Multiple Scripts

I think I first heard the phrase “flip the script” from Isaac Morehouse. Regardless of where I heard it, it resonated with me. The basic concept is that there is a benefit to changing the burden of proof, to seeing a decision or process or situation from a different point of view. I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful in my own life particularly when it comes to decision making.

Inside each of us, there is an internal conflict. We want pleasure now, but we may want to avoid pain later. We want to avoid pain now, but our health later may be at risk. Whether it is working out, eating healthy food, firing an employee, taking the dog for a walk, quitting your job, or learning a foreign language, the conflict between “today me” and “tomorrow me” rages on, and it mostly rages on subconsciously (at least for me).

To help with this I’ve been trying to consciously flip the script when I make decisions. When I am getting a bowl of ice cream from the freezer after dinner I need to decide how much to eat. My first instinct is to eat a full bowl, it will taste delicious and release all those beautiful chemicals in my brain. My first response is always an immediate pleasure, I guess I’m a natural hedonist. But I know that approaching it from a couple other angles will be better.

Will I regret that bowl of ice cream tomorrow when I get up to run or when I see the results of constant ice cream eating in six months? (Probably)

In ten minutes will my pleasure from a bowl of ice cream be substantially greater than two spoonfuls? (Spoiler: It probably won’t be)

I’m I going to feel regret tomorrow if I decide not to eat the ice cream? (Also, probably not)

Is there a chance that eating a bowl of ice cream will set off a domino effect of bad decisions? Will one bowl lead to two bowls? Will it make me feel lazy for the rest of the night and procrastinate? Will all the sugar upset my stomach?

Would I prefer to eat two spoonfuls of ice cream every day for a month instead of a bowl once a week (or even worse, a bowl every day and spending four times as much money on ice cream)? What other use can I find for those calories and money?

I’m not saying that we should avoid having fun or pleasurable things just because the long-term outcome wouldn’t be ideal, but I think there can be a balance. My explicitly asking myself these questions it has helped me eat healthily, exercise more regularly, and spend my money more wisely. Pleasure and suffering are both fleeting, maybe pleasure today isn’t worth the long-term harm and maybe discomfort today is worth the long-term benefits.

There are so many ways to view a situation and we do ourselves a disservice if we let our subconscious always run the show.

Things I Knew

On my 20th birthday, I celebrated at a pizza place in Gresham, Oregon. My hair was fire-engine red, my face pocked with acne, and I carried a few extra pounds around my belly that came from two decades of minimal exercise and poor nutrition. I was surrounded by family and friends, including the woman who was my first kiss, my first blowjob, and my first love. It was a fun occasion, but there was a sadness beneath the surface. It was 2001 and the 9/11 attacks had happened one month earlier, and in response to those attacks, I walked into a recruiters office to join the army. While we smiled and celebrated our minds were on one thing: in three weeks I would be shipping off to basic training and, if everything went well, the war would soon to follow.

I didn’t really think about my future much, particularly what would happen after my military service, but I did know a few things. Once my enlistment was over I was going to move back to Oregon, marry a nice Christian girl, go to college, and have a bundle of kids. I would become a police officer, probably in Gresham, and spend my life in the same town I grew up in. I was a Christian conservative and my duty was to God, Country, and Family (though, not necessarily in that order).

On my 25th birthday, I was wasted in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was in the final year of my Associate’s degree at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and my personal life was in shambles. I had recently discovered that my fiance had been cheating on me for a long time and I felt trapped in a town where I had no social network. For the most part, she had prevented me from making friends but I had a couple that stayed with me after it all. Those friends and I drank martinis, acted dumb, and then they took care of me when I vomited all over the road.

I didn’t have a plan for my future at that point, particularly after college. I really only knew that I was going to College of Charleston to major in Economics. After that, I was going to get a Ph.D. in Economics from somewhere far away from the South. I knew that relationships were worthless, emotions were a weakness, and the government was evil. I was an agnostic libertarian and the only duty I had was to Myself and My Freedom.

