So many people ask me this question- “What on earth has made you decide to cycle round the world?”, and the idea has been there for so long now that it’s hard to formulate an answer. But I’ll try:
When we met over two years ago, we were both quite excited to have met another person who wanted to go exploring outside of London at weekends, so we started going on a few cycling trips- Epping Forest, London to Brighton, Norfolk, celebrating our achievements joyously after each one with a well deserved trip to the pub! I was high every time on the freedom a bike could give you to get out of the city, which sometimes feels like it goes on forever, and explore beautiful scenery and new places.
Norfolk was the first trip into which we incorporated camping (the first trip where we’d managed to cycle for more than one day in a row)! I hadn’t camped in about five years previously, getting caught up in busy city life, and I’d forgotten how amazing the night sky is with no light pollution to mask it- I’m not kidding we saw about five shooting stars that night. It made me feel kind of giddy with freedom, very far away from the insignificant stresses of everyday life, and very aware of the tiny scale of our planet. It seemed bizarre that the Earth was so small compared to the vast expanse we were staring at, and yet there’s so much of it that we never even think about exploring. I was suddenly aware that I’d never even been outside of Western Europe.
Naturally, our conversation strayed into the realms of exploration- “Wouldn’t it be amazing to just keep going- put a tent on the back of the bikes, cycle all day, camp and then just…do it all again, and again, and just go wherever you wanted?” It’s a wonderful thought, carrying all that you need with you, watching the landscape gradually evolving from familiar into new and challenging, having the freedom to explore wherever you like, at whatever pace you choose…It’s one of those things you always think “wouldn’t that be amazing,” but your brain gently informs you that it’s not possible, not realistically. My brain dutifully informed me of such a fact, and I went back to London the next day and though no more about it…
… At least for a few weeks, anyway. As it turned out the idea had been subtly planted and was lurking at the back of my mind, waiting for a catalyst to bring it into consciousness. The catalyst, with came about a week later, was a song- “The Lion’s Roar” by First Aid Kit. I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard that song for the first time, and it immediately sparked a crazily strong emotion in me. (I’m sure that’s quite common with music, and for each person it’s different, but for me the ones that really get you on the first listen and make your hairs stand on end are rare, and this was one of them). I played it on repeat all day and by the end of the evening, I knew that I wanted to cycle round the world.
I was so excited there was no way I could sleep. That night I was alone in the house as my housemates were both away. It was late but I was desperate to tell somebody of my amazing plan, so I sent a long e-mail to my parents. They naturally replied the following morning with a carefully constructed list of reasons why it was, in fact, a disastrous idea. (My favourite point was one of my mum’s- “But darling, what if you get sore feet?!”). Whilst taking their valuable cautions on board however, I was too high on the idea to be put off the idea so easily, and marched straight round to Joe’s house the moment he got back from his cycling holiday around Spain.
I told him my idea and held my breath. Of course, not once did I imply that I was asking him to come with me- he had to come to that conclusion on his own and I wasn’t about to put the burden of a decision on him. It was a completely different situation for him- he was older; he’d already spent years of his life living abroad on various continents and had put off his career for longer than he’d planned. He had a good job now, a nice house. He seemed like he could settle this time in London.
His response, as I’d expected (although I’d hoped differently) was, “Wow, that sounds so amazing! I wish I was in a position to come with you”. My heart sank a bit, but I couldn’t have expected anything more. He was quiet for about five minutes, brow furrowed, cogs whirring in his head…Then all of a sudden he leapt up, announcing, “Right then- let’s get the map out- which route shall we take?!” It hadn’t taken long for him to convince himself!
That night we discovered the blogs of other cyclists who’d taken similar journeys, and as soon as we started reading the first one, we were hooked. Almost two years later, it all seems much more real. Originally the plan was to leave the following April, but after about half an hour of budgeting we realised sadly that it was pretty much impossible to do it so soon, so we decided to delay for a year. Now we’re on track- I’ve got a better job that pays more, and am managing to get enough music commissions on the side to bulk up the travel fund from time to time. We’re living frugally (to an extent)- Joe’s had to give up his love affair with fine wine and cheese, and I have banned him from his indulgent trips to Waitrose- it’s Morrisons all the way now.
So now the months seem to be flying by and we’re realising the full scale of planning that needs to be done! I think it’s time to meet up with some seasoned cycle-tourers and get some tips..