How To Learn (Absolutely Anything and Everything)

A while back I mentioned, in passing, that I want to tour Route 66 in the US next year on a bicycle. I’ve never done a long bike tour, but ever since mentioning it I’ve had it in the back of my mind.

The first thing I know is that it’s going to be difficult. :)

But I was more worried about the bike. Due to my traveling I want to get a bike when I get back to the States in October which I can then take with me wherever I decide to go next. (Not so secret where that is, but I’m still not 100% decided, so I’ll just leave it at that!) That means I’d have to spend a lot of money to take the bike on a plane. And it would also be an incredible hassle.

It’s a good idea to train on the actual bike I’d be using for that epic journey across one of the USA’s first highways so that’s why I want to get the bike when I’m back in the US to take it with me to my next destination.

Last week, while talking to Tammy, she said I should consider a folding bike such as BikeFriday, which would make taking it on planes/trains/anywhere easy. While I’m quite familiar with folding bikes (lots of people in Wroc?aw ride them around) I didn’t think they’d be good for long distances. But Tammy sent me an article, which linked to an article, which linked to an article that proved me wrong. (Here’s the final article, ha!)

Apparently, it’s not a completely crazy idea to take a custom-built (and sort of expensive) folding bike on a long bike tour. The more I think about it, the more I want to do just that.

I’m not fully sold on a folding bike yet, but it is a very intriguing option.

While I may not be fully decided, I’ve become a little bit obsessed with reading about bikes and bike touring. Especially all the great articles at http://www.bicycletouringpro.com.

After spending hours upon hours reading a few days ago, I realized something. It’s something I talk about regularly, but I wasn’t taking my own advice.

I could read about bike touring until the end of time, but without taking action on it I won’t learn very much.

We don’t learn very much by reading, listening, or watching. We learn by doing.

Before I started traveling I thought I had it all figured out. And while all the research I did before embarking on my adventures did help a little, actually getting out there and traveling helped a lot more.

I’ve learned a lot of little things. Like, who knew washing my clothes in a bag would work out so well? I’m still using the same aLoksak I’ve been using since Day 1 in Australia almost 11 months ago! It can’t be used as an actual waterproof bag anymore (I ripped the top), but it still works for washing. :)

I’ve also become more experienced in eating a vegan diet while traveling. This is something that had me a little worried, but it has worked out great. And while I’m sure there are parts of the world I might still have a difficult time, I’m better equipped to handle those situations should they arise. That is not something you can learn from reading, watching, or listening. It’s only something that you can truly learn by doing.

How To Learn (By Doing)

I know it’s obvious, right? But it’s still a sticking point for many of us.

Do!

“Do what?!”

Do something.

“But what do I do?!”

And round and round it goes. I have to say I’ve been perpetuating that cycle myself here because I regularly state to take action, without always explaining what kind of action to take.

Here’s how to break that cycle:

1) Decide on a big goal.

This is a goal you don’t have a really good idea how you’ll accomplish. It doesn’t matter much what this goal is. It does not absolutely have to be a “big” goal. It could be as simple as “learn how to dance” or it could be as big as “sell all my stuff and live anywhere.”

2) Decide on a smaller goal.

Chunk that big goal down into just one little nugget. It could be just one aspect of the big goal or it could be a scaled down version of the big goal.

Before I had the idea for selling all of my stuff and traveling wherever I wanted in a backpack, I took 2 shorter trips. In other words, I took the big goal and scaled it down considerably. One of these trips was 15 days (Canada and Germany) and it helped me work out all the kinks of my much longer never-ending trip. I didn’t work out all the kinks, but I did learn a lot about how this vagabond nomadic lifestyle works.

3) Do the smaller goal.

You can probably do the smaller goal right now without delay. If it’s something you have to delay then revamp the small goal until you can take some kind of action towards it right now.

3b) Do more smaller goals.

If your smaller goal was just a specific chunk of the big goal, then do some of the other chunks now. If the small goal was a scaled down version of the bigger goal then move along to …

4) Do the bigger goal.