On my 30th birthday, I looked with joy at all my friends who came out to celebrate. We were at my apartment in Alexandria, Virginia and dozens of people were imbibing on my sangria, playing drinking games, and discussing deep issues. One of my girlfriends was there as well and when the night finally wound down we retreated back to my room for some private celebration.

The future was vague, but I had a plan or two. I knew that I was going on a bike ride soon across the country to move to Los Angeles. Once there, I would improvise. I wasn’t opposed to relationships, but I knew marriage wasn’t for me. I loved to travel, excitement, and such too much. I was a spiritually indifferent burner polyamorist anarchist and my duty was to Love, Community, and Personal Growth.

On my 35th birthday, my wife and I shared a glass of scotch before going out to our favorite bottle shop to drink a beer. We were in Wilmington, North Carolina and had just moved into a new home. We had started planning what part of the yard we would have our vegetable garden and we were slowly acquiring furniture. After two years traveling around the US together, we had decided to take a break and try a new style of life… well, new for us. I was beginning to study to become a therapist that either specializes in using MDMA as a therapy tool or working with LGBT, kinky, and non-monogamous individuals and families.

The future is unknown, and now I don’t even try to plan. I have no idea who I will be, what my desires will be, or what opportunities will present themselves. I’m okay with that. Maybe it is wisdom or maybe it is foolishness, but I’m just not worried about the future. I know I can roll with the punches and if my old identity or plan is destroyed then a more beautiful and true version will emerge from that shell.

Humans ability to adapt may be our most important feature. We can thrive and celebrate and feel joy in a wide range of conditions and I feel like it would be a real shame if I locked myself into one and neglect all that potential. On my 40th birthday maybe I’ll be living in South America working on a novel or maybe I’ll have a private therapy practice in Santa Fe or maybe I’ll be cycling around Asia or maybe I’ll be running the east coast operations for a housing analysis company or maybe none of those things. I’m not worried about it, these things work out when you let the universe just do its thing and make decisions when they need to be made instead of spending all your time preparing for the future. The future doesn’t exist, only the present exists, and there is a long time before the present becomes the future and an infinite amount of various circumstances that will come my way before the future arrives.

I am Peter and I am in love with my current moment and excited for the moments to come, even if I have no idea what they will look like.

Feedback (Part 8)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to every single one I receive (unless I somehow become a super famous advice columnest on accident).

Hi Peter, we met years ago in DC in KAP (Koch Associate Program) and I regret we did not become better friends because you never fail to be interesting and thought provoking, and I enjoy interesting and thought provoking. What I wonder is this — why are you so open about your life? I hate for this to sound like a judgmental question, it is just so far from my own personality that I admit to being baffled and curious. Thanks!

Hi stranger!

Thanks for reaching out. First off, I am torn on whether I wish we would have become better friends in KAP. During that time I was kind of douchie and very sex-obsessed and really fighting with my PTSD. Much of my interactions were based on trying to get laid, but I would like to think I’ve matured a bit since then (though some might disagree) and my views have evolved a bit as well. Hopefully, though, you and I can become better friends now.

So, on to your question. Why am I so open about my life?

Hmm, in some ways I’ve always been this way. Growing up I was pretty outspoken about controversial things. Unfortunately, the things that were controversial were my shitty views about homosexuality. I was the type of person who would gather for prayer around a flagpole (which isn’t bad in and of itself) and tell gay people that they were sinners or take cigarettes out of people’s mouths because they were unhealthy. I was a self-righteous dickhole who thought my theological beliefs were the final word on what was good, and that anything I did because of those beliefs was justified. I kind of sucked.

Things changed a bit when I got out of the military. I found myself uncomfortable with American Christianity and conservatism, and I also came to be comfortable with my own sexuality. I believe that much of my angry self-righteousness and internal conflict (that manifested itself in many unhealthy ways) came from essentially living a lie. I had to pretend to believe and be a certain person around family and friends because that is what they wanted or expected. I basically felt like I had to sacrifice my own mental health because if I let the truth be known it would break my families heart or they would worry about me going to hell.

