One of my favourite things about my two weeks in France were the suppers I shared with my WWOOF hosts. Not just because the food was great (T, if you’re reading, let me say once again that you make some seriously good eats) and because I enjoyed the company, but also because of the setting. I firmly believe that your surroundings have a significant impact on your dining experience. During my stay at Les Arnauds, we ate most of our suppers on a patio facing a large patch of lavender growing in front of a grove of olive trees. I will forever kick myself for forgetting to take a picture of how peaceful this scene looks as the beams of the evening sun fall upon it.

The photo below was taken on the morning (i.e. wrong light) I was leaving as I suddenly realized I’d taken hardly any pictures of my stay. Thinking about it afterwards, I decided this omission was a sign that I felt so comfortable at Les Arnauds that I forgot I was a tourist. For that reason alone, I would definitely try WWOOFing again. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a tourist, but it’s nice to find ways of experiencing foreign places on a different level. Just might try somewhere with softer soil next time . . . six years at a desk job have made me too soft to dig holes with a pickaxe : )

So, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but trust me, this is a stunning dining venue. Next to lunch by a lake teaming with pink flamingos on a trip I took to Bolivia last fall, would say this is one of the most peaceful natural settings I’ve ever eaten in.

It was this setting I had flittering through my mind as I talked travel with my friend K over an apres bike slurpee in his backyard last Friday afternoon. Sandwiched between the 407 ETR and Ninth Line Road, his small bungalow sits humbly upon one of the few patches of green in the area that suburbia has not yet encroached upon. I say yet because he and his girlfriend J are planning to live there only until the owner works out acceptable terms with a developer.

As we chatted, I figured out that if I turned my chair in just the right direction I could no longer see the 407 (which was just far enough away not to be audible) or Ninth Line (which I could still kindof hear, though I was mostly able to tune it out). It was no lavender patch in the South of France, but for its location I was surprised how easily his backyard could be transformed into a rather peaceful setting.

This got me thinking about change. If the simple shifting of a chair can have me daydreaming I’m in France, what other small tweaks are out there for me to make that might allow me to experience things in different and better ways?

I recall saying to K that travel is an escape hatch from your life. His response? Travel is an escape hatch to your life.

This resonated with me.

I leave for Ottawa tomorrow where on Sunday I’ll meet up with my cycle tour group for the first time. We start our five day, approximately 500 km ride to Quebec City Monday morning.

As I get ready to start this next leg of my summer of travel, I have decided to introduce a slight tweak. I’m going to try changing my travel perspective from one of escaping from my life, to escaping to my life.

Am optimistic this new perspective will be a game changer.

It’s already resulted in one positive outcome. It led me to the perfect name for my new bike : ) Readers, am pleased to introduce you to Suzie Blue.

Named so both for obvious reasons (i.e. blue accent coloring on her frame), and because of a line at the end of a Ben Harper song of the same name that I really like: “The day is new, Suzie Blue.”

I think having that lyric stuck in my head over the next week will prove very helpful. Both as a reminder to move to, not from, and — hopefully — as a means of convincing me to keep dragging my aching body out of bed each morning to tackle a new, ideally less painful, day in the saddle. (What, me not train as much as planned for this trip? How dare you suggest . . . Okay. Fine. I might be a few km shy of my training goal. If you consider 90 a few. Yeah, this is gonna hurt).

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