It was only when I started to travel a lot on a motorcycle that I understood more in the depth the figurative expression “light at the end of the tunnel”. But it all started with the literal meaning of those words.
I don’t really like to ride through tunnels, and in places where there are a lot of tunnels, such as some countries in Europe, mountainous areas of Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, etc., this is a real challenge for me. I don’t like closed spaces, I can’t see well in the darkness, and I’m afraid of stories about accidents and fires in tunnels. So when I am approaching another one of them, everything inside of me is getting constricted, and I’m going into full alert and reinforced awareness mode. When I see the light at the end of a tunnel breaking through, inside I gradually become relaxed and I almost fly out of the tunnel like a bullet.
I have noticed long time ago that many of the principles of riding a motorcycle can be compared with everyday life in general, and often it is the motorcycle’s performance and our joint work that help me find the answers to some of the questions of life, and in this I am not a pioneer. Let’s just remember the famous novel by Robert Pirsig “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.
So tunnels on the roads and my attempts to deal with my tunnel anxiety led me to some thoughts about tunnels in everyday life and how to get safely to the light at the end of them.
Riding through a tunnel is different from riding on a normal public road, and there are certain rules to be followed for our own safety and peace of mind. But before we get to the rules of behaving and riding in the tunnel, I think we should first start with the right attitude to the tunnel itself and understanding what it really is.
In my opinion, the first and most important thing to learn about tunnel is that any tunnel has the beginning and has the end. The road can run endlessly, smoothly intertwining from one to another. But it is not the same with the tunnel. Every tunnel, no matter how long it is, ends sooner or later, and at the end of it there is light and a sigh of relief. As far as I know, the longest automobile tunnel in the world is 24.5 kilometers long and it is in Norway. But even this longest tunnel will take you up to 20 minutes to cross and soon you will be back into the open space, breathing in fresh air and enjoying the views around you.
It’s the same thing to remember about tunnels in our lives. From time to time we will bump into them on our way and they will seem endless and unbearable. But it is important not to forget at this point that somewhere ahead, and most likely closer than we think, we will exit to the bright and long-awaited light.
When we talk about tunnels in our own lives, we imagine something unpleasant, heavy, dark and joyless. The tunnel on the road doesn’t bring many bright and positive emotions either. But do not forget that often the tunnel on the road protects us from the rain, wind, dust, etc. and at least for a while gives us a break from the nasty weather in the outside world. Sometimes it is quieter and safer to ride through the enclosed space of a dark tunnel than to fight strong gusts of wind or try to spot the road through the dense wall of rain.
Life sometimes puts tunnels in front of us not as an obstacle or a challenge, but rather as a protection against even more unpleasant conditions outside, and what we think is unpleasant may actually be the best alternative in the current circumstances. So all this can only be a matter of perspective. And perhaps the matter of trust to the higher power guiding us from the heights of its experience and knowledge, often beyond our reach and beyond our understanding.
If you look at the definition and purpose of tunnels, you will see that tunnels are built to overcome natural obstacles (e.g. tunnels under mountains), to shorten the route (a tunnel through the mountain instead of the road around), to shorten travel time (a tunnel instead of a ferry crossing). It is not difficult to find the reason for existence of each tunnel on the road if you think logically. And although at first glance it seems that the tunnel complicates our life, in fact, it simplifies it, otherwise we would have to go around the whole mountain, cross the river by ferry, etc. In any case, it would cause additional wasted time, but the tunnel allows us to cross directly and arrive at our destination much faster.
When we are in some kind of trouble in life and we are looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel, we often forget that there is a reason for everything, and this tunnel has not appeared in our path accidentally, but rather as an auxiliary structure that allows us to save time on learning a certain lesson, acquiring an important skill or achieving a dream goal. Sometimes the road around a mountain might be more picturesque and pleasant, but it could be less effective than a tunnel and take up much more time, which otherwise we would have used for something exciting or useful.
Often, when I enter some particularly dark tunnel, I feel like I am Jonah swallowed up by a huge whale, and I am alone in the whole world, there is no salvation for me and no one knows where to look for me. But then I notice someone driving behind me, or the headlight of an approaching car in front, and my soul is getting more in peace. I’m not alone in this unfriendly tunnel, there are more Jonahs like me here, and they can probably be just as scared and uneasy. Just in case we can give a hand to each other, and just having a living soul around is already a great support.
It’s the same in life. Passing through another tunnel, it seems to us that we are alone, our burden is the heaviest, and there is no one to share it with. But this is not true, there is always someone who has been or still is in a similar situation. There’s no need to lock yourself up or bury yourself in your tunnel without letting anyone in. Share your sorrow with your loved ones, find a support group, fight and use any straw and any helping hand extended to you until you reach the light at the end of the tunnel together.
A tunnel is not only an effective way to shorten the distance and get to your destination faster. It is also a lesson in trust. Statistically speaking, fewer accidents happen in tunnels, but those which happen have heavier consequences. By riding into the limited space of a tunnel and realizing that other drivers are also likely to be there at the same time, we demonstrate our trust in them and in ourselves that we will respect the safety rules and will not make mistakes that may cost us our lives. It only seems to us sometimes that we do not trust anyone but ourselves, but in reality, life in society is not possible without mutual trust, sometimes on such a subtle level that we do not even notice it.
So, what are the rules that will help us get through the tunnel safely on the road and in life and reach the light at the opposite end?
I think the first rule is universal and applies not only to riding through a tunnel, but also on any other road. Look in front of you, look towards your goal. Wherever you are, wherever you go, the main vector of movement always coincides with the movement forward, and the main goal and destination in any tunnel, be it short as a few meters or long by many kilometers, meaning, the light, is always ahead of you.
