Words: Julian Lemme Photos: João Mourão
Hey there. I’m Julian, Art Director for
ENDURO, GRAN FONDO and E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine.
Although my work is anything but monotonous, I find myself frequently falling into a routine, one that ends with my creativity in a headlock. Habits, it turns out, are probably the most quicksand-like element in the world. For this issue of the magazine, I knew it was time to break free of the shackles and find a new horizon – namely that of the Portuguese coast.
The words ‘time to shine’ flash luminously on my phone’s lock screen. That’s the alarm, I realise groggily. I’m inside my van, tucked into a sleeping bag and cosily lying between my bike and a surfboard. At home, round about this time is when I switch on the coffee machine and hunch over my laptop, eyes flickering for hours on end between design layouts and cat videos. But today is different; I’ve got a banana and a handful of nuts for breakfast. I’m on the Atlantic coast and from the sliding door of the van, I can see there are just a few metres separating me from the sea.
The good life is within easy reach if you hit the road
Routines can be a simultaneous blessing and curse. They’re like lined paper or road markings, organising and demarcating where to go, what to do and neatly putting our lives into order. But therein lies the danger too. We slump, worn down by demotivation, from weekend to weekend, plagued by a vague sensation of boredom. In my case, it saps my creativity, stirring up a cloudy broth of sameness. But there’s no chance of that happening when I’m on the road. No time for routines to emerge. I wake up in a new location every day and manoeuvre around my small living space. In the best-case scenario, I have to switch languages too.
But is there a solution for self-discovery for those who don’t have the luxury of calling themselves a freelancer, for those who can’t simply schlep their laptop to a new beachside cafe each day to work? Sometimes the only solution might be to brush your teeth with your non-habitual hand and walk backwards. That’s my trick anyway. By shaking up the status quo of the way I do things, I try to avoid sinking into the boredom of daily life. New experiences are established in unknown territory, right?
Jump into cold water
Escape the infinite loop that’s built on old quirks and repetition. Straight into the cold water! If walking-backwards-brushing-your-teeth doesn’t help, why not take up a new sport? The sea is my substitute for the woods. There’s no Wi-Fi in the sea, no power sockets, no clock-watching. It’s all new and strange and unfamiliar. I find myself toying with thoughts and ideas while I wait for the next set. It’s the sort of time when I’m usually hit by a sense of clarity and a new way of looking at things. I can take it back to the desk, executing a new layout or switching imagery. Creative ideas, fuelled by the ebb and flow of the waves.
From the trails to the surf
To the west of Lisbon the trails shoot you out right on the beach. There’s the sort of variety you’d normally associate with an all-you-can-eat buffet at a five-star hotel – that’s how appetizing the trails are here. Impeccably built downhill tracks with berms, drops and rock gardens, and flowing natural singletrack along the craggy cliffs that border the sea.
Back home I spend a lot of time riding on my own. I ride at my own rhythm and find it easier to switch off. But inspiration, I’ve come to realise, often breeds better with company. When travelling, I’m not averse to latching onto fellow riders. Perhaps a local who’ll show me a hidden trail, or another tourist on a similar hunt for new routes. Each ride brings new stories, perspectives and ideas. Oftentimes, these are the encounters that influence how I live my life and how I approach work projects. Not to mention the new friendships that are forged. So why not say ‘hi’ to the next unknown individual you bump into on the trails, in the supermarket or in the water.
Remember that the world is bigger than us as individuals. You don’t need to bear its whole weight on your shoulders, so embrace the freedom. That’s the freedom of going on an adventure and gaining a new perspective. Pack your bathing trunks or swimsuit, and go catch some waves if that’s your thing. Walk backwards while brushing your teeth, because you’ll end up where you might have gone had you gone there. Say hi to people with a smile and mean it. And me? I’m on my way home now. Real life is calling ;-)
Muito obrigado for the support and the photos to João Mourão of weride.pt