We're in the midst of a self-imposed hiatus from writing new blog material, as we're busy hustling behind-the-scenes on our first full-length book. But rather than suffer through total radio silence, we thought it would be fun to periodically revisit old articles we've published over the years, many of which are no longer available online. The following, written by Melissa, originally appeared in Velo Family Diaries on May 1st, 2014.
Here in Vancouver we're enjoying a bit of a pre-summer tease, which means I've been out on my bike each and every day this week, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the beauty of Spring. One thing I've come to remember, after a long winter, is how my senses are treated to an absolute delight when out for some Spring riding. Most of the winter, I tend to stay hibernated inside the warmth of my house, out of the wet and cold, and opting for public transit and car-share instead of riding my bike. So it's completely reasonable that I forget how non-motorized travel can be such a positive experience for each of my five senses, and it's so lovely to have been reminded these past few weeks.
Most obviously, riding my bike is so visually stimulating. As Spring takes it's hold, blue skies become more and more common, meaning a beautiful backdrop for the still snowcapped mountains. Flowers bloom all around, adding a bright splash of colour to green scenery. On our most common bike route, the whole family is treated to two spectacles. First are the large, vibrant leaves of the chestnut trees that line much of the 10th Avenue bikeway, casting a soft green glow as the sun shines through them. It creates the most calming canopy, and I always feel just a little happier when I pass under their shade. Second, while fleeting, are the gorgeous pink cherry blossoms that grace many of Vancouver's bikeways. They are so special to the people of this region that it's almost irritating to non-locals how many photos are posted of them on social media. I feel absolutely blessed to be able to not only ride amongst these pink petals every year, but also to wake up to them outside my window each morning and watch the birds flit amongst them.
Which leads me to the sounds I am treated to while out for a bike ride or a walk through the city. Of course, the birds flirting with each other doing what they do in the Spring is a musical treat, especially when you hearing lovely song birds calling to each other. Something else that returns, though, is the sound of children playing. Hearing their screeches of delight and their laughter is very intoxicating, and it's hard not to smile at the sound of their playful innocence.
It's easy to understand that my sense of smell is in overload throughout my springtime rides. The flowers in full bloom, and the cherry blossoms, along with the newly budding trees offers such a freshness to the air that I frequently find myself taking in deep breathes without even realizing it. During my seaside travels, I love to take in the smell of the ocean. It reminds me that I am at home by the water, and no matter what stresses fill my days, I can always take a walk along the water and feel at peace.
Even taste comes into play when I'm travelling around on bike or foot. Passing bakeries is not only a treat for my nose, but I can also taste the fresh baked bread and pastries without actually eating them, sometimes causing me to divert my travels for a little nibble. And I have to be honest, pretty much every time I leave the house for a bike ride or a walk, I can hear the cafes calling my name. Be it habit, craving or otherwise, having a tasty latte in hand just makes the trip that much sweeter.
Finally, but most importantly to me, riding my bike is always a tactile experience. Today, for the first time, I raised my hand as I passed one of my favourite little maple trees on the way back from dropping off my daughter, running my hand through the new leaves. I've waited all winter and early spring to be able to do so without scraping my hands on the tree branches, and, inside, I was like a kid at Christmas, with a silly grin of satisfaction spread across my face. Touch is the way I stay connected to my environment, and it's only by travelling outside of a car, bus or train that I can truly experience all the textures of my surroundings.
Our senses are what make us human, and so it seems only fitting that the most human forms of travel are the best ways to really treat them. Sure, you can marvel at the landscape of a country side as you speed by in a car, but the slower modes of riding a bike or walking are the only way you can really focus and take in all the details. Not being trapped in a vehicle, I can hear all the wonderful sounds of nature and people interacting, and breathe in all the fresh scents of the natural world. I can savour a snack or beverage while I take life a little slower, and revel in the feeling of each tree, plant, and even rock I pass simply by reaching out my hand. The world around us offers so much beauty, and I'm grateful that my main modes of travel allow to experience it to the fullest.