Our society is consumed by work. In fact, Americans work more – more weeks – than most other “First World” countries. Cell phones were initially advertised as miracles that could free us from the office. The reality is that we’re always “on.” Phones never let us escape. Combine these pressures with the omnipresence of computers & our lives revolve around work. We’ve effectively become indentured servants. As a younger man, I imagined having a life like that of my folks. Dad worked 9am-5pm. Weekends were always off. My family had great vacations. Life was not so harried. So, what the hell happened to our generation?
I jumped into Mojo Cycling 13yrs ago. At the time, I knew that owning a small business would be tough. It would include lots of hours. The reality was far tougher than I’d imagined. For almost 10yrs I worked seven days a week. The days were 12hrs long & there was no lunch break. In the Summer, Becci would pack our car & head to Utah with the boys. They’d visit family & friends for weeks. I’d stay in NWA to run the shop. My only time away from Mojo in over 10yrs was a trip to Trestle that I took with my brother & brothers-in-law. Over ten years with that trip as my only vacation – or days off – was just too much. So . . . I’ve been burned out.
I love Mojo. We help people to get out, escape. Explore. But, what about me? Last year, a buddy invited me to plan a “bucket list” riding trip to Iceland. Two other friends came, too. The planning & stress leading up to the trip were worth it. But, I enjoyed the adventure on a level that’s hard to articulate. I’m not content with continuing my life of continuous work.
Recently, I was reading Overland Journal, a magazine dedicated to 4 wheel drive exploration, travel & adventure. I came upon an article by Ashley Giordano called “The Overlanding Code to Happiness.” In it, I was introduced to the term “Hedonic Adaptation.” It posits that humans physically adapt to any surrounding situation or environment in which we find ourselves. This process also applies to our emotional state. We get used to the things that are enjoyable or make us happy. Consequently, we seek increasingly more new things to recreate & prolong the feeling of excitement & pleasure. Giordano calls this the “Hedonic Treadmill.” I believe this is especially true for our society, but it has a twist. We are tethered in place by our ceaseless work. It’s hard to get away. So, we focus on physical items. We are consumed by acquiring new things (that we often don’t need) to further our hedonic state: newer & bigger TVs, new clothing, cooler shoes, newer model cars, the list is unending. The problem is that we’re caught on this treadmill of acquiring new objects that we’ll soon tire of, discard & forget. Then, we need another item to create the feeling of elation that was generated by the previous object. We’re locked in a cycle of looking for the next shiny new object.
Last year’s trip to Iceland was a watershed event for me. I reveled in the freedom. Freedom that I’d given away for the past decade. I’ve been applying my “scholastic” lens to the memories that WE made. The adventures we had were unimaginable. “We” is the point. For me, traveling & riding is a communal undertaking. The bond that Dana, Randy, Brad & I share because of that trip is significant. We reiterate stories, share exciting events, creating deeper relationships between us. These are far more lasting – & rewarding – than spending the equivalent sum of the trip on some product.
In true Hedonic Adaptive form, each of us craves more adventures to buoy our group narrative. We’ve discussed future trips. This desire for travel & adventure is called “Wanderlust.” The destination is not as important as sharing a new escapade. Adventures like these enrich one’s life. Relationships with others, stories, actions lived, these enhance a life beyond the value of a consumer product. These are the experiences we take with us.
Right about now I can hear the gears turning in your head. They’re generating a thought that goes something like this: “Why is a guy who sells me bikes & cycling gear telling me that buying stuff is not rewarding?” Well, I didn’t tell you that buying items is not rewarding. I merely pointed out that traveling & exploring will create a rich tapestry of memories that are more deeply rewarding than the simple acquisition of products. So, once again, why am I writing this?
My guess is that if you’re reading this, you’re likely a cyclist already. So you’ve got a bike. I won’t lie: purchasing a bike & gear can be expensive. But, once you’ve got the equipment, you can head out at any time to have your own adventure. NWA gives us lots of places to ride. This is true. Don’t get lazy. Give in to your Wanderlust & venture beyond our easily accessible trails. Leave our small town & create a new adventure. Construct a different exploit. Dare to do something that you’ve NOT adapted to. Produce an experience that will reward you for years. Then, adapt yourself to a life creating incrementally more new experiences to fill that need for new memories.