a local tribe, and their descendants were Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

The Roman poet Virgil tells the story in the Aeneid. It’s similar to the Odyssey, covers a lot of the same ground, and takes place at roughly the same time. (It’s surprising that Aeneas and Ulysses never ran into each other. I’m a little disappointed about that.)

All through his journey, Aeneas carried the religious relics of Troy, especially the pieces belonging to Vesta.

There’s an important story in the Aeneid, which is related to Vesta and very relevant to the current state of the world.

At one point, Aeneas and his people were shipwrecked near Carthage, in modern day Tunisia. The travelers were fed and clothed by the generosity of Dido, the queen of Carthage.

Dido was an extraordinary woman, and there’s evidence that she wasn’t merely a mythological character. Carthage prospered for centuries thanks to Dido, and her life was filled with clever and heroic deeds. 

But she was about to meet her doom.

The goddess Venus (or Aphrodite if you prefer) set Dido's heart on fire. She afflicted Dido with an insatiable love for Aeneas. For a while the feelings were reciprocated, but Aeneas eventually sailed off to find Italy. 

When he left, Dido lit her own funeral pyre, stepped into the flames, and stabbed herself. The fire that consumed her body was the beginning of centuries of war.

Carthage would have her revenge. Many generations later, the Carthaginian general Hannibal would invade Italy and bring Rome to her knees for two decades.

Rome would return the favor by conquering Carthage, slaughtering her citizens, demolishing the city down to the last brick, and covering the land with salt so nothing would ever grow there again.

This story shows the violent, destructive side of passion. The internal fire that goes unchecked.

This fire has never stopped burning. The Mediterranean has been torn apart by centuries of violence. 

Religious passion, the sacred flame that should make people love one another and perform deeds of kindness, has exploded into a conflagration. It goes back to biblical times, burns through the Crusades, and continues today in conflicts between Jews and Palestinians, Shi’i and Sunni, Bosnians and Serbs, Greeks and Turks…

I often think about what it would take for us to hold the sacred fire in our hearts again, and turn it away from destruction. 

Justice would be the obvious answer, but we can never seem to agree on what that  means.

Understanding, compassion, and forgiveness are harder to imagine, but they are easier to reach.

I’m writing this on a cold morning in February. My fingers are numb, but there’s a fire burning inside of me. I want to learn and have new adventures and experiences. I want to bring other people together to do the same. 

Travel and learning are two bright lamps than can light a pathway out of the flames.

This is my sacred fire. What is yours?

Once you've been outside your comfort zone for a while, you'll start to question things that you always accepted. You'll have a new perspective on old problems. 

This is serious.

Almost everyone feels inadequate in at least one aspect of their life. And this can cause you to settle for less than you want or deserve in those areas--your health, your relationships, your economic status...

I've heard that 85% of the world's population are affected by low self esteem.

Traveling was the thing that turned my confidence around, and changed my life. I just deleted 11 examples of how this happened, because it really comes down to three important things.

People treat you differently when you travel

When you're visiting a new country, you'll meet people who are proud of their home and want to show it off. They will often be very interested in you, too.

They'll tell you stories, show you where to get the best food, and help you learn their language and customs.

Pretty soon you'll naturally expect everyone to treat you with kindness and respect. And when you go into a new situation with this expectation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

You will be tested, and discover strengths you didn't know you had

When you put yourself in new environments and new situations, things will go wrong. You will lose your phone or miss a train. You will end up somewhere you didn't mean to go.

You'll be forced to be creative and resourceful as you get yourself out of this mess--and you will manage to pull it off.

You'll come away feeling rightfully proud of yourself, and you'll start to wonder what else you're capable of doing.

You will come back with new giftsMediterranean ruins

When you travel, you'll pick up new languages, new knowledge, and new skills. (I can field strip a katana, replace bicycle spokes using a large rock and two bottlecaps, and make you the best cappuccino in Los Angeles).

Most people will quickly tire of your pictures and your stories, but don't take it personally.

Once you've been outside your comfort zone for a while, you'll start to question things that you always accepted. You'll have a new perspective on old problems.

You'll see a lot of improvements in yourself, and soon you'll be thinking about how to improve the world.

Find out for yourself.

Starting in 2022, I'm going to organize at least one mass bike touring event in the Mediterranean each year until I'm too old to ride.

