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This article was updated more than 6 months ago. Some information may be outdated.

Read: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

I’ve been on the road for three weeks now and I’m currently sitting in the Kettle Black cafe in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. So far I’ve cycled 1,280 kilometers out of my 1,800 kilometer target so that’s only 520 kilometers to go!

It’s been a really amazing three weeks so far with plenty of ups and downs. But not just the usual ups and downs I’d associate with normal, daily life. I’ve been really down and I’ve also experienced moments of pure freedom and bliss. On day 15 however, I began to hit a slump and for the next three days I was forced to go toe-to-toe with my body and my mind. After having a three day break from cycling in order to ghost-write an e-book (more on this later), I cycled hard for three days through the hilly terrain of New Brunswick. On my first day back on the bike I pushed past the 80 kilometer mark and then I hit over 100 kilometers on both of the following days. I had put in a 100 kilometer day before on my way to Quebec city but I didn’t realise that the terrain of New Brunswick had some merciless hills awaiting me.

I had been quite content being alone up to that point but on that first day back on the bike I experienced an extreme sense of loneliness which I hadn’t felt before. I left the house in St Flavie where I’d been staying and made it to Lac-du-Saumon where I planned to put up my tent for the night. It was a nice evening and I strolled down to watch a serene view of the lake when I arrived. I sat and waited until the sun began to set so I could pitch my temporary home without being confronted by passers-by saying I couldn’t camp there.

As I sat on a bench, gazing out at the lake, a wave of loneliness came sweeping over me. It’s hard to pinpoint what triggered it but it hit me suddenly and unexpectedly. Maybe it had been an emotion that was trying to express itself for a while. As I sat there alone, with nothing to do but wait for the sun to creep under the horizon, it took the complete absence of thought as its opportune moment to burst out. It hit me right in the stomach and I was too mentally and physically exhausted to fight it or push it out of my mind. It was a harsh truth that wasn’t going to rest until it was listened to. I knew I had to sit there and endure the pain of it. I had no TV to turn on to pull me out of my reality. So I decided to sit down with the loneliness. I tried to listen to it so I could empathise and understand what it needed. I knew it held some of the answers I was looking for.

I sat and listened and it told me that I was missing my family back home. No matter where I travel, Ireland always has a strong grasp of my heartstrings. I often feel it tugging at me to return and reunite with friends and family I have there. At the same time, however, I often feel a push in the other direction. Life tells me to keep travelling and keep exploring. Time pushes me to see what’s out there while I’m still young. While I was in Quebec city I met up with my friend Ivan who described the dilemma well to me:

“We all have roots and wings. Our roots urge us to stay in one place, find a partner, have kids and build a life. But our wings push us to keep flying, keep exploring and never touch the ground for too long.”

The next morning I set off from Lac-au-Saumon towards Campbellton. After a bad sleep (at the time I still hadn’t acquired a sleeping bag), I was awoken to a groundsman telling me I had to pay $10 for the luxury of pitching my tent there. I told him I had no cash and he pointed me in the direction of an ATM. To keep him happy I nodded, knowing well that I had less than $10 in my account. As he walked off, I made my way towards the road with my bike. I hopped on and cycled as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I pedalled fast but my mind kept up the pace as I imagined him pulling up behind me in his truck. The truck never arrived but it didn’t exactly put me in the most positive frame of mind for the day.

A few hours of cycling later and without any water left (I didn’t have time to fill it up that morning thanks to my rushed departure), I was facing another winding hill. Sometimes I feel as if the hills are laughing at me, pretending they are about to go down when they actually have bigger friends hiding behind the next corner. Something I noticed while being alone for so long is that i have started to “humify” objects (apparently the correct word is anthropomorphize but I think “humify” sounds better). So hills become annoying and stones on the road are out to get your tires. I also seem to have developed some sort of relationship with each part of my bike. The gears can be moody so I quietly thank them when they click into place on the first go. I feel sorry for the wheels when I look at the pressure they are under from the weight of the panniers (and 200 pounds of me). The brakes like to take their time so I never try to anger them by rushing them into stopping. I see it as me and the bike (Sally Brown is her name by the way) versus the road.

As I grinded the pedals up the last big hill, that feeling of loneliness returned again. Next thing, as if the clouds sensed my mood, the sky become dull and cold drops of rain began to gently pet my face. “It’s ok to cry” they said, “we’ll hide your tears”. And so I did. I continued inching up the hill as I allowed tears to freely roll down my face. I didn’t want to be on this bike trip anymore. I didn’t want to be pedaling up this hill in the middle of nowhere, knowing that even when I reach the top I’ll still have another 900 kilometers or so to go. The whole idea was stupid in the first place.

What was I trying to prove? Why did I need to cycle to become a writer? I didn’t care about being a writer anymore. I didn’t care about travelling the world. I just wanted to see my family and I wanted to see her. That was it. Everything else that tends to bubble and bounce around my mind suddenly silenced and melted away.

All my ideas and dreams for travelling, writing, coaching, creating schools and having amazing experiences all ceased to matter. Without my family and without her it would mean nothing to me. This realization turned my tears of loneliness into ones of beautiful clarity. I finally felt free because I knew deep down what I really wanted. I had cut through all the distractions, allowed myself to sink deep and then I really listened. Part of me knew this truth all along but now I was sure. As Joseph Campbell put it:

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”

As my tears began to subside, I came back to feel the reality of the lactic acid build-up in my legs. I glanced up from the ground and saw the peak of the physical and metaphorical peak that awaited. My legs said to stop because they won’t make it. Instead, I imagined she was at the top waiting for me. If I really wanted to see her I’d make it. That was all the motivation I needed.

Read the rest of Cormac’s journey: 

Citation "Moving2Freedom: Cormac’s Canadian cycle adventure." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


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