Warm jacket, dry shoes, protective hat, long pants. The magic of outdoor adventure is that comfort is paramount. It’s a chance to ignore the voice that wonders “how do I look?” It’s a life free from mirrors. The trail is a place where the constraints of fashion can be ignored in favour of unbridled comfort. And when physical appearance is a distant second after comfort, the freedom of playing outside takes over.
After our third full day on the bikes, we arrived at a substantial town and indulged in a hotel stay. For the trip, the plan was to alternate two or three nights in the tent and one night in a hotel. The contrast between town and trail was always startling – coffee in bed, clean socks, no insects – and I appreciated the cozy clean feeling of bathing in hot water rather than chilly river water. What was unexpected though, was the incongruence of wondering how I looked as soon as we got to hotels. Glancing at my reflection in hotel room mirrors brought into glaring focus how scruffy and unkept I was. Personal grooming and fashionable clothing barely got a passing thought on the trail but as soon as I looked in the mirror, I felt the the paralyzing vanity that so often gets in the way of fun.
The more adventures I go on and the longer they last, the more I realize that fun trumps fashion. I loathe the discomfort of fashion but am not immune to indulging in looking good. But on my bike and on the trail, I can ignore the pressure to wonder about my appearance. On the trail, the only thing that matters is comfort.
Comfort = Happiness
Someone once asked me when I feel the most attractive. Unequivocally, my answer was “when I’m wearing comfortable shoes.” And the idea of comfort extends to all clothing. Trendy clothing is often uncomfortable. Tight, itchy, restrictive. It looks good in the store but isn’t wearable for outdoor adventures. Sheer fabric that insects can bite through, voluminous sleeves that get in the way of chopping kindling, tight pants that restrict crouching in front of the fire…all of these draw my attention to what I’m wearing rather than what I’m doing.
Being on the bike trail is a chance to be liberated from the distraction of fashion. The hotel nights were a wonderful chance to scrub off the grime from the trail, but the trail was a glorious opportunity to scrub off the grime of fashion’s itchy fabrics and irritating distraction of wearing rather than doing.