In the spring of 2022, we're going to follow the Via Appia in one direction, then cross the Adriatic sea and tour the Balkans.

I'm officially inviting you to join me for the whole ride or any part of it, or to follow along virtually.

While we ride out the pandemic in 2021, I'm going to help you prepare for the first ride. I'll teach you ways to pay for your trip, how to get physically in shape for the ride, along with the history, philosophy, and cultures of the places we'll visit.

I'm talking about this weekly on a Facebook page, where I'll be speaking live every Wednesday at 5 pm Pacific time. You can join me and ask questions here: https://www.facebook.com/AppiaBike

 

 

"Teach the world that there is some iron in you."

This is lesson 3 of "An Iron Will." (I know the YouTube versions says Lesson 2, but I'm giving you a few extra bonuses in the BicycleFreedom version. You can access the full course here.

 

This week you’re going to start building your will and your Reservoir of Power. Pick one of the exercises below and start doing it every day.

This is lesson 2 for the online course, "An Iron Will." You can access the full course here.

This week you’re going to start building your will and your Reservoir of Power.

Pick one of the exercises below and start doing it every day. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. The benefit comes from doing something over and over again.

The exercises themselves will make your mind and body stronger, but your real goal here is to exercise your will. Every day that you repeat the exercise, you’re accomplishing several things:

  • You’re teaching yourself to be consistent. In the future, you’ll probably be in a situation where you want to practice something every day, study every day, workout, or maybe you’ll have to do a difficult job or chore. This will be easier for you, because you have already consistently done things every day.
  • You’re exercising your will. There will be days when you feel like you’re too busy or too tired to do the exercise, and days when you just don’t want to. But when you do it anyway, you are using your will. Remember, your will grows stronger with use.
  • You’re building your reservoir of power. This is hard to explain, until you’ve experienced it. But when you give yourself the discipline of doing something every day, you start to feel more self-confident. This carries over into every part of your life. When you’re under stress, your daily exercise will help you feel more grounded and secure.

Here are a few more pointers before you get started:

If you’re generally an active, athletic person, choose one of the more mental activities. If you’re more of a thinker, choose something physical.

Once you’ve picked out an exercise to cultivate your iron will, get a marker or a pen of your favorite color. Hang a calendar on the wall, somewhere you'll see it.

Every day that you successfully carry out your chosen activity, put a special mark on the calendar. Aim for 30 marks in a row without missing a day.

You can download the 30-day Challenge Calendar, and hang it up somewhere you'll see it every day. Or if you don't like using paper, try these apps:

Goal Tracker and Habit List

Strides: Goal & Habit Tracker

Momentum Habit Tracker

Disclaimer: I do not use any of these apps and I am not affiliated with them. Including these links does not imply an endorsement or recommendation of the apps listed.

When you do something 30 days in a row, your will grows stronger and you are ready to take on a new, harder activity. At this point you are ready to think about increasing the exercise or choosing a new one.

In your journal, write notes about how you feel when you do your chosen exercise, and how it’s affecting you.

Warning: Do not try any of the physical activities mentioned below without consulting a physician or other health professional.

  1. How many push-ups can you do in 5 minutes? Do this number of push-ups every day. When it starts to become easy, increase the number or decrease the time. Can you do the same number of push-ups in 4 minutes? If you don’t want to do push-ups, you can do this routine with burpees, pull-ups, or any other simple exercise. Challenge yourself.
  2. Write down 10 new ideas every day. They can be anything: new ideas for an article or a book, a new invention, business ideas, recipes to try, art projects, etc. They don't have to be good ideas but you need to come up with 10 of them, quickly. You are training your will to think creatively in a pinch. Do this for a few months and you'll surprise yourself.
  3. Talk a walk, run, skate, or bike on the same route every day. Each day, try to notice a new detail along the route.
  4. Find a spot in your home that is always cluttered. Not an entire room, but just a counter or a tabletop, for example. Clear it off now. Commit to keeping it clear. Do not go to bed at night until your spot is clear.
  5. Take a cold shower every day. See how cold you can get it and how long you can stand it. When that becomes easy, try laying in a bathtub of cold water. Eventually add some ice. Then more ice.
  6. See how long you can go without something. For example, coffee, sugar, your favorite video game, etc. How many days in a row? If you don’t make it through 30 days, give up something else for a while. But every day, give up something that isn’t good for you
  7. Instead of an exercise, choose a habit that will be good for you when you do it consistently (for example, call your mother, floss your teeth, etc.). Make a commitment to do it every day no matter what.

