Most touring cyclists have a flag. The flag is for visibility, but also for pride. We pimp up our ride to show our personality, like bumper stickers. I’ve seen cyclists sport the rainbow flag, a country flag, a pirate flag, a DYI flag, all kinds. For a long time I thought if I did a cycling tour like this I would carry the American flag, to represent the US with pride wherever I go. We Americans are born travelers; I’m a guest in the countries I travel through, I want to represent my country well.
But this year in particular I didn’t feel it was good to fly the American flag. I worried what reactions it might prompt, especially as I’m traveling alone. I was fearful of being mislabeled. America doesn’t stand for what it used to anymore. I spent July 4th on the road thinking about this, mourning the absence of my controversial country flag.
So I decided on an uncontroversial symbol for a flag: Ripple. Ripple is not only a terrific company I used to work for, but also a cryptocurrency and a way to the future. I thought that Ripple’s mission is not unlike what I’m doing on this trip: building bridges between countries and saving costs. With this flag I represent something that brings value, I feel good about it. I made this flag myself and my heart’s in it. Who knows how many people recognize the maverick triskelion logo as I pass by? A few people asked about it. “Is it like Bitcoin?” Nah, it’s smarter than Bitcoin 😉
Some of the campgrounds I stay at ask where I’m traveling from. The other day a cheerful German host said to me “I’ve seen just a handful of people cycle into this campground, and none from America yet. Welcome!” I get the sense that I’m the only American in most of the places I go. Maybe I’ve chosen the roads less traveled. Either way, touring is about knowing places, and allowing those places to know a little of you too. These countries give us cycling roads to ride on, beautiful nature to look at, well meaning people who struggle with English for our sake. We have to appreciate them, and be respectful.
I’d like for people to know I’m American – but maybe not right as they’re driving 80 km/h to my left. I’d hate to lose them at Hello. For now, the Ripple flag keeps me safe.