When I turned 50 I found myself yearning for a more simple, soulful life. Having spent a 25-year career at the cold-face of cut-throat corporate finance I wondered if I had left it too late and in fact had sold my soul. So to the complete horror of my teenage daughters, I announced that our latest family holiday would be a soul nourishing environmentally friendly journey.
You should have heard the girls’ protests and I don’t blame them given they’ve grown up travelling first-class and staying in five-star hotels and resorts in the most luxurious of destinations. They actually criticized me for not having a soul and grumbled that they thought I’d lost a few marbles when I proposed a tandem cycling camping trip through a national park that’s not far from home. The only use of petrol on this holiday would be the energy needed from our food to fuel our cycling bodies to ride from one day’s destination to the next.
Now that we’re back from the holiday I can confidently say that not only did it help me realize my own soulful ambitions, but it gave my girls a new appreciation that the highs of life can be drawn from the simplest of pleasures.
I’ve been so inspired by this new, more balanced and peace-seeking chapter in my life that I thought I’d put my corporate skills to the test and share some advice on how to re-fuel the soul with a scenic, low-cost, highly environmental holiday:
1. Plan well
Like any holiday, planning can make or break the trip, especially if you’re like me and used to a secretary making all the necessary bookings.
To keep costs down, I chose a national park close to home and ensured it was scenic with good cycling roads or paths and plenty of camping spots.
Choosing a beautiful area to cycle through was probably key to the trip’s success. I’m not sure my girls’ would have come out the other side glowing and eager to go again if I’d made them cycle and camp through a barren landscape.
I deliberately kept the trip short, to five days, as I was concerned we wouldn’t be able to carry provisions for longer than this, and this proved to be just about the right length.
2. Practice makes perfect
Tandem cycling is one of the biggest joys of my life – even though there’s the initial outlay, you have the bikes for life and they leave no carbon footprint.
But, and I’ve learned the hard way, if you’ve never cycled tandem before, I’d recommend some lessons and practice rides before embarking on a long journey. Communication between front and back rider is critical, so make sure you’re paired with someone you like.
3. Travel light but well
A cycling/camping holiday certainly makes you appreciate the simplicity of life. With only a pannier bag each to carry our clothes, camping gear and food and water, we were forced to travel light and efficiently, only taking what we had to. While at first we couldn’t comprehend leaving behind our everyday items like iPads and hairdryers, after a few days of alpine fresh air, breathtaking views and simple foods, the materialism of our lives seemed irrelevant and insignificant.
4. Stop and enjoy the peace
I think this was the most important thing that I have learned from the trip was that the slower we travelled and the more stops we made, the more I could feel my soul being rejuvenated and that was perhaps the best part of all.
The new and inspired, more balanced and peace-seeking Mel has found much solace for her mind, body and soul in the essay titled Soul at the World Transformation Movement.