Congratulate yourself. Buy yourself a nice meal or some other treat to celebrate.

Here's the link to Lesson Three

Sometimes, all you need is a surge of mental strength. Sometimes that's the only thing that will work. That's why I created this online class a few years ago.

I want you to go out and have adventures!

But when you do, you're going to run into obstacles, especially the ones inside your own head. Sometimes, all you need is a surge of mental strength. Sometimes that's the only thing that will work.

That's why I created this online class a few years ago. It's based on an old book in the Public Domain, "An Iron Will" by Orison Swett Marden.

I hope the videos and the exercises I give you are easier than reading the book.

I hope this gives you the extra push you need, whatever you're trying to do.

This is Lesson One of "An Iron Will," an online course to help you build grit and self-confidence. You can access the full course here: https://bicyclefreedom.com/category/an-iron-will/

Here's the link to Lesson Two

If you don't have confidence or a grit, you won't do the hard work that needs to be done. The good news is that if you have at least one of these qualities, you can use it to build the other one.

This is non-negotiable.

You need to have at least one of these two things if you want to get anywhere in life: Self-esteem and a strong will.

Sooner or later, you're going to have to do something hard to reach your goal. If you don't have confidence or a grit, you won't do the hard work that needs to be done.

The good news is that if you have at least one of these qualities, you can use it to build the other one.

The better news is that you can develop both of them, just like building a muscle. In fact, someone wrote about this more than a century ago in a book called An Iron Will. You can download the book for free right here: http://gutenberg.org/ebooks/13160

Now I've got something even better for you. I took the information from An Iron Will and made it into an online class. Here's the introduction. If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you'll find links to watch the other lessons and download the worksheets and other handouts.

Here's the link to Lesson One

You can access all the lessons of the course here: https://bicyclefreedom.com/category/an-iron-will/

You are going to have a fun, challenging, and enlightening adventure. You could get in better physical shape, and you'll probably pick up skills that will improve every aspect of your life. That's how the journey will change you.

This weekend I had a "Beneventum Moment."

You'll find out what that means later, but here's what it means now, for you.

By the end of 2021, I'm going to prepare at least 1,000 people to do a bike tour around the Mediterranean. In 2022, we'll make the journey.

Whether you participate in some or all of the ride, and whether you do it virtually or in person, this could be a life-transforming experience, and I'm hoping it will change the world.

You are going to have a fun, challenging, and enlightening adventure. You could get in better physical shape, and you'll probably pick up skills that will improve every aspect of your life. That's how the journey will change you.

Here's how this could change the world.

The Mediterranean was the cradle of several major religions and influential civilizations. There are very few places in the world that haven't been influenced or impacted by at least one of the major belief systems that came out of the Mediterranean.

The trouble is, many of the best ideals have become the basis for wars and conflicts. East vs. West. Israelis vs. Arabs. The list goes on.

But what would happen if we all took the time to travel together, eat together, share our cultures and learn from each other instead?

I have a vision of thousands of people traveling together through multiple countries on bicycles. Thousands more joining us virtually, possibly as they do parallel rides in their own countries.

Along the way, we'll stop to do volunteer work and for educational experiences. It's a chance to bring the whole world together over something fun and beautiful. It might make a difference.

Keep in touch if you want to be a part of this!

All of these riches are available for the asking. You can have some of them instantly, the moment you decide you want them.

Is your life going more or less the way you want it to?

If not, you might just need the right leverage to turn things around. Let me explain.

If you want to bake a cake, there are certain ingredients you need. If you leave out an important ingredient, you're going to ruin the cake. The good news is, once you discover which ingredient you're missing, all you have to do is add that ingredient and you'll soon be on your way again to baking a perfect cake.

If your life isn't perfect, there might be one or more "ingredients" missing in one or more areas of your life. A few of the better known important ingredients:

  • honesty/integrity
  • passion
  • hard work
  • knowledge/skill
  • focus

If you're missing just one of these, it's going to hurt you. If you have them all, you can have anything you want.

Fortunately, all of these riches are available for the asking. You can have some of them instantly, the moment you decide you want them. The rest you can develop and cultivate. There's no reason you can't have every single one of them.

What's your missing ingredient?