- The Nationality and Borders Act of 2022 was passed in April after the Commons rejected a series of amendments proposed by the Lords that would have protected compliance with the Refugee Convention. Heavy. In January, with the help of paradox, I tried to understand our part in all this, because we all have a part in the collective imagination of oppression. Resist.
- The proportion of British people who think immigration is ‘bad for the economy’ halved from 42 per cent to 20 per cent. Despite all the frothy headlines over ‘culture wars’, social attitudes in the UK are becoming steadily more liberal. Perhaps a reason why crime in the UK is now at its lowest level since the 1980s.
- 95 Thighs of Steel cyclists rode a cumulative 71,337km and climbed up 757,975 metres of elevation, the equivalent of more than 85 Everests. 781 bowls of porridge, 11kg of peanut butter and untold megatons of pastries filled the 2,341,500 calorie cycling deficit. Oh, and we raised £102,020 for grassroots refugee projects around Europe.
- One of the projects we supported this year was Calais Migrant Solidarity, a No Borders activist group that I worked with when I first went to Calais in 2014. It’s remarkable that they’ve been a constant presence there, challenging the noisy narrative of our deadly border and organising with people on the move, since 2009.
It was great for us to be able to find such a wonderful funding organisation who would support our work without asking us to compromise our beliefs or messaging.
- Man Sloth Mode is a temporary ‘depressed’ (low energy, low affect, low arousal) state of being, usually triggered by specific environmental factors, to which men are particularly susceptible. Man Sloth Mode was my most widely read, shared and commented story of the year, so it was great to join a Men’s Circle in Bournemouth, full of people eager to take their place on earth.
- In the UK, according to the government’s Gender Equality Monitor, women do 25.5 hours of unpaid work per week, while men manage only 16 hours — a gap that widens still further if we exclude transport. However, more egalitarian attitudes towards unpaid labour results in higher female sexual efficacy and more sex for everyone. C’mon now, guys.
- I can’t write a list of 99 Problems. (Incidentally, nor can Jay-Z: there are only nine distinct problems in his famous rap.)
- A huge amount, I’m sure, was lost during the TV editing process, but watching counsellor Orna Guralnik on Couples Therapy shows the significant weight that a therapist must bear in order to create space where a couple can work through their shit. (I hope what I learned makes up for the life I might have lost: on average, every hour of TV after age 25 reduces life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.)
- I’m one of 27 percent of people who rarely or almost never think about what I might do five years or more from now. I tried to fix this with a floor plan. Not sure it worked, but it was fun. I also learned that setting SMART goals and seeking high levels of accountability might be doing me more harm than good. Better to set up — and then appreciate — life-enriching processes.
- The course I took in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) opened my eyes to the power of identifying what needs I am expressing when I realise that I’m feeling (say) frustrated, excited or overwhelmed. More on this topic in 2023, but for now here’s a quote from the founder of NVC, Marshall Rosenberg:
When the sole energy that motivates us is simply to make life wonderful for others and ourselves, then even hard work has an element of play in it.
- NVC relies on emotional granularity: expanding our vocabulary to be able to describe more precisely what we are feeling. Are we angry, annoyed or appalled? The benefits of emotional granularity include less binge drinking, less reactivity to rejection and less severe anxiety and depression.
- Responsibility is an energy. Responsibility is an energy. Responsibility is an energy. I must remember that. And, when I forget, I must remember that anxiety is also an energy!
Imagine we never felt anxious. Sure, we’d be mellow as fuck, but there’d be no adventures, no laughter, no stories to tell our grand kids. I’m anxious — GREAT. My body is priming me to get shit done. So let’s do it.
- Adventure follows a three act story structure and, just like stories, you can have an adventure about anything.
- There were 821 sleeps between my last pre-pandemic trip abroad (Urk with The Tim Traveller) and my first foreign travel post-pandemic (Rudenoise with The Tim Traveller). It was good to be back: foreign travel, if we allow it, is an exquisite empathy machine.
- I learned a heck a lot about myself and my compatriots (as well as to always carry a spare chain link) while cycling another 1,818km around Britain, from Kings Lynn to Inverness, with a side tour of the whiskey isles and kyles of the Argyll.
