If you had to bring all your possessions with you everywhere you go, how big a vehicle would you need? What would be the carbon footprint? What if you fit it all on a bicycle and in a backpack? Could you do it without generating trash? For American cyclist Mike Roy, now touring the world, that’s all he needs. Roy has been on the road for two and a half years and covered 30,000 km with three rules: no gas, no meat and no trash.
On his website, Mike notes: “Travel gives you the opportunity not only to become happier, but also to become better. It expands your sphere of compassion. Once you first feel that inkling that everyone else is just as important as you, and for all the same reasons, it becomes natural to try to take their well-being into account when you make a decision.”
As this article goes to print, Mike is currently in northeast India. So far, he has been cycling through Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Nepal. He has shared the road with a number of other nomadic cyclists whom he terms “faux-bos”, including Dr. Stephen Fabes, who has been on the road for five years and 60,000km.
Obviously, this lifestyle is not for everyone – and some people who choose to embrace it may simply enjoy being nomadic. But in Mike’s case, it’s as much about raising awareness of environmental issues, and showing that it’s possible to live happily on a very small carbon footprint, as it is about enjoying being outside, riding his bike, and having few possessions.
He gave a TEDx talk in Palgong about how after teaching English in South Korea for two years, he came to see that he was not separate from the problems he was seeing locally and globally. “Problems like resource depletion, deforestation and climate change, don’t feel real to us. […] What feels real is […] waking up on time, paying the bills, the happiness and welfare of our friends and family. But if we want to make progress on fixing the big issues, and if we want to build a sustainable and a just culture, we all need to be thinking about more.”
He went on in the TEDx talk to say, “If you’re Christian and you think you ought to love your neighbor, if you’re a Buddhist and you want to reduce the total amount of suffering in the world, or if you just want to be a nice guy, that means keeping in mind at all times the effects you have on other people as though they were your brother or your neighbor.”
The Hindu reports Mike is heading to the Sadhana forest in Pudicherry, India, where he will spend a month participating in tree planting.
We’re not saying everyone should start living on bicycles. But if Mike Roy can, then maybe we can look at ways to pare down our own wants and needs, in recognition of the greater whole in which we are implicated.