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Guest Blog: Musings Before a Big Journey

Emily is writing bloody well and she hasn’t even begun cycling round the world yet. I sense that this is going to be one bike journey that really holds my interest. Follow her blog here and read her great post below:

Almost as soon as I decided I was cycling round the world, I started to speculate about how I’md feel during the last few days before my departure. I predicted a queasy mixture of nervousness and excitement, spiced with a horrible sinking dread at the prospect of saying goodbye to my family and friends for four years – and in some cases, no doubt, forever.

And now, with less than two weeks to go, I find that’s not so far off the mark. But what I hadn’t expected was that I’md feel quite so bored with the whole thing. Some people relish the planning stage of an expedition as much as they do the expedition itself. But not me. The daydreaming phase, where you pore over atlases and travel books, and make long lists of all the expensive kit you can’t actually afford to take with you, is quite fun. But the planning itself is unremittingly tedious and stressful. For the past three months I’mve had at least three To Do lists on the go, and a big grey cloud of guilt hovering over my head. Whole days would pass with nothing being ticked off any of the lists, and I’md berate myself for being so lazy, since the only person I was letting down was myself. If I left everything too late, and the whole enterprise came to nothing, it would be entirely my own fault.

I’mve been told by many long-distance cyclists that, setting out on a trip like this, I’md merely be exchanging one routine for another. Although the trip as a whole will be an incredible adventure, the day-to-day reality will be a simple matter of riding, eating, riding, eating, sleeping, and doing the whole thing all over again the next day. What they didn’t tell me was that the planning stage has its own tiresome and repetitive routine.

I go through regular – and ever more rapid – cycles of self-doubt and over-confidence. One day I believe that I can’t possibly do it, worry that I’mve bitten off far more than I can chew, and feel very sincerely that I want to give up on the whole idea. The next day I’mll be bursting with optimism, desperate to get on the road, and convinced I’mll be the greatest cyclist since Dervla Murphy. As my departure date draws closer, I find I can go through several of these cycles in the space of a single conversation.

And I have the same conversations over and over again.

“How are preparations for the trip going?”
“Oh, erm, OK I suppose.”
(Or I tell them how guilty and stressed and behind I am and they wish they’d never asked.)

And of course, there are still people who don’t know I’mm planning to cycle round the world, and have to be told. And just about all of them will say:

“Oh my god – that’s amazing!

And I protest that it’s really not, or at least, it won’t be till I’mve actually done it, and right now I’mm just a person sitting in the pub talking about cycling round the world. And then they say:

“Gosh, that’s very brave of you.”
“But isn’t it dangerous?”
“Well, I have to say, I’mm very jealous.”

And I remind myself that I have to be nice, and answer all their questions politely, because this is still new and exciting for them, even if it isn’t for me. After nearly a year of planning, of reading all the books and blogs of people who’ve done it already, of imagining and researching and writing contingencies for all the things that might go wrong, of designing a bike and a website and a route from scratch and of battling through the longest To Do list of my life, the idea of cycling round the world is old, tired, over-familiar and distinctly unexciting.

Until, that is, I get on my bike. There’s no surer antidote to the stress and tedium of planning. After twenty minutes in the saddle, feeling the wind in my hair and the rain on my skin, hearing the road humming by beneath my wheels and seeing it curving away into the distance, savouring the freedom and grace of swooping down hills, and relishing the power and discipline of soaring up them, I find I’mm grinning from ear to ear. Suddenly I remember that, quite simply, riding a bike makes me happy. This is why I lasted for three years as a cycle courier, and could easily have gone on for another ten. Despite all the trials and tribulations and injustices of the industry, ten hours of cycling a day meant that it was the most satisfying job I’md ever had.

And that’s how I remind myself that I’mm doing the right thing. No matter how much admin and bureaucracy I have to fight my way through – and no matter how many thousands of times I’mll have to answer the same old questions – over the next four years, the majority of my waking hours will be spent riding my bike. The very thought of it is making me smile.

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  1. Daniel Sandström Posted

    It’s a shame everyone seems to forget to tell you about the gray planning rutine. I had some of that this spring before going interrailing in Europe. And that’s a month in Europe by train. Not world by bike. 🙂

    As I read this guest post I got a strong feeling, flashbacks and I feel obliged to share one more thing I personally had “problems” with. The return. A couple of years back I had been abroad five months on the greatest adventure of my life. I experienced alot, learned even more, it was a life changing experience I’d never trade away.
    And that’s what and why I had a real hard time with all people asking the one same question, over and over. “How was it?” Those three words, expecting a short answer – not the full one, similar to your answer to how the planning is going, that is. How do one sum up a life changing trip in one exciting, all telling sentence? I soon started giving irrelevant answers. I guess it’s a childish way to handle it. Alastair does it much better.

    Anyhow, I hope you read this so the return jitters don’t come as a suprise. I was fully prepared during the planning stage, as well as the trip, but the return hit me in the face. 🙂

    I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful journey and best of luck.

  2. I know the feeling so well, I’ve been counting down the days so long but can’t escape just yet due to work commitments.

    Past reading other blogs, past planning, bored of answering the smae questions over and over again, blog is ready to go and I find myself just sitting around waiting until november and writing crap like this –> ooh that and crashing my car…

    But before I know it I’ll have 2 weeks to go too and the panic can set in to get the last things organised and burn the last bridges before cycling off into the Horizon until…….

  3. I wish you all the adventures in the world. It sounds like you are totally ready for it. But yes, get used to that question and typical responses. They are not just asked at home but throughout the world. What helps at times when you will be sick and tired of that same conversation is that all connections start with a question and after that first introduction there may evolve a beautuful meeting or lasting friendship. That potential reward makes it worth to sigh only inside and invisibly, to bring that smile to your face and answer with an enthusiasm as if that person has just asked the most original question in the word. I wish you many beautiful encounters.



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