Written by Mike Elm, Environmentalist and Adventurer on the #NewStoryRide

Normal is dead. Long live Normal!

The end of a world is also the beginning of a world. Right now, the world we inhabited – but did not really know – has ended. The new beginning, the ‘next normal’, is already happening.

Where we need to go bears little resemblance to the 'old normal'. COVID-19 has thrown all kinds of questions up in the (cleaner) air. It’s time for a meaningful conversation about what we keep and what we change. We owe it to everyone to make the 'next normal' a better and fairer one.

I have so far spent four months on the New Story Ride visiting people, organisations, islands and cities that form pieces of a New Story, whilst bikepacking and wildcamping 3,000km through nine countries from Austria to Kosovo where lockdown paused the Ride. Some of these stories, that were exceptions in the 'old normal’, are part of the conversation we need to have before the 'next normal' is set in stone, concrete, tarmac and routine.

More than half the people in the world now lives in cities, towns and urban areas. So how they organise themselves matters – or, more accurately, how they are organised.

There are stories abounding of nature appearing on town and city streets all around the world. In Prizren, Kosovo – where I write this from – greenery is beginning tentatively to emerge in the cracks of cobblestones. The safer, cleaner, bigger, quieter, flower-scented space nature is filling as roads open up doesn’t need to be temporary.

What if we started, in the 'next normal', with the space in towns, villages and cities being first and foremost for people, not cars, as has been the case during lockdown? Perhaps only allowing cars as guests, and only as much as is actually necessary. Not only might we cut down the 4 million deaths related to air pollution, our cities might just feel, sound, smell, look and work better for all.

Cities and towns are just one part of how we organise our lives that needs to be rethought – how we work, how we learn, and how we eat all need to be questioned. On the New Story Ride, which I hope will soon be able to continue towards Mongolia, I'm striving to find pieces of what this New Story means, looks, smells and tastes like.

The worst thing that can come from the pandemic is nothing. The 'next normal' is already emerging, and being decided: how do we make it the best it can be so that we start to live a New Story?

P.s. Please also visit the New Story Run – the inspiration for the New Story Ride - which follows Rosie Watson running across Europe and Asia in search of better, more sustainable ways of living!