Now that you’ve learned a bit and worked out some kinks by accomplishing the smaller goal it’s time to go full out and tackle the big goal.

As you know, I’m not a fan of fluff or over-complicating things. These 4 steps may seem incredibly obvious, or horribly silly, but if you sit down and think about it, these are the exact steps you’ve probably taken before to learn something new.

As for me? My first small goal is to call Bike Friday and get some questions answered. If it sounds good, I’ll make an appointment to visit them in Eugene, Oregon in October. :)

Another good small goal would be to actually go on a short bike tour. The reason I’m not doing that is because I’m not going to buy all the necessary gear (bike helmet, bike rack, tent, sleeping bag, etc) while here in Poland and I’m not sure I can rent/borrow it anywhere.

Oh, and I’m still gonna keep reading about bicycle touring with the understanding that it’s purely enjoyment and I’m not actually learning much. :)

Photo Credit

{ 31 comments }

Ali Dark

A friend of mine paints houses for a living. He said he spends a few minutes every now and then in indecision about where to start painting a new job. He told me the best way is to just walk up to a spot and start work. It’ll soon be obvious if it was the right spot or not regardless, and the rest of the job will just evolve. Sure, the process would be different, but the place still gets painted one way or the other… unless he never starts….

Karol

Great story Ali! Thank you!

Casey Friday

I’ve often wondered if it would be feasible to use a folding bike for anything other than urban riding. Thanks for the link to bikefriday.com! They’ve got some awesome stuff!

Also, I totally agree with your approach about how to learn. I think the hardest part for most people is just doing it. Like Ali said, you just have to start somewhere, whether you think it’s the right way to start or not. In my experience, the quicker you start, the better your results are! There’s no better time than right now!

Thanks for the post, Karol!

Karol

Thank you Casey! “The quicker you start, the better your results.” – I like it. Although not necessarily always true, of course. For the most part I believe in that approach wholeheartedly.

Ritesh Reddy

That’s a hoot! Do something! It’s so true that we can only learn by doing. Period. When I saw the title of the post, I was so intrigued I had to read it and boy I expected to see a long post on the various virtues, talents, skills and perseverance that it takes to achieve the goals you set out to achieve. While all that is true, the key is to just get off your arse and get with it. So many of us have half-baked, still born and forgotten ideas and dreams that would be a mighty tree today if they had just got off the drawing board or idea bank. Keep ‘em coming Karol!

Karol

Thank you Ritesh! :) I do my best not to write long drivel. ;) And the truth is, whatever talents or skills we don’t have we can learn fairly easily. That’s not to say overnight, but just that we talk ourselves out of even starting many times because we think it’s too difficult.

Kent Peterson

Hi Karol,

I’ve ridden a full brevet series, Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London on a Bike Friday New World Tourist. It’s a very capable bike. On LEL, another fellow rode a Brompton. Limits are more in people’s heads than in the hardware.

My 1999 PBP story and pictures are at:

http://www.carsstink.org/peterson/pbp.html

and the 2001 LEL story and pictures can be found at:

http://www.carsstink.org/peterson/LEL.html

These days I’ve got one big wheeled bike (a 29″ wheeled Redline Flight), two medium wheeled bikes (a classic 1985 chrome Mongoose Pro MTB and a Specialized Stumpjumper fixed gear – both bikes have 26″ wheels), and my little wheeled (16″) folding Dahon Curve.

I don’t need to tell you this, but don’t get too hung up on the hardware. Grab something and go. You’ll figure out what you really need and what you can do without.

Kent “Mountain Turtle” Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Karol

Thanks Kent! I’m not too hung up on the hardware. That said, I need hardware that I can travel with so there’s a little bit more involved than just going to the store and picking up a bike. Additionally, I’m 6’5″ and most ready-made bikes just aren’t made for a frame my size. :)

Good to know about your NWT experiences! Thank you so much. More and more I’m getting sold on this bad boy. :)

Karol

Greg

Death of dreams and goals by over-analysis. Been there, done that, time to move on. Thanks for the post and for sharing your experiences. Learning from the experiences of others is another to way to gain insights. You provide enough detail so that I can make sense of what you’re talking about and follow up on some of the topics and products you mention.

