I could have talked myself out of leaving forty times over since the New Year, something I wouldn't have dreamt of doing in 2009 or before. It's easy to talk a good trip - run off the list of countries to be passed through worry free, make light of the occasional danger, assume all will be well and, if it isn't, it'll be worthy of a story. In the cold light of day, with no calendar month left to buffer now from then, these details come screaming up into plain view and entirely obscure the sunlight. In equally as slanted a view as the distant rose-tinted one, now worry is the driving force and everything seems like a hurdle. The dichotomy is that the fear centres on the unknown, but the unknown is at the very heart of the trip, and of the joys of travel and discovery themselves.
The fundamentals of the trip still stand, hopefully through this passing morose. I've said goodbye to the love of my life, which I'd regard as the second hardest moment I've ever experienced, so it can only get better from here.
Unfortunately, for probably very logical social and evolutionary reasons, 9 questions out of every 10 seem to focus on the negative (Danger! Bad men! Muggers! Wolves! Spiders! Asteroids! PUNCTURES! War! Bears! Terrorism!), so it's been refreshing to intersperse this with people who have done, are doing, or are about to do the same thing.
A constant source of inspiration and encouragement is Alastair Humphreys, who spent 4 years cycling around the world and now lives a life that seems the epitome of 'seizing the moment'. Once you start getting into this world of travel and adventure, specifically involving bikes, you realise just how many other people out there are doing it as well. I had dinner last week with Isla and Pietro who are preparing to leave in May to ride from Brighton to Japan, taking as much time as is needed to experience everything along the way. We geeked it up on equipment, bikes and routes (that kit list is still to follow, soon) but the simple, basic excitement of leaving what you know and discovering the world outside of what you've come to regard as daily life was evident.
I heard about them after an email newsletter from the US Adventure Cycling Association which mentioned Vinko, who left Brighton in October to ride towards Istanbul - he then pointed me in Isla and Pietro's direction (thanks!). And then there's Lindsey Cole who is setting off this week to ride to South Africa in time for the World Cup. Lindsey has taken the opposite tack to me and left everything as late as possible which has probably kept her mind busier and minimised the amount of time free for doubts.
I'm not so much looking forward to the 15th Feb as I am the 1st March when I should hopefully be arriving in Geneva, and then the 15th April when I'll have 8 weeks of this under my belt and be into the swing of things. For the next 12 days I'm going to concentrate on the positives and enjoy the remaining time with my family and friends.