So many of our experiences are serendipitious.
How do we take certain decisions ? How do we react to certain situations ? How does instinct work ?
Why do we choose to follow our instincts certain times while overriding them many other times?
Why are our instincts correct many times and wrong so many other times?
To answer these questions with any amount of conviction would be difficult, but I can share such an experience
Journeys are a great unknown, you can only be that much sure of what to expect, the rest just unfolds as you go along. When you are on a long distance solitary cycling journey you feel more vulnerable. This makes you more self aware and your instincts are in overdrive. After 2 days of cycling I hadnt yet gotten into the groove. I had deliberately planned my cycling during the winter months of November but every evening it was raining heavily. Climate change is real, November rains almost never happens but yet here it was, due to this I was loosing out on good day light and was not able to achieve my daily planned distance. Kilometers were pilling on and that was pulling me down mentally.
With the pressure of catching up on lost ground, I plan my route for the 3rd day. Consultation with locals bring hope as there seems to be a short cut that could save me a good 20Km. This means I could save more than an hour of cycling, not to mention the feel good factor of discovering a new route. I cant emphasise enough the importance of such feel good experiences that elevate you, this could suerly get me in the mental zone I was trying to get to since the begining of the journey.
We are so used to technology these days and we do not feel confident without it's validation. After Google maps validated the route. I pinned it in and set out, motivated and already feeling better.
The critical part of the decided route was a left turn that take me through narrow village roads and onward. If I missed this left, I would miss the short cut. It was very important that I dont miss it. I have been following the map deligently and as I was nearing the place where I had to turn, anticipation was building up. Narrow village road sounds charming and roads like these are what cyclists crave for. I had a feeling I was almost at the spot where the turn had to be taken but the map kept telling me to go ahead and take the next left. I had a feeling from within that there is some mistake but I kept going ahead. On cycling a little ahead Google asked me to take the left, I took it, something was not feeling right but I kept peddeling ahead. My thoughts were pondering over the many instances that Google maps lead me wrong. It was early in the morning so there was no one on the road to ask as well. What if I am in the wrong route and end up adding to the many kilometers. Finally I stopped, turned back and went back to the longer route.
Once I reached the longer route I kept cycling towards the destination, while I was trying to convince myself that another 20 Km extra wont matter, atleast I will be on the right track, I will not be lost through narrow village roads. The day that began with so much promise was turning out to be average and it had only begun, all the conflict within was not helping. Had I taken the right decision was the route that the map suggested the right one after all ? I stopped for some tea at a small shop. There was no one there, I asked the elderly gentleman at the shop about the short cut, he had no idea about this route. This gave me some sense of satisfaction that after all I had taken the correct decision.
As I was getting ready to leave a guy on a bike stopped at the same shop. He smiled at me and inquired about my journey, on knowing that I was headed towards Mumbai he straight away mentioned that I should have taken a left a little behind. I was amazed, Google maps was showing the correct way after all. He insisted that I should go behind and take that route as it would be much shorter. He had no idea how much I wanted to hear this. I needed this validation after all the confusion.
I returned back to the same spot and took the turn and peddeled on, what I experienced over the next few hours was just magical, A beautiful village road, thickly vegetated and forested with paddy fields and a river. The road was narrow but with very less traffic and many stretches fully shaded. It was just so much more enjoyable. And yes it was shorter and I could cover a much larger distance through the day. Not to mention the fun I had of discovering a new route.
The mood was up, I was finally hitting my stride. I was in that mental zone of happiness and satisfaction. I was enjoying the journey. When I look back at the whole 7 days of cycling, it was this day that it all changed and many questions were laid to rest in my head. From here on it was only the physical aspect of the journey, mentally I was all in.
Now when I look back at this incident, a different set of questions arise.
What if that man on the bike did not turn up at the correct moment ?
What if I had gone ahead with the longer route ?
What if I hadn't gone back and taken that turn ?