That internal struggle, living in the dark, had to end at some point and (very luckily) it ended with me being open and honest instead of ending my own life. I realize not everyone has this type of public/private conflict, but facing that conflict is part of why I am so open today. I know that there is a difference between living a life true to who you are and standing on a hill with a flag advertising to strangers on the internet who you are, and I definitely fall into the latter category. Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it)

Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it) I started having people who I didn’t know that well contact me. Even when I was more subdued online I still shared controversial articles about polyamory, spirituality, anarchy, drug use, etc. fairly safely by claiming I found the subject “interesting”, and sharing those articles became a stepping stone to expressing my views about them. Sharing those articles became a way for like-minded people to feel safe asking me questions and it was a way for me to help people around the globe (that sounds cocky… I don’t mean it that way).

I guess that is really the reason why I am open with my life at this point because there are some people who can’t be open but need to feel like they are not alone. Like Dan Savage says, the best thing you can do to help other people is to step out of the closet. I have received countless messages from people I knew in high school, the military, college, DC, LA, and basically strangers thanking me because they felt same-sex attraction too and didn’t know what to make of it, or they use drugs or battle PTSD or want to be childless or are no longer religious. I believe that when I live out loud, when I let my freak flag fly, it is the healthiest way for me to live and it is a way to provide support for other people. I don’t know if I would call it a “duty” to others, but I know it is a duty to myself.

I hope that answered the question, but if not, please shoot me another message and I’ll try to do better. 🙂

Strugglebus

Moving to Wilmington has not been as easy as I imagined it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I love this town and I think moving here was the right decision. The amount of freedom and power that I feel from choosing my own city to live in without worrying about school, family, or work is incredible. But, it has been difficult, showing up in a new city with minimal social support makes it difficult to make friends, particularly when I work from home (definitely not complaining about that, but it creates challenges).

My mental health has been on the low end for the last couple months and I’ve been getting back into some bad habits, primarily unhealthy drinking and eating habits and too much time on the computer, and my workout and writing routines had both floundered. My imposter syndrome has hit pretty hard recently and my trichotillomania started coming back (which is never a good sign). To be honest, I was getting pretty down but this week things are really looking up.

I finally feel like I have a decent social routine and I’m making friends. I had friends in town before but I felt like I was often a drain or a burden when I wanted to hang out because they have their own lives and social groups that they’ve developed for years, but things have changed a bit now. I joined a kickball league, found a running buddy, started playing D&D with a fucking awesome group of people (who seem to have some dirty minds… which I love), started going to yoga at a local brewery, and I plan on volunteering with a local organization on Friday. I even might start going to the Unitarian Church near my house. My partner and I have also started going out to bike rides and other local events (though, we haven’t really exchanged numbers with anyone… it is so weird being an adult and trying to meet other adult friends as an introverted person).

To be honest, the only real “hole” in my social network is meeting other people who are poly/sexually open and/or into recreational MDMA use. Basically, I don’t have a “burner” crowd here. But that’s okay, maybe I’ll find people that I can talk to about those issues in person or maybe I won’t. If I don’t find those people in real life I have my amazing Facebook friends to chat with. Right now I’m in a handful of secret Facebook groups made up of like-minded people and it is my favorite thing about Facebook. The newsfeed is always garbage, but those groups are where I feel I can talk about anything and truly be myself. I can let my hair down (well, that isn’t currently a real thing but it will be once my locks return to their former glory… I should never have cut my hair or beard).

Facebook provides a great service but I also feel like it has a dark side for me. The friends I have on there are amazing, but I feel like having that safety net prevents me from actually getting out and doing things in the real world. The network provides enough support to keep my mental health from hitting rock bottom, but then I lack the motivation to meet new people. I think I just need to find a balance between the two. Both networks serve a purpose in life, I need family in the cyber world and the physical world, and it really only becomes a problem when I let one realm monopolize my life. My life satisfaction requires variety, diversity, and active experimentation.