- I might have cracked the secret to wild camping while cycle touring in England. Even better, cycle touring is now a year-round activity for me. In winter, there are fewer dog walkers to sniff out your camp and, in the deep darkness after five, anywhere flat is a great, secluded place to pitch up.
- Perhaps another 2,500km to ride before my round Britain twice tour is completed. Or perhaps not…
Looking at the gaps in the journey already — the northeastern tip of East Anglia, the north coast of Devon and Cornwall, the Black Country, the Welsh heartland, and, not least, Grimsby — I’m wondering: shall this ride ever be complete?
- Ecopsychology is defined as conversations around the dwelling place of our soul, where nature is our teacher and we can be but facilitators. In Sweden, apparently, secret beauty spots are called ‘wild strawberries’. Psithurism is the whispering sound of the wind among leaves.
- There is no point in walking the length of all the portici in Bologna. That’s why I tried.
- The ruined socialist luxury hotel complex at Kupari in Croatia scores 4.6 stars on from 179 reviews. Just up the road, the Chinese finished building a bridge in Dalmatia so that Croatia could join the EU in 2024.
- My 100th Day of Adventure started with me trying to discourage the local dogs from chewing up our cyclists’ helmets that’d been left scattered around camp after a long day’s ride. The year ended with a staggering 127 Days of Adventure.
- As of 2020, mycologists had named about 148,000 different species of fungus. The current best guess is that there are at least another 2.65 million more to be stumbled upon. At the absolute most, my ignorant, but open-minded, walk in the Brecon Beacons unwittingly uncovered 0.0001 percent of fungal diversity.
- It’s impossible to acknowledge, let alone thank, all the visible and invisible kindnesses that made Thighs of Steel possible this year. Philoxenia, the love of strangers and travellers, is alive and thriving.
- I’m really lucky to have shared adventures this year with over a hundred wonderful people. You know who you are, but special mention to my mum who stomped through the clag with me on the twenty-five mile trail of Eliot’s Little Gidding.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
- It’s great to remember how much connection can be made in a year — and yet the numbers are finite and, like anything, need constant care. The work is worthwhile because happiness spreads through our social networks up to the level of our friends’ friends’ friends.
- I saw or spoke with 54 friends and family (-3 vs 2021) across the course of 957 interactions (+119 vs 2021) this year. 17 of those friends and family (31%) accounted for 700 interactions (73%). However, among the 12 most important of those friends and family, year on year interactions went down by 117 and I managed to increase my contact with only 3 of those people this year. On the plus side, I made 2 new friends this year, while 4 old friends also made a welcome comeback.
- It feels like I have friends everywhere I go. I also realised that I love hosting people: this year I welcomed my first pair of Warmshowers cycle tourers (and promptly passed one of them onto my friends in France).
- Propinquity, committing your presence to the here and now, is the art of staying alive to the ever-present danger of The Cataclysmic Event Hypothesis.
Instead of ‘minding your own business’ or jacking up on virtual propinquity through your phone screen, look to strengthen the connections you have with the beings immediately around you. You never know when and how they might need you — and you might need them.
- In 2015, I sent an average of 13 text messages per day. I just checked and, since I installed Whatsapp on my phone in July 2021, I’ve sent 13,358 messages — that’s 25 messages per day, an increase of almost 100 percent in six years. We overestimate how ‘convenient’ text communication is and underestimate how good a proper voice call will make us feel.
- Statista forecast that 8,890,000,000,000,000,000 megabytes of data were created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide in 2022. It’s completely overwhelming to think of all the billions of hours that are put into tending our digital society every day. Maybe it’s time to divert some of that attention back to our offline communities.
- I habitually check and recheck the sports pages as a form of self-soothing and reward. So it wasn’t a complete surprise to learn that losing my home internet connection was, ironically, a great way to connect, free of distraction, defaulting and spidering. (And, surprisingly, this wasn’t because I spent less time on messaging and email.)
Nothing creates the impression of limitless time as having nothing to do. Not because I’ve done nothing, but because I stopped when I’d done the important things.
- In Italy, instead of making small talk about the weather, denizens prefer gastronomic tittle-tattle: ‘What did you cook last night?’, ‘What did you have for breakfast?’, ‘Terrible year for aubergines — but how about dem courgettes, eh?’
