Yesterday I used the 'reach-back-and-hope' suntan lotion
application technique. It left a 1cm strip along the line of my
muscle shirt exposed (minus the muscles) and my skin now resembles
a piece of pink and crackly fried bacon. Today is forecast to hit
40 degrees so I'm taking a day in the shade in San Antonio de
Areco, to shed some light on a question I get asked a lot.
Were you a pro cyclist before you began this trip? Ahh...
When I explain that my cycle experience included a few months of
spin classes, riding to work each day and half a dozen weekend
cycles (that normally featured a hearty lunch and pint in the
middle) people's eyebrows almost pop off their foreheads. When I
continue to explain that all I knew of cycle touring was what I had
read on the internet, which is where I ordered pannier bags, cycle
shorts, camping equipment and any other item I figured I might
need, their mouth drops open. In fact it wasn't until 2 weeks
before my departure that I realised I'd never pitched my tent or
gone on an overnight cycle trip, so I cycled 50km to a beach and made sure it all
The first time I ever cycled with four pannier bags on a bike
was the moment I cycled out of Dublin - Day one of the
Indiana June adventure. I had my sisters with me on the first
night and we stayed in a cushy b&b so the reality of cycle tour
hardship hadn't hit me yet. It wasn't until the next day when Roz
and Cheryl cycled in one direction and I went the other that I
realised the enormity of the project. A rush of pre-departure
conversations flooded my mind.
"Wow, you're so brave doing this on your own."
"Won't you get scared?"
"How are you going to get up hills with carrying all that
"Where will you sleep and what will you eat?"
At the time I'd brushed off these comments with a 'she'll be
right' attitude but faced with these challenges on a daily basis I
regularly felt like turning back. If I'm completely honest, my
motivation in the beginning was fueled more by the embarrassment of
failure than a desire to cycle the world. So I kept going, one hill
and one day at a time. I was no pro but I was learning new
techniques each day that made life a little easier. Slowly my legs
got stronger and my comfort zone stretched beyond the easy suburban
lifestyle I was used to.
I got lost, my equipment broke, I got wet every day but I survived.
When I met people along the way I sheepishly told them I was on
a Round the World cycle trip, despite the fact I hadn't left
Ireland yet. I felt a bit stupid but I knew if I said it enough
times, eventually it would become a reality.
The moment I stepped off the ferry from Belfast, Ireland to
Stranraer in Scotland I did a happy dance (in the pouring rain). It
might have been one small boat ride for most people but it was the
day that I became a country-crossing cyclist with ambitions to see
the whole world on two wheels.
It was a big lesson for me to realise that you don't have to be
amazing at something from day one. In fact, it's near impossible to
be brilliant from the beginning. I may have had my metaphorical
training wheels on for the Irish leg of the journey but I had to
I quit my job, abandoned city life, sold my possessions and got
on a bike.
These were the things that took real courage, the
biking/camping/navigating bit in relation to all of that was
something I could work out along the way.
I've heard people say that if you focus on the 'what' the 'how'
will take care of itself. It might sound like self-help mumbo jumbo
but I believe whole heartedly in this sentiment. Before the trip I
made a list on a piece of paper of all the things I loved to do -
then I came up with a plan to combine them all.
I urge you to do the same, pick up a pen and write down what you
love to do. Plant the seed for a more fulfilling life and you'll be
surprised what starts to sprout in your imagination. If you don't
love your life, why not choose to change it?