As always, if you’ve got a random question or comment that you’d like me to address feel free to send me an anonymous message at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH

One More Try…

My life, and particularly the last six months, is littered with abandoned projects. I’ve started everything from dancing poi to training for a marathon to learning German to woodworking and I’ve given up on every project. I’ve read self-help books about becoming financially secure, more artistic, and a multi-orgasmic man; but once I complete the book I have never stuck with the programs that they outline. I always quit. My steam runs out. The novelty of a new project becomes nothing more than a chore. Every. Damn. Time.

In fact, the only real lifestyle change that I’ve made in my life is becoming vegan and that still requires constant work and temptation avoidance. This new habit has only been successful for me because I have three pillars that encourage success: mind, body, and community. I see minimizing suffering as an ethical issue (mind), cutting out meat and dairy is a healthy choice (body), and I have a partner who is also vegan and we keep each other accountable (community).

So, given my success rate of about 1%, it would make sense to just give up. Right? I mean, who wants to keep betting on someone who has such a history of embarrassing failure and mental weakness? I guess I do because I keep finding new projects that I want to do and new ways to experiment with my body and mind. I’m just going to keep trying to be better, but hopefully

I’m just going to keep trying to be better, but hopefully, I can take what I’ve learned from my success and apply it to my new projects. I need to find a way to link mind, body, and community into learning Spanish, the harmonica, the Hof method, writing another novel, and physical fitness. I need new projects to have its tentacles in every part of my being. I am not successful when I compartmentalize things, I want my very soul to envelop my projects.

Basically, I’m going to keep pressing on until I die. I’d rather my life be a graveyard of failures than one of paths untrodden.

As always, if you’ve got a random question or comment that you’d like me to address feel free to send me an anonymous message at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH 🙂

But, what if it sucks?

I was recently SnapChatting with a friend and former colleague of mine when the subject of sex came up. The fact that the conversation went that direction is not really much of a surprise. She and I have a flirtatious history and many people (including us) thought that we would hook up at some point. But, alas, circumstances never really matched up for us bang but we remain good friends (and still occasionally sext).

As we discussed whether we would eventually hook up (I think it is likely) we talked about whether it would be good or not and, in particular, what would happen to our friendship if the sex was bad. I don’t think it would be bad… we are both friendly, generous, fun-loving people… but if it was bad I don’t think that would be a big deal. A bad sexual experience is something that we would just laugh about because our self-confidence isn’t based on something with so many unknown variables like a great sexual experience. A friendship that can’t handle bad sex or the awkwardness that comes from getting naked together isn’t a very strong friendship.

Besides, it probably wouldn’t be bad. Realistically, I don’t think it would be mind-blowingly great either. People (at least in my experience) are generally kind of awkward and weird the first time they hook up. There is an excitement in exploring a new body and new sensations, but there is also a lack of knowledge about what will pleasure the person. There is a learning curve that doesn’t exist with a regular partner. I think sex with my partner is amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for a new experience (luckily, I don’t have to) but new experiences also bring variety and a fresh perspective.

The truth is, if/when she and I hook up it’ll probably be “pretty good”. Our minds tend to live in extremes, everything will be absolutely terrible or absolutely wonderful, but reality is kind of mediocre. We put special events like sex, weddings, and vacations on this pedestal that can’t help but be a bit of a letdown when our fantasies collide with reality. And we assume certain terrible things will destroy our lives, whether that be the death of a family member, losing your job, becoming paralyzed, etc. but we actually recover quickly if we allow ourselves too. That is part of why I have found so much strength in mindfulness meditation and the Stoic philosophy, they allow me to live in the moment and see reality for what it is, and to only worry about what is under my control.