Being in a dark tunnel passing through our lives sometimes, we should not focus on the darkness around or on the potholes and rough surface under our feet. Let them stay on the periphery of our vision, just to avoid stumbling, but the focus should be on the exit from the tunnel, on the light. Maybe it cannot be seen yet, but let it not bother you whether or not it will show up. It will, and it is important to wait for it, standing firmly on our feet.
The next rule is not to stop. It’s not allowed to stop, park, or rest in the tunnel. Once you enter the tunnel, you must be aware that the next time you can stop will be only after you left the tunnel.
As for the life tunnels, they can absorb us with no residue if we appear weak and stop. Sometimes we get into panic, we lose concentration, fatigue presses us, the tunnel doesn’t let a single ray of light through, and we feel like we are trapped in an underground kingdom with no escape. But they say that the darkest night is just before the dawn, and every step in the tunnel brings us closer to the spot from which we can already see the light breaking through, and it will light up the remaining meters of the tunnel.
In the tunnel, not only you cannot stop, but also turn around or ride back. Especially if it’s a one-way tunnel. The tunnel gives you only one option, one direction of movement, and moreover, continuous movement, and although this may seem a bit harsh, but at the end of the tunnel you are awaited by the well-deserved reward of light at the end of the tunnel.
When we start moving through a tunnel in our lives, we might be afraid of uncertainty ahead of us, and it might feel like going back we will be safer. Even if it wasn’t so good, but it was our comfort zone. We can give up on our future and hope by giving in to fear and doubt. Returning to the past can only be a return to stability, but not to an opportunity to move towards our dreams. How willing are we to turn from our past life and head to the other side of the tunnel to try and experience something new? I remember when I was riding through Croatia two years ago, at some point I was caught by a very strong wind on the road. My bike was almost pulled off the road by wind, and I was afraid I could fall. I saw a tunnel in front of me, but I didn’t dare to enter it, I didn’t know what was waiting for me on the other side. I stopped at an abandoned gas station in front of the tunnel to wait for the wind to calm down. But it took me a long time to wait, the wind was getting stronger, and I had no choice but to spend the night out there. In the morning the wind died down very little, but I couldn’t stay any longer there. I ran out of water, had no food, and had to find a place to get some proper rest. I collected all my willpower, and despite the strong wind, I went inside the tunnel. It was a long tunnel, and when I got out of it, there was no wind at all on the other side…
When you ride through a tunnel, you cannot go too fast or too slow. Your speed has to be average and constant. If you go very slowly, you can make it difficult for other vehicles to drive or lose your balance by hitting a rough surface you have not noticed; if you go too fast, you can also lose your balance and fly out of your lane into the opposite lane or into the tunnel wall. Keep in mind the speed limits for this tunnel and your own capabilities and comfort. Choose a speed at which you can control the situation and your motorcycle.
Life and everything it offers us does not require rush, everything happens on time and ends on time as well. We need constant movement, but no rush or delay. Choose your speed, which will allow you to maintain balance. Take your time to finish your journey through the tunnel, rush can lead to consequences much worse than a few extra minutes of travel through the tunnel.
When you go in and out of a tunnel, you will experience a sudden change in lighting and this can cause some discomfort. For a fraction of a second, you may be blinded. Or, for example, when you go out of a tunnel, you might feel a strong gust of wind. Be prepared for this, give your body extra time to adapt to the new conditions – not only by entering the tunnel, but also by leaving it.
Life tunnels are very similar in this respect to tunnels on the road. Changes can be too sudden and unexpected, and they can blind us for a while or shake our balance. It is important not to panic or not to do anything stupid, to give yourself time to adapt to new conditions, to find inside yourself the ability and potential to pass through the tunnels with the least harm. And when you notice the light at the end of the tunnel, it is important to keep in mind that sharp movements can cause the same discomfort and even lead to a fall. Which can be very frustrating at the finish line… Therefore, motorcyclists are strongly advised not to relax and not to lose concentration when they are almost at the finish line, if it is a race, or when they are almost at home when it comes to travel. As long as you are not outside of the tunnel, you are still inside, with the possibility of different turns of events.
In most tunnels, overtaking cars ahead is prohibited and we should keep a safe distance between the vehicles. The lights from a car or motorcycle in front can give us additional lighting and help. Keep this in mind and use it for your benefit. Be patient and flexible, and use aids that you find on your way.
In the tunnel, we may often encounter unexpected situations that we want to eliminate or overtake them. But at the same time, they may be a sign that we should slow down a little and not rush out of the tunnel yet. Perhaps our time to be on the other side of the tunnel has not come yet.
If we are serious about our upcoming journey, we can easily check when we can expect tunnels in our path. We can gather information from other people about the conditions of upcoming tunnels, what to be careful about, we can make additional checks of our lights, brakes, tires. This can make our journey much easier.
Also in our lives we can anticipate some turns of events, and prepare in advance for what may happen. For example, we can train our emotional health, positive thinking, endurance and other qualities that may come in handy in certain tunnels, looking for advice from those who have already passed through similar tunnels.
Well, it’s also very important not to be afraid. Be careful, but do not panic, panic leads to reckless actions and mistakes. Remember, you are not the first and you are not the last to go through challenges and tunnels. Be prepared for surprises, for water dripping from the ceiling, for pits and puddles on the ground, and for what may happen ahead of you. If you are careful and cautious, none of this will take you by surprise, do not underestimate the dangers of riding through a tunnel, but do not overestimate it either. Courage combined with caution will guide you safely through any tunnel, be it on the road or in life.
Have a safe and enjoyable ride!