When you weigh the most you’ve ever weighed, it’s hard to write about your body, then share it with everyone online. For weeks after my Adventure Cyclist article was published, I didn’t share to my social media pages for fear of what friends and family would think of my raw thoughts on the printed page. I wrote about motherhood, overcoming my health problems, feeling disconnected from my body, and reclaiming by body by biking hundreds of miles around Puerto Rico in Dec. 2018. I felt vulnerable sharing my inner thoughts and struggles of that trip, and I hate to admit this but while the accompanying photos taken by the talented Saara Snow are lovely and scenic, it’s hard to look at my body at that point in my life.
Also, I think my newspaper reporter training conditioned me to keep myself out of the story, but here I was writing about myself and my first bike travel experience.
Part of what gave me the courage to post the story to my social media platforms were the Adventure Cyclist readers who sent such wonderful, encouraging messages of support. I’ve mostly heard from women. One said she couldn’t related to the “bike warrior” mentality and appreciated that I was just a regular person on my bike. Another lady said she appreciated the perspective of a young mother. Readers have shared their bike travel stories with me, or told me they’re inspired to travel. Beth from San Francisco wrote: “I wish you many many years of singing in your heart: my body is mine, my body is mine, as you pedal on your bike on long road trips.” Thank you, Beth!! I plan to do just that! I haven’t been able to take another bike trip yet, but hope to do so after my son starts kindergarten and we’re done with paying for preschool (which in California costs more than college, believe it or not). My husband and I would like to do the Florida Keys, Thailand, Prince Edward Island… there’s so many places to see, I have a long list.
One thing I realized after the story printed was a slight inaccuracy on my part — when I said I’ve never been athletic in my life. I think what I meant was it felt like I’ve never been athletic, but I guess that’s all relative. My father is an avid marathon runner, my grandfather was a body builder, and many of my college friends worked on trail crews where they’d have 10-day hitches in the woods doing physical labor and come back with hard muscles. Compared with them, I never felt athletic. But I do enjoy hiking, biking, dancing, and hitting a tennis ball around. I did water zumba classes when I was pregnant. I ran track and cross country as a teen, but I was always a slow runner. My parents tried to sign me up for basketball when I was 8, but I cried and left within 10 minutes. Not the best sport for those of us under 5 feet. During cold winters, which I’ve lived through my whole life before moving to California, I was never a skier or snowboarder or anything like that. I much preferred cozy tea and book time when the wind is howling and the streets are slick with gray muck.
Anyway, I’m so grateful to my best friend Saara for introducing me to bike travel. Since I went to Puerto Rico, I came home to to my family a better person. Just more clear-headed, relaxed, and grateful. And of course, empowered as hell to keep that badass feeling going.
Ultimately, I’m glad I wrote about my body and what it’s been through — endometriosis, ovarian cancer, postpartum thyroiditis, an emergency c-section — as scary as it was to be vulnerable like that. I loved connecting with old friends, family and readers about bike travel, motherhood, and learning to love our bodies. What we can do is amazing. So I’m putting it all out there, fat pictures be damned. That’s me and my amazing body, sun kissed and sweating on the enchanted island of Puerto Rico.
For a PDF of the magazine story, head to this link on Adventure Cycling: https://www.adventurecycling.org/sites/default/assets/resources/20200201_PuertoRico_Minichiello.pdf
Last note: Since I visited Puerto Rico, many of the towns along my bike route have experienced devastating back-to-back earthquakes. If you’re willing and able to help, NBC has a list of charities you can donate to help earthquake victims: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/how-to-help-puerto-rico-after-deadly-earthquake/2256870/
Thanks y’all for reading this and keep an eye out for more to come!