But, maybe the sex would suck. Maybe it would be terrible. Maybe neither of us feel a lick of pleasure or joy or satisfaction. Instead, we fumble around uncomfortably and lose all sexual desire for each other. Well, that would be okay. She is a dear friend and I’m not keeping in touch with her as a sort of investment where I expect sex later. Nobody is a sexual Roth IRA that you plug time into monthly and expect to withdraw an orgasmic payoff down the road. If the sex is bad, we will laugh about it, drink a beer, and go about our lives with one less thing to be curious about. It is better to have a few bad experiences than spend your short life wondering “what if”.

Hey! I’m always looking for things to write about. Have you got a question or comment for me? Feel free to submit anonymously to my SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). No subject is off limits (just see some of my previous questions here to get a feel for what people ask about… it is mostly sex)

Black Rock City Lives

Earlier today on Facebook I posted my favorite Burning Man video (see the bottom of this post). Well, posting that was the catalyst for a friend of mine to send me a SnapChat asking what I thought about the current status of the greatest party on the planet (probably).

To be honest, I haven’t paid too much attention to the drama around Burning Man. Every year there are rumors about how Burning Man now sucks or it sold out or it jumped the shark, it is practically a cliche for those of us who love Black Rock City. But, as always

“rumors of Burning Man’s demise have been greatly exaggerated” – Abraham Lincoln (probably)

To believe Burning Man is not what it used to be is to misunderstand what Burning Man is. It is, first and foremost, an opportunity. It is an opportunity to explore who you are as an individual and as a member of society. It is an opportunity to cast of social norms to find your true passions and beliefs. It is an opportunity to be inspired and inspire others. Black Rock City is a city with ~75,000 who gather based on 10 Principles that unite us each to become the best that we are. Burning Man is what you make it, good and bad. It is the opportunity.

Yes, there will be people there that you don’t want to associate with. When I first attended Burning Man I was told that it sucks now because all the “weekend warriors” from the Nevada colleges ruined it with their partying. The partiers didn’t belong. After that, it was all the virgins showing up who didn’t know what they were doing. The virgins didn’t belong. Then it was all the “ravers” who cared only about the music and didn’t understand the true spirit of Buring Man. The ravers didn’t belong. Now, it is all the wealthy people in their pop-up camps ruining Burning Man. They don’t belong.

But, the truth is, all those groups* belong. We all show up to Black Rock City without a full understanding of what that desert really is. Every year it is a culture shock that snaps us out of our normal life and helps us radically transform our perspective… or, at least it should be. If you are someone who is going to long for “the good ole” days of Burning Man then you only have yourself to blame for your grouchiness and bad experience. Every person (college student, virgin, raver, rich person) is an opportunity to learn and make new connections with others and yourself. If someone doesn’t to “understand” Burning Man then the best course of action is to lead by example and not complain about the past. The past is dead, it doesn’t exist, it isn’t worth our time or energy thinking about.

Burning Man evolves each year. It is a temporary city that resets and rebuilds and adapts to the people involved, and every year is going to have different people. Everything is ephemeral, especially Black Rock City. Attempting to hold on to an ever changing world brings only suffering, and it is a self-imposed suffering.

So, yes, Burning Man is worth going to. It is always worth going to because it is an opportunity for personal growth and if you don’t grow from the experience then the person to blame is just a mirror away.

*Principle 1 of Burning Man: Radical Inclusion – Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Got a question or comment for me? Feel free to submit anonymoustly to my SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or shoot me a SnapChat (@pneiger) or Facebook message (www.facebook.com/pneiger) or I guess you can text me (910-470-9323). Oh, I guess there is Instagram too (@shifts_and_higgles)… damn, there are a lot of networks out there. 

Feedback (Part 7)

Alright, this is the last group of questions left in my SurveyMonkey inbox. I have had a wonderful time answering these questions. They have really helped me get back in the swing of writing and forced me to analyze my own views more deeply. I am keeping the survey open indefinitely, so if you have a question or comment for me about any issue please feel free to submit it anonymously at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHHThank you again to everyone who submitted something and I hope to answer some more stuff soon.