Karol

“Death of dreams and goals by over-analysis.” – what a great way to put it. Thank you Greg!

Eric Phillips

About seven years ago, I bought my first book about training for a triathlon. I read the book from front to back, but never started the training plan. After five years I finally decided to do my first triathlon. Since then I’ve done multiple races, including an Ironman. I wish it wouldn’t have taken me so long, but I’m glad I finally got off of my butt and actually participated. Unfortunately, most people never move beyond reading and dreaming.

Karol

Hey Eric,

You’re right, most people don’t move beyond reading and dreaming. I’m hoping articles like this one will spur more people to action. :)

Thanks for sharing your story. And congrats on the triathlon/Ironman/races! :)

Karol

Maarten

great post! I have very recently started with the first baby steps towards creating a location independent income and its great to be taking action. By doing you learn so much more. I don’t agree with Ritesh that doing is the only way to learn, but if you don’t take an action from what you’ve learned it won’t stick and more importantly: it won’t help you get closer to your goals.

on the bike thing: here in Holland the Brompton seems to be king, commuter trains are full of them and friends claim you can cycle on them for up to 30km very comfortably. But I guess you don’t want to take it on a train on a daily basis, only when you go to a new country. So isn’t getting a regular but very light bike that you can just disassemble once every few months easier? I guess the biggest part (just the frame with the steering/frontwheelholder taken off) is not that much bigger than a folded bike. Its a bit more hassle, but all foldable bikes have maintance, comfort and durability drawbacks.

Karol

Hey Maarten,

You’re right. We do learn a little by reading, but without the action none of it sticks.

Yeah, the Brompton is very popular. The BikeFriday is made for long distance touring. 30km is super short distance. :)

Even disassembling a regular bike it won’t fit in a suitcase. (Except the Ritchey Break-away.)

Cheers,
Karol

desmond

On the subject of bikes, there’s something in between a full folding bike and a normal bike….. check out the Surly Travelers Check:

http://www.surlybikes.com/frames/travelers_check_frame/

BTW: Listen to Kent he’s the man !

Karol

Hi Desmond,

Thanks for the link!

Karol

Bobby

Hey Karol,

Since I found your blog through Leo, the minimalist post in November time frame, here’s somethings I’ve taken action for, coincidence? Maybe. In no particular order.

Resigned my job
Moved half way across the country
Moved at least 9 times
Focus on my internet business (coaching and building my list for product releases)
Started a blog
Found love
Stopped Shampooing my hair & stopped using q-tips
Sold or gave away most of my stuff
Eat mostly organic and whole foods
Exercise consistently
Read and finished many books I wanted to (some you suggested)

My next micro step is using my aLoksak bag to clean my clothes. Also reducing my stuff to fit my Deuter Futura 28L (loving this bag by the way) for my overseas travel in September. Lets hope I don’t fall in love here and instead fly out in September. Maybe falling in love and flying out work out too.

I’m also in the current micro step of living somewhere I’ve never been for at least 2 months, I’ve done it before, though this city is not like any city I’ve been before. I’m overcoming my fear of hills with my manual trans and forcing myself to adapt. These hills are crazy.

Thanks Karol, just wanted to share my stuff, keep writing awesome stuff.

Karol

Hey Bobby!

Dammmmmnnnnnn! Thank you so much for posting this and congrats on all you’ve taken action on!

You rock!

Karol

Billieann

Hi Karol,

Thanks for the great post but my question is actually for Bobby!
Bobby, can you explain why you “stopped using q-tips”? I’m curious because everything else you have listed are major life altering changes.

Cheers,
Billieann

Joi

Great advice! I homeschooled my daughters and “learning by doing” was the foundation of their education. When it came time to learn more about computers, html, websites, and graphic art – I knew that books weren’t going to cut it. I told them one morning that we were going to learn how to create our own websites and put them online.