- The four hours after we wake is the absolute worst time to read or share The News. This isn’t about avoiding important information; this is about respecting how that information is going to land with your own hormones and those of other people.
- I strongly believe that we’re not living in a computer simulation. I’m probably wrong. Just one of 27 things that I currently or once believed and now totally don’t. Or soon won’t.
- Lesson: I really enjoy telling stories. In June, I did my first podcast with Bikepacking Buds.
- The second century followers of the gnostic Carpocrates believed that human souls must go through every possible earthly experience before they are released and return to god’s side in heaven.
- Humans are amazingly adaptable animals and even the relentless routine of Thighs of Steel cycle touring — early starts, big climbs, late nights — can become quotidian, tapping into fathomless reservoirs of energy that daily life rarely demands.
As we sweated up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of the cyclists remarked: ‘I can’t wait to go on more adventures like this, now I know what I’m capable of!’
I had to disagree with her: ‘No you don’t. That’s the point. You’ve cycled 600km in six days, in a heatwave, and you still haven’t hit the wall. You have NO IDEA what you’re capable of.’
- The Beatles: statistically not as good as Dylan. Plus you can still see Dylan perform. Whether you enjoy the experience might depend more on what you believe is the purpose of live music: to recreate the recorded material or to create something new, specific to this place, these people and this moment in time.
- I learned how to surf. At least in theory: ‘the restless movement of the ocean against the underside of the board creates many additional hydrodynamic forces that combine with buoyancy to keep the surfer from sinking. Yes, it’s basically a miracle’.
- Laughing so much that you strain your intercostal muscles is INCREDIBLY painful. A reminder too that physicality is personality.
- Going to the sauna is a keystone habit for me: not only good for my physical health, but also a big screen-free reset button for my mind. I never know who I’m going to meet or what 80 degree conversations I might have: the Egyptian owner of a local nightclub, a woman who runs psychedelic sacred spaces… my childhood babysitter?!
- I never imagined that investment in a digitised cartoon could set in motion a chain of events that end here:
- I took the Flight Free pledge again this year. It’s easy for me: overlanding wins on all three sides of The Travel Triangle: Cost, Time and Comfort. 2002 Dave would’ve taken four flights this year; 2022 Dave took none, dodging a literal tonne of carbon equivalent emissions. That doesn’t mean I stayed at home. In fact, I spent less than half the year at home and a quarter of the year travelling abroad.
- I took 38 car trips this year, driving a total of 5106 miles — the distance from Bournemouth to Beijing. This is slightly less driving than in 2021, but still the equivalent of 48.3 mature trees’ worth of carbon. My average trip distance was 135 miles, less than the average range of even the cheapest electric cars. Hm.
- Climate Action Tracker rates the UK as having one of the most effective net zero policies in the world. Even so, that policy is still ranked as only ‘almost sufficient’ to limit global heating to 1.5C. Must do better.
- Simon Jackson, Head of Bike Fit at Cadence, chose a 45-second squat as his desert island conditioning exercise. This is the One Stretch To Rule Them All.
- Womb = Uterus. One of the many things I learned about the menstrual cycle on BBC podcast 28ish Days Later. Only 15 minutes an episode so nothing to lose.
- If you complain about your sleep quality, then you’re simply making things worse for yourself. Poor-sleeping complainers sleep worse and have worse health outcomes than poor-sleeping noncomplainers.
- 2022 was the year I finally learned how to make sourdough. I haven’t quite mastered the soggy bottom, but I’ll get there… Thanks to Annie for all her help. Also: Dark Chocolate Ginger Flapjacks. YES.
- For the sake of my blood sugar levels, I should eat a handful of almonds ten minutes before breakfast and remember to take a brisk walk after lunch and dinner.
- This is a list about things I’ve learned in 2022 and at the heart of that learning is YOU.
Knowing that you good people are out there, making time in your lives to read my stories, is why I reflect so deeply on the things that I do and make time to organise my thoughts in writing.
The feedback I get when you share my stories with your friends, reach out to teach me something new, or choose to support this project financially is a wellspring of motivation.
You’ve kept me going this year; I hope the words I’ve put down have sometimes kept you going too. Thank you.