1. Is there any sexual activity between consenting adults that you would never be open to trying?

Hmm, I would have to say no, but only because the word “never” is absolute. I am just not sure enough about my own desires and future to say that there is anything that is an absolute no for me. There are certainly some things that are unlikely at this point, but I can’t guarantee that there isn’t a person or circumstance that exists that would create a desire to do something I’m currently uncomfortable with. Also, what we are interested in changes with time. When I was younger I was all about porn based on babysitters and other scenarios based on a power imbalance, but as I grew older my tastes and desires changed as I became a feminist and more comfortable with my own sexuality.

For me, my willingness to engage in a sexual activity can roughly be quantified using a 0-5 ranking based on two categories: Mental and History

Mental is how interested I am in the activity. A “5” is an activity that is very mentally erotic to me and is likely a regular part of the movie theater of my mind during masturbation and sex. A “0” is something that is actively repulsive to me when I think about it.

History is how much I have enjoyed that activity in the past. A “5” means I really had a good time last time I did it and  “0” means it was a really bad experience. A bad experience doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t do something in the future, but I might enter into it with a bit more caution.

It kind of looks like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, in order for something to be completely off the table I need to be both mentally opposed to it and have a history of it being a bad experience. I’m willing to try anything at least once because our minds are kind of terrible at telling us how much we will actually like or dislike something. We mentally work in extremes and make unknowns seem super terrifying or super awesome when the reality is much more moderate.

When you finally have that awesome threesome that you dreamed of it ends up disappointing a bit because the people involved are humans with human bodies. It becomes awkward or funny or uncomfortable. There is queefing and giggling and difficulty getting condoms on and slipping off the bed. You see body hair and sweat and there are odors. Life isn’t a porn set.

Similarly, when you find out your partner has a crush on someone you imagine them to be a greek deity who is better than you in every way. They have perfect bodies and teeth, they make a ton of money and speak 12 languages, they are better at oral sex and have perfectly shaped genitalia. When you meet the person you find out they have “flaws” and insecurities and make mistakes because they are human too. Life isn’t a romantic comedy. Only in our minds are other people supernatural.

I realize that the author may have wanted something more specific and sex-act oriented, so here we go:

Red (will probably say no to if asked): anything involving feces or vomit
Yellow (will start but may want to stop): Basically anything new
Green (will say yes to enthusiastically): Standard vanilla stuff, group sex, erotic massages, tying up or blindfolding, watching porn, voyeurism and exhibitionism, sex outdoors

 

2. What is the least socially acceptable activity that you’ve engaged in?

Hmm, I don’t really know because I don’t have a good idea about what’s socially acceptable. My sex life also hasn’t been that extreme. I’d guess that having sex in the orgy dome surrounded by dozens of other couples is high on the “least socially acceptable” list. Also, my comfort with anal and prostate stimulation is probably a bit taboo. Are threesomes socially acceptable? I really don’t know… but those are the ones that come to mind.

 

3. Is there anything you thought you would not enjoy but did enjoy when you actually tried it?

I was very reluctant to get into any kind of BDSM, particularly as a Dom or Masochist, but I’ve actually really enjoyed those roles a bit. I haven’t explored it too much but it is something I’d like to do more. I think I have been afraid of exercising power, particularly over someone I care about, but I am realizing that it can be incredibly pleasurable for everyone involved within the proper scenarios. Tying someone up, blindfolding them, spanking them, and exercising a degree of control over their pleasure, pain, orgasms, and body can be erotic to me, and I no longer feel like I should be ashamed of that.

Feedback (Part 6)

This post is in response to anonymous questions and comments that I receive via a SurveyMonkey form I set up. If you’d like to send me a question or comment just fill out the form at this website (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH).

  1. I love backpacking but I hate having to save up longer than I get to use that money while exploring. How can I make money while traveling? How did you fund your bike adventure with your partner?

