After 3 months cycling through Iran we've discovered a country full of kindness, art, music and love. But it's also full of paradoxes, jarring and contrasting moments that challenge all that you think you know. These challenging few months have reinforced a few key life lessons for me, which I'd like to share:
People make us happy
Looking back on 3 months, we've crossed jagged mountains, cycled through sweeping deserts, slept under a blanket of a million stars, watched sunsets by the Persian Gulf and eaten breakfast next to tranquil rivers. All beautiful moments, postcard worthy photos that we'll treasure well into old age. But it's the moments of laughter and smiles shared that really stay with you.
We're social creatures, hard-wired to seek out connection, and that's why we've been congregating in cities and towns for thousands of years. I never thought Tehran would be a highlight of my time in Iran. It's a big, ugly, polluted city. But I'll never forget sharing good food and stories, in late nights filled with laughter and smiles. It's those moments of connection that we live for, but for some strange reason we spend our lives attached to technology looking for 'friends'.
Simplicity is key
We were welcomed into so many homes in Iran, and had our eyes opened to so many different styles of living. From farming families that all slept in one room, to inner city professionals with gold coated chairs and silk carpets. In each home we stayed, I always asked myself when falling asleep at night, how good is the quality of their life, and what makes it so?
It's common wisdom that the more you have the happier you'll be. But the truth that I've found, is that the more things you want to have, the more stressed and anxious you that you'll be.
You don't need to work overtime to buy that new car or that new dining set. The truth is, you'll be so busy stressing about the costs of this and that, you'll never enjoy actually using it. And I can guarantee that you'll be so busy working that you won't be having any friends around, and that's what really makes you happy.
The people with the best lives in Iran, were the ones who didn't care that we sitting on the carpet eating on a sheet of plastic, with not a piece of furniture in sight. And this didn't mean they didn't have much money, just that they'd rather focus on the simple things in life: friends, family and food.
Do what you love
It's 6am on Thursday morning (weekend time in Iran), and the sun is sending it's first rays of light over the horizon. The town is asleep, and the roads are empty, yet we're pushing our bikes out the door, with the cheeky grins of kids let out of school early for the day. Alireza, a teacher by day and adventurer by night, is an outdoors lover like me. He's also the leader of Adoroshk, a group he set up in Mehriz that goes on weekly excursions.
We make it to our meeting point just as the sun rises, and as the minutes go by I'm surprised to see over 30 people join us. There's everyone from 9 year old boys to 85 year old retirees, all ready for our morning adventure. It's nothing that'll make Bear Grylls impressed, but this 2 hour micro-adventure to the nearby mountains has everyone smiling from ear to ear. By breakfast time I've made plenty of new friends, and shared some great laughs, but most importantly my bloods pumping and I feel alive.
Doing what you love doesn't mean you need to become a celebrity adventurer, but finding time everyday or every week to do something that makes you feel alive. Because the world needs more people who feel alive.