Saturday, 26 December 2009

A Lull in Preparation

So with 7 weeks to go I seem to have reached a weird hiatus in my preparations. In the beginning (3 or 4 years ago when I was first inspired by Ted Simon's 'Jupiter's Travels' to 2008 when I started the 'planning process') there seemed to be an insurmountable list of things to buy, routes to plan, journeys to arrange, research to do, visas to get.. I felt like I needed a planning team à la Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman before The Long Way Round. Yet now, I'm not too sure what there is left to do despite not having done hardly any of what I originally anticipated.

I've bought almost everything I expect to need for every scenario and no doubt a whole lot more (full kit list to follow for those interested in such mundane things, i.e. me), and I've planned my route to the accuracy of 'probably this country into that one' - see the wiggly black line above - but not down to the exact roads or cities as I had expected to. There's absolutely no point planning which road to take through Nepal from my living room in Eastbourne, I now realise.
Once I'm off the ferry in the Netherlands I won't need any other form of transport but my bike until I get to Singapore, and since I don't want any targets to meet or a schedule to follow (this is about freedom) I won't be arranging that until I get there - in any time from 6 months to 1 year.

Aside from researching a few handy facts: border towns to aim for (Harwich, Dogubeyazit, Mirjaveh, Darwin), nice hotels to look forward to (Yazd, Quetta), places to avoid riding or sleeping out after dark (Baluchistan), places to get a free night of luxury with friends or family (The Hague, Geneva, Nepal, Singapore), international visa regulations (global politics and the arbitrary drawing of lines on maps adds an administrative hurdle for the wanderer, denying us entry to or rushing our time in certain parts of the world - hopefully my only constraint).
Aside from these markers and waypoints and logistic inconveniences not a lot in the way of research really needs to be carried out - this is something that can't be pre-booked or micro-managed and I don't have only 7 days to make the most of my time somewhere; it just has to be done. Which brings me on to the biggest hurdle to the whole thing - leaving.
There haven't been many moments I've looked forward to less than the day I say goodbye to the most important people in my life (I've done it once but for only 4 and a half months, and that was only with the prospect of snowboarding every day!), but I know once I'm into it the tears and sick feeling will have been worth it... If anyone fancies a ride then my first leg is Eastbourne to London on Monday February 15th.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Put in my Place

People's reactions to my upcoming trip have ranged from intrigue to incredulity to laughter and the occasional 'oh, right... anyway', but most have followed the theme of rather-you-than-me or I'd-love-to-do-that-but-couldn't-ever; no one's really thought it a 'normal' thing to do.
Maybe it's down to the fact I've been thinking about or in some way planning it for the past 3 or 4 years and my view of a 'normal' way to spend a life has been skewed, but I really can't envisage waking up without the prospect of riding my bike around the world in the near future.

I think that with a little bit of perspective (the 'bigger picture') it really shouldn't seem so crazy. Here's an image and some facts that I fall back on when things get a bit overwhelming and I need to see things in their proper light.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field - 10 billion galaxies, 13 billion years

Our place in time:
13.7 billion years ago - The Big Bang and the 'birth' of the universe;
10 billion years ago - Our galaxy, the Milky Way, formed;
4.6 billion years ago - Our solar system formed;
4.5 billion years ago - The Earth formed;
3.5 billion years ago (possibly) - First life arose on Earth;
195,000 years ago - Origin of modern humans;
12,000 years ago - Beginning of human civilization;
Nearly 23 years ago - I was born;
70 years in the future - My temporary existence will be over.

Our place in space:
We live on a miniscule planet, orbiting an average star, in a solar system that spans a tiny area in an arm of a small, unremarkable galaxy. Our home galaxy is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, and each one contains hundreds of billions, even trillions, of stars. Our entire universe itself is likely to be one of many.

In light of all this and far more besides, I think my motives become far more logical -
I want to make the most of my brief time and see and experience as much of the planet as possible, gaining a first-hand insight into its people and places, landscapes and nature, cultures, societies, opinions and daily lives along the way, unaffected by the bias and prejudice so frequently and unknowingly tainting our views.

In the midst of all that I will most certainly lose perspective and moan and cry and be scared, but I will be living my life in the very heart of what I consider to be the Real World and I will, looking back in 70 years' time from wherever I might be enjoying my last few days, have loved every minute of a trip that shaped the rest of my life.

Human existence in context; Earth (bright dot towards the left) seen through Saturn's rings in an actual image from the Cassini Spacecraft, approx. 790 million miles away.