I am not an expert on the best ways to earn money while traveling but I can definitely share our experiences. First, though, I think bike touring (and maybe backpacking a well) can be incredibly cheap. If you’re able to end traditional bills like rent, car stuff, electricity, etc. then you can get your monthly expenses down to almost zero. While traveling you basically only need to meet the bottom layer of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: shelter, water, food, and electricity.

Shelter: If you don’t mind living in a tent then this can be cheap or free, even over long periods of time. Couchsurfing and WarmShowers are great websites to find free shelter for a night or three. They each have different pros and cons and different social norms associated with them, but they are valuable. Additionally, many fire stations and churches will let you set up on their land overnight if you contact them ahead of time. And, of course, you can just stealth camp. There is a ton of land that is easy to sneak onto and set up your tent for the night.

Water: Also free. Churches, schools, parks, libraries, fire stations, and even fast food restaurants often have free water available inside or hoses outside the building.

Food: If you carry your own food and avoid eating out then food can be cheap. It won’t be glamorous, but you can thrive off of peanut butter, jelly, hummus wraps, canned beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, if it doesn’t bother you, you can dumpster dive and find a ton of fine, free food around the country.

Electricity: Also free most of the time. You can plug in on the side of lots of buildings, in parks, and such.

Okay, on to your question about work. Between my partner and we have three different experiences.

My first bike tour I did not have any income or savings. I took my final paycheck at SFL and just hit the road. I utilized most of the tactics above to keep my expenses low, but I also had a few friends who helped me out when my bike broke.

On my tour with my partner, we ended up with two sources of income but started with only one. When we decided to go on the ride my partner basically told her employer that they could either keep her on part-time as a remote worker or she was going to quit. This is similar to the Tim Ferriss approach. As an employee, often the only leverage you have is threatening to quit (just like your only leverage over your parents is your presence in their life). If you aren’t willing to leave then they have all the power.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have income when we started. While my partner worked I helped take care of logistical stuff like route planning, contacting hosts, bike repairs, shopping, etc. Basically, we were able to specialize. After the first year or so my situation changed. I was given a job offer to work part-time for a firm that a friend of a friend ran. The only reason I was offered the job was because I was on the bike ride. I only needed to work part-time, which is what my employer needed at the time. Basically, by taking a risk, raising my freak flag, and living life as I desired things kind of fell into place.

Some people call this “luck”, but that’s too simplistic. I was in a situation to take advantage of an opportunity because of the decisions I made over a long period of time. I decided not to have kids, I ended a relationship with someone I loved because we weren’t long term compatible, I advertise my views on drugs/sex/etc, I gave up a secure career because I was unhappy in DC, I left a secure job in LA because I wanted to tour around the US, etc…. Luck only comes into your life if you put yourself out there and take risks.

Oh, I just remembered something else. My partner and I actually have a friend who has been traveling around the US for about a year now. She was able to find income by using WWOOF to find farming opportunities and looking for temporary gigs in the cities she stopped in. In fact, she found a job with a traveling circus while in Wilmington and made it a full-time gig and she is currently traveling around the US with them and having a blast.

 

2. I was hoping you could fill me in on what I need for a long distance bike ride. Like what a good bike is, the necessary equipment (I want to travel light), and any insights you might have.

Hmm, a lot depends on your budget and your overall plans. I don’t think you should let your budget stop you though. My first bike ride started on a $100 bike I bought at Target and I probably spent less than $200 on additional equipment. I bought a 1-person hiker/biker tent, a sleeping bag, a bike helmet, and the basic repair equipment. All the rest of my stuff (clothes, food, water bottles, yoga mat, etc) I already had and I just bungee corded to the bike.

That wreck only lasted about 2,000 miles and looked like this:

If you have more than $100 and want something that will probably last longer than half a country then I would recommend spending about $400-$500 on a decent hybrid bike. Any decent bike shop should be able to order you one. When my Target bike broke I bought a Trek 7.1 and used it all the way to the ocean, as a daily commuter around LA for almost two years, and then another couple thousand miles from LA to Montana. I loved this bike and I wouldn’t have upgraded if I was traveling light. In the end, all my equipment weighed about 200lbs and the Trek just wasn’t built for that.

