Last month I began commuting by bike for the first time. I blogged about my experience and at the time I was not sure if I would make it a routine thing. Since then I have cycled to work about half a dozen times and have really enjoyed it. This piece is about how I have been getting on with my cycle commuting and to highlight the advantages.
I have noticed that when I finish work I feel excited about the journey home. It is like a mini adventure to jump on my bike and pedal home, whereas taking the bus or walking does not get me this excited.
My confidence in traffic is increasing. Although a large part of my route is off-road, through the Meadows, the green heart of Edinburgh, there is a section in Edinburgh's busy city centre. I feel much more relaxed when tackling this.
It is now dark in the evenings, so my lights have become an essential bit of kit. On my summer cycling trips I rarely make use of my lights, so they have never been used this much before.
Normally my bike is not used between September and March because of the generally poorer weather and shorter days, but cycle commuting has allowed me to extend my "season" into November. Even though my commute is only about 6 miles return it is giving me a regular opportunity to have a bike ride.
I used to be dead against city cycle commuting and was determined to only use my bike for countryside forays where the roads are quiet. I had been afraid of the traffic, but I have discovered that I can cope with it and I am glad that I took the plunge. There are many advantages to using your bike to get to work and I am now a convert.
Advantages of cycle commuting
I am writing this in a cafe at 8am whilst watching people rushing to work in the rain. Are they following their dreams? Are they doing the thing that fills them with passion and enthusiasm?
The Alchemist is about following our dreams and providing the answers as to how we can do this. It tells the story of a shepherd boy who gives up his job and everything that is familiar and routine in order to follow his dream. He embarks on a travel adventure of new cities, new people, new landscapes, new experiences and new challenges.
Many of us do not follow our dreams because there are many obstacles and we end up doing something that does not fulfill us. The book attempts to teach us how to overcome the obstacles and is the reason it was a worldwide success. It sold more than 30 million copies and was translated into 63 languages (officially the most translated book of a living author).
The tale of Santiago, the shepherd boy, seemed to resonate with many people and it had been on my reading list for a very long time. Some people have said the book changed their life.
That is not quite the case for me because I am not following my dream one hundred per cent. I want to travel and write for a living, rather than it being only a hobby. But the book has encouraged me not to give up and keep pursuing the dream. I keep up my blog, I plan my trips and I take notes that I turn into travel tales. I enter travel writing competitions.
The book is full of philosophical statements designed to encourage the reader to pursue their own personal calling. For example, this exchange that Santiago has with the King of Salem:
"What's the world's greatest lie?" the boy asked, completely surprised.
"It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie."
I think these statements are all things that we know, deep down, but in our hectic lives it is easy to put them out of our minds. Sometimes we need reminding of these things and this is why books like this are so successful.
Regardless of the message the book imparts it is also an exciting travel adventure that really appealed to me. Santiago leaves the pastures of Andalucia to journey to Morocco, then crosses the desert by camel train to reach the Pyramids of Egypt.
Have you read The Alchemist? What did you think? Did it encourage you to follow your dreams?
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.