We completely and totally embarked on a new world of domain registry, hosting, html, coding by hand, file managers, jpegs, and so on! At the time, we watched General Hospital each afternoon, so I told them to each pick one of the actors/actresses and that’s who their website would be dedicated to.

Within a year, our 4 sites were amongst the most popular celebrity fansites online. We regularly heard from the stars we had sites up for, which – frankly – was cooler than anything!

Today, our family runs its own web publishing business with over 20 websites/blog. My youngest daughter and I work exclusively online and feel blessed beyond reason.

It all started with a desire to learn and figure something out for ourselves.

I hope you’re able to inspire millions of people to remove the ceiling they think exists above them. There simply isn’t one!

Karol

Hey Joi!

That’s so awesome! I’m not too familiar with homeschooling, but stories like yours make a great case for it. (My disillusionment with our school systems helps as well.) Thank you for sharing and congrats on the success of your sites.

I hope I’m able to inspire millions as well. First goal: 100. ;)

Thanks again!
Karol

Nicky Hajal

Joi,

Congrats! I have to say, I secretly have a sense that when I’m ready to have kids, I’ll want to home school them. I just hate the thought of boxing anyone else into the constricting conventional school system if I don’t have to.

Glad to hear that things are working out for you!

-Nicky

Joel

Karol, I love this.

I’ve written an article about this called Screw it & Do it [http://www.joelrunyon.com/two3/screw-it-do-it]. Basically the same exact concept. Find SOMETHING you can do every day at least so you can focus on DOING.

As for bike recommendations, whatever it is, just don’t get a trail bike. I just tried to do my first triathlon on one, and barely survived 12 miles! haha.

Do you have dates for the bike trip yet?

Karol

Oh wow! I have a post coming Monday similar to that. Except in place of screw I may or may not drop the f-bomb. :)

I wasn’t planning on getting a trail bike. :)

No dates for the bike trip. There’s a more “important” tour I’m doing next Summer (mentioned in HTLA) which is top priority. ;)

Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things

I’ll let you have the R rated version :)

Re: The Trail Bike – I didn’t think it would make *that* much of a difference…I was wrong :)

Nicky Hajal

Funny, this article encompasses so much of what I’ve been writing about lately! I love how that happens.

To riff off your post, I would say learning a skill takes 3 things:

1) Believing you are capable.

2) Being interested in it – wanting to learn.

3) Taking one step to pursue your train of interest, then the next.

If you believe in yourself and pursue interests, you will naturally find new avenues to learn and have the confidence to go down them.

Either you’ll keep finding more, eventually leading to proficiency and mastery, or you’ll lose interest and move onto new pursuits.

This is such a great topic. :)

-Nicy

Karol

Thanks for adding to this Nicky. I guess I sort of assumed everybody would only try to learn things they were actually interested in. :) Point #1 is killer: so many of us feel we can’t do things that we definitely can do.

Nicky Hajal

It seems like common sense, but how many people pay 10s of thousands of dollars in colleges to learn things they don’t actually care about – and then wonder why they can’t learn?

How many people quit exploring a musical instrument because they felt forced into practicing aspects of it (say, note reading) that didn’t interest them (yet!)?

It seems so obvious, yet from what I can see, many often betray their interests.

Nicky Hajal

You know it’s a good day when you’re misspelling your own name.

Darren Alff

Thanks so much for mentioning my website at BicycleTouringPro.com. And congrats on thinking about taking a bike tour of your own. If you ever have any questions about bicycle touring, Bike Friday, or touring bikes in general… feel free to email me. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Keep it up!

Stanley Lee

Well put. For example, bike riding can’t be learnt by reading or watching instructions alone (although it helps in the acceleration process of the learning curve). It’s learnt by doing. I just talked to Tammy today and the folding bike that you have brought up looked interesting. I recently purchased a used road bike (red Raleigh from the 80′s in fact), and adding modifications to it to replace using public transit after my college public transit pass expires. I think the key thing is picking a closely comfortable bike and then make adjustments as you start your trip. Looking forward to exchange more travelling and freedom fighting wisdoms along the way!

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