“Oh, how nice it must be to live the simple life!”
These are words that plague me along the road from passing strangers. We modern Americans love stories of the simple past when our ancestors lived off the land, free of the burden of Facebook privacy issues, cell phone addiction, and microwaves with too many options.
But how simple was that life? Probably not very. More to the point (of this blog post, anyway). How simple is it to leave “modern life” behind and travel the old fashioned way, by horse and foot?
The leaving part was not hard. As my departure approached leading up to January 1, 2017, I was counting the days until I could give up my desk job days and Netflix nights.
It’s what followed that is not as simple as it may look.
I would say that the biggest difference between my ‘Ride and the “simple past” style of horse travel is technology. In many respects, being able to network for whatever assistance I may require (place to stay, the option to call for help if needed, looking for supplies without going in person to a store to inquire, etc) at any time on my cell phone and social media does actually make this easier than the old fashioned way of traveling by horse.
However, those who see me traveling by horse and call it simple tend to believe that I am “unplugged.” In fact, I am more connected both in the saddle and at the end of the day than I was back home. I may no longer watch any shows or listen to music (unless my hosting helpers have turned something on), but I am on my phone and tablet so much more than before. There are so many calls to make and answer, social media that needs updated, photos to be taken and shared, blog posts and newsletters to write, a website to maintain, Google Maps to consult... the list goes on. I am not complaining, this sort of thing is usually enjoyable, but it is not by any means simple.
Nor is it simple to live life in the saddle. Sure, I have a routine that makes it easier to some degree, as all routines do. I don’t have to think too hard about when to set my alarm, nor do I need to ponder what I’m going to do with the hours in my day. But the actual routine itself is not easy nor simple. The simple act of saddling is complicated by the many bags I carry. Every trip to the store is complicated by the extreme limitations of what I can carry in those bags (both so it fits, doesn’t weigh too much, and doesn’t melt or otherwise get damaged by heat/cold/bouncing/squashing). I don’t have to pay rent or mortgage, but I do have to sleep in a different place each night with its unique sounds, smells, comfort, temperature, etc, not to mention the huge challenges of finding somewhere safe (and hopefully comfortable) to sleep again the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that.
And let’s consider the very matter traveling by horse on modern roads. Even when I find a quiet road or multi-use path, there are many challenges that riders of old never had to face, particularly semi-trucks, packs of cyclists, and other very fast and dangerous traffic. It only takes one bad driver on the most perfect country lane to cause injury or even death to me or Apollo. Not to sound over dramatic, because it’s not over dramatic. It’s a fact of modern horse travel, and something I have to be aware of at every moment of every day that I’m traveling.
So if you see me traveling down your road, please think twice about how simple of a life I’m living. I love what I’m doing, don’t get me wrong. But traveling by horse in the 21st century is simply not simple!