I know you say you are traveling light, but if you decide you want to go heavy or you want a bike that will survive a nuclear apocalypse then you should get a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This is basically the golden standard of touring bikes, but it costs about $1,500 fully equipped. This is what my partner and I have now and we love it. In fact, it has probably saved us money at this point. After about 7,500 miles we have never had any major mechanical issues, just basic maintenance. The bike is a tank and a joy to ride… it isn’t fast, but it’ll get you where you’re going.

So, besides bikes what should you spend good money on? To be honest, there is only one more thing that I think is worth investing in high quality: tires. You are going to get flats, but if you can get high-quality equipment that minimizes flats then it is worth it. Every new tube costs around $7 and every flat can take ~30 minutes to repair (and time is valuable if the sun is setting and you don’t have a camping spot). I can’t recommend the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires enough. They aren’t the cheapest tires but they will save a ton of time and money.

There are plenty of luxuries that you can get but here are the basics (and again, the cheap stuff will normally be good enough):

  • Bike
  • Upgraded
  • Spare tubes
  • Tools to change and fill tubes
  • Sleeping bag or blanket
  • Tent
  • Water bottles or camelback
  • Bike Lock
  • Bike Helmet
  • Bike lights (front and rear)
  • Bike computer to track mileage, speed, etc
  • Some way to navigate… maps or GoogleMaps on your phone
  • Extra battery system for phone (if necessary), I like the Jackery Giant

That’s about all you need. I hope you get out there and ride. Too much preparation or worry can sometimes prevent people from acting, it is better to step out into adventure unprepared than to sit at home for years waiting for the perfect moment. Perfection never arrives.

I hope that answered the questions, but if the author (or anyone else) has a follow-up question or would like me to clarify something please feel free to message me on Facebook, Snapchat (@pneiger), or using the anonymous SurveyMonkey. Or if you have a completely unrelated question please send it my way.

Writing

 

I received my first check from Amazon today for the book I wrote and self-published and I have mixed feelings about it. This is the first time that I’ve been financially rewarded for my writing, so I guess that technically makes me a professional writer, but I feel like I kind of cheated. There is something about self-publishing that feels inauthentic to me, or maybe I am just having a hard time “going pro” (as Steven Pressfield would say).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like writing my book was easy, but we live in a world with fewer and fewer gatekeepers (which is a beautiful thing) and those gatekeepers serve(d) some good purposes. The open world of writing has created a lot of noise that can make it difficult to figure out what is actually good and it has removed a valuable feedback mechanism that improved the quality of specific works.

I feel like my book could have been better and some of that improvement would have come from a professional looking at it and giving me some feedback and praise. Maybe I shouldn’t care about receiving accolades from the old guardians, and maybe if I viewed myself as an actual writer (instead of just as someone who writes) I wouldn’t care as much.

I love writing. The rush that comes from typing a fury of words while wishing that your fingers could keep up with your mind is exhilarating. The power that comes from molding words and giving people a glimpse my mind is intoxicating. I even love the painful and beautiful struggle that comes each day when I’m staring at a blank screen, or the mental anguish that comes from not being able to find the write word to express how I feel, or the sadness and terror that comes from believing that I no longer have an original thought left. I love writing and I loathe writing. It is my enemy and my

I love writing and I loathe writing. It is my enemy and my sparring partner. It is my best friend and the bane of my existence. It is a new lover whose body I want to explore every waking minute and it is the old partner who has gone cold with time and neglect. So, maybe I am a writer and maybe I was a writer before my book was ever published. I just wish I could convince myself of that.

Post Script: A small housekeeping note. I’ve shut off comments on my blog because I was getting hundreds of spam messages each week and it was annoying me. If you have a comment or question you can send me a message to the SurveyMonkey form I set up or you can email me at pjneiger@gmail.com