I Just Want to Live a Real Life (in more than 140 words)

Photo by Eleanor Moseman

My good friend, Eleanor Moseman (www.wandercyclist.com and www.eleanormoseman.com), and I recently had an interesting conversation about her current project of solo cycling around the borderlands of China and this other dude’s project who rode a motorbike along all those same border countries as part of a television series.

Both he and Ellen have covered more than 20,000 km, she on a bicycle him on a powerful BMW moto, have seen some amazing sights, had interesting adventures and explored incredibly diverse cultures throughout their travels. However, as correlated as these two projects may seem on the surface, I find one far more meaningful than the other. Yes, I’m naturally biased since Ellen is a friend, but I also have some valid arguments for my thinking.

Ellen is an amazing photographer (this is the biased part I referred to above) who has been cycling solo, as in completely by herself, for the better part of two years exploring the vanishing cultures of remote areas of Asia. She’ll hopefully take her photos of these vanishing cultures and her associated adventures and use them as an invaluable educational tool to people who are truly interested in learning more about the region and peoples of where she’s lived and traveled. Seriously, check out her work. It’s honestly pretty amazing.

The guy on the motorbike, who obviously had an entourage of cameramen, fixers and producers, completed his journey in a blisteringly fast 65 days. His journey will now be edited down into six 30-minutes episodes of which 10-12 minutes of the half hour programme will undoubtedly will be festooned with his sponsor’s commercials.  Yep, I’ve watched the trailers from his show and yep, they’re pretty darn cool and have sooo  much promise. However, and this is my opinion only, these are going to be nothing more than shows geared toward our increasingly ADD-prone society who can only take adventures crammed into an amount of space which won’t overly detract from the other 100,000 things coming at us at mach speed. 

A few weeks ago I decided to divorce myself from Facebook and every other form of social media or “connectedness”. Basically I got to that point where it felt like life, as I mentioned above, is being lived in sound bites or collapsed into 140 words or less. And furthermore, Facebook has become not much more than a platform for people to spew their ignorant and irrellevant political opinions, cast out to the masses for reaffirmation of their religious views or a tool to keep us all abreast of their latest riveting trip to the toilet, what they ate for breakfast or what music they’re listening to via Spotify…or whatever else the “app de jour” is.

One of the things Ellen and I talked about (okay, mostly me) was how it seems that people do things now based solely on how cool it will sound in a post on Facebook or twitted or tweeted or whatever the hell a person does with that thing…maybe twatted? I’ve never followed anyone on that and never will. Part of my point was that I believe there is a monumental shift in the motivations people have to live the way they do. With Facebook or Twitter or whatever, everyone now has a megaphone and the race is on to see who can shout the loudest or be the “coolest” amongst their peer group. Pathetic. Remember, being cool on Facebook is like sitting at the cool table in the cafeteria at a mental institute.

It wasn’t too many years ago when I could go climbing, road tripping, mountain biking or skiing and my friends and I would spend a whole day hanging out, talking and doing the things we loved just for the sake of doing it. I have a core love of telemark skiing, mountain biking, ice climbing, long distance running, world travel and road tripping in my increasingly used 10-year old Toyota truck. The love of these things existed long before everyone was handed their cyber megaphone and they’ll exist long after the next app falls from favour. I do these things because I love to do them, period, not because it’d be cool to post something about it Facebook.

True story. I went hiking recently and literally before I could get back home, my friends on Facebook already knew I was out and about and had commented on it because the person(s) I was with had posted a picture on my page using their cell phone app. I’m going to be honest here and say I don’t want the world knowing what I’m doing every second of the day. I don’t put personal things on Facebook and for the most part I don’t want other people “outing me” regarding my whereabouts without me knowing about it first. That said, I was then forced to wade through the ocean of crap on Facebook and figure out how to make my settings such that I will now have to approve what my friends say about me or tag me in. Stupid.

Anyhow, my point or argument to Ellen about the documentary series was that society as a whole will undoubtedly eat it up because it doesn’t require much in the way of long commitment or require much in-depth thought. They can sit down in front of the tele, get 20-minutes of awe-inspiring footage with enough commercial time for them to check and update their Facebook status during the show, then move on to the next part of life that can be reduced to 140 words or less.

The other side of my point to Ellen was that her project will most likely appeal to people like me, who value the mortar holding all the trials and tribulations of solo expedition travel and the corresponding striking images together. I’m equally as interested in what it was like to be there as I am in what came out of it. In our conversation I actually posed this question to her, though I already knew her answer. “When you roll into a remote village, do you look first for the photo ops, things that will “sell”, or do you immerse your soul in the moment and let the photos come to you organically?”. Take one look at her work and you’ll see she’s actually living her life first and foremost. Her work is from the heart and it shows.

I’m glad the few people I ride, ski, climb, philosophise and roam around this planet with see the importance of just letting the moment be what it is and living life on boundless terms… not in 140 words or less.

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