So I got my flight back to the UK. I decided it was time to go home.
Do I feel like a failure?
Yes and no. Why do I feel like a failure? Because I set out to do something and I didn’t see it through! But I also feel like I have achieved far more than I ever set out to do or ever thought I could do.
Do I feel like I have let people down?
Yes and no. Why do I feel like I have let people down? Because people look at what I do as ‘inspirational’ and I don’t think seeing someone ‘give up’ as particularly inspirational. But I have also received messages from people to say they have been inspired to do a long cycle journey, or even to just try a short cycle touring journey (not all adventures have to be long ones). When just one person writes to you to tell you you have given them the motivation they needed it feels great, but when several people – who are complete strangers – take the time to write something nice to you it is amazing
– “I don’t wanna sound creepy but I always look at your Instagram and you are like my goal self. You seem so true, sensitive and badass at the same time. You make me want to get a bike and just go somewhere! When I doubt myself about the PCT I look at your photos and it reminds me why I want to do it.” – a heartwarming message received from an Instagram follower.
Do I feel like quit when the going got tough?
Yes and no. Why do I feel like I gave up when the going got tough? Because it was tough! I tend to down play the things I do because when you look back on them you think they were easier than they actually were at the time. But I think I was walking the line between stubborn and reckless with what I was wanting to do and I didn’t want my luck to run out.
I set out to walk across America and New Zealand and that’s exactly what I did. Everything that came afterwards was a bonus and I always said I would just take each day as it comes.
I had decided on a bit of a whim to cycle and – never one to do things by halves – I wanted to make it from Sydney back to Salisbury, having never ridden a bike for a long distance, let alone a loaded touring bike. I didn’t even know if I was going to like cycle touring, but once I had decided to do it I felt this (self-induced) pressure to carry on regardless.
I took a big gamble by jumping into something brand new and setting myself such a big challenge. I had the best time cycling across Australia. It was so tough in the beginning, and I doubted myself so many times, but those times when I was sat on the side of the road, unable to sit on the saddle because my bum was so sore made getting to Darwin all the more sweeter. I was so lucky with the way it turned out and the people I met along the way. Maybe I wouldn’t have loved it so much if I hadn’t had that chance meeting with my Germans and I would have had to battled the head winds alone all the way up to Darwin, but I will never know that.
Asia | Cycling | Solo
Asia is a totally different ball game to Australia and it was one that I was really looking forward to tackling. I was looking forward to good food, cheap cost of living, beautiful views, friendly people…but what I found was greasy fried and sugary foods, costs on a level with the UK for a lot of things, pollution and rubbish everywhere and the majority of people look at you as a walking bottomless pit of money. There were of course some exceptions to this but they were definitely in the minority.
I feel like you can put cycling alone in Asia into one of those venn diagrams…at the moment I have all three things, but to have enjoyment as well you are only allowed to choose 2 things…
Asia – solo (not cycling)
Not a problem. Travelling around Asia solo is fine. It’s fun! It is cheap to get around by train and local bus, you meet loads of different people and you can change you plans on a whim and do different activities with people you meet at hostels. Asia is full of backpackers looking to save money by joining forces. But with the bike it is stressful. I only met a handful of cyclists and none of them were on the same schedule as me, and very few of them were doing it solo.
I didn’t camp once in Asia and that was because I didn’t feel comfortable camping on my own, and there wasn’t really anywhere to camp. There isn’t much free land, if it hasn’t been built on then it is used for rice paddies which definitely aren’t suitable for camping!
Cycling – solo (not in Asia)
Also fine, fun in fact, but stressful in Asia. Not only are you a white western tourist who has the money to fly on a plane halfway across the world and travel for pleasure, you are also carrying around with you a ‘fancy’ bike, with more than a wooden box holding your possessions, a camera, an iPhone and money. You feel like a target, and although I hate to admit it, it is more difficult as a solo female, especially in Asia where women’s equality isn’t quite as progressive.
Although I never felt unsafe, I did always feel on-edge in Asia, in a way I haven’t felt anywhere else I have been. I would definitely go on another solo cycling trip, but not in Asia.
Asia – cycling (not solo)
Cycling around Asia is a real adventure. You can never be exactly sure what state to road will be in, you’re never sure who you are going to meet, there is always somewhere to get food and water and because so many people live there you are never far from people.
I would return to Asia to cycle but I don’t want to do it on my own. Sometimes you have to leave the bike, if you want to go in a shop or if you want to take a side trip and it is always a risk to leave it. It is much easier if there are two of you and one can stay with the bikes.
If you are on your own it’s harder to meet people as almost no one is doing the same thing as you or travelling in the same direction at the same speed.
When I finished in New Zealand I was tired but I wasn’t ready to come home. I felt like I could carry on forever. But after Australia I was even more tired and when I thought of being on the road for another year I didn’t get a good feeling about it – my heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach. Is it a good idea to carry on regardless when you aren’t enjoying it?
So back when I was in the Gili Islands, I made the decision to go home. On any long journeys there will be days when you just feel like going home, but they are normally when things are tough, when you are a combination of cold, tired, hungry and wet. The feeling usually passes when you resolve those issues, but this time it was different. I was thinking about going home every day. I felt something inside me compelling me to go home and I’ve never really felt like that before.
When I made the decision to go home I wrote down the decisions why:
- I think I might have burnt out. I’m seriously exhausted. I worked out that out of 465 days away I have slept in 348 different places.
- I miss my friends and family. Why do I feel like there is shame in admitting that? It shows a lack of strength maybe?
- I’m not enjoying being solo in Asia. I also feel like there is some kind of shame in admitting that too. I feel like there is shame in admitting you aren’t enjoying something people dream about doing.
- I’ve had my heart broken twice this year and I’m lonely and I need to feel loved by people who love me. I also feel like there is some shame in admitting that too! People think I am really strong, but sometimes I’m not.
- I am totally unprepared to do what I am doing now.
- One of the things I love most about my adventures is the people I meet along the way and the renewed faith in humanity they give me.The kindness of the human spirit. You don’t get that in Asia, or if you do it is mostly with other tourists and it is fleeting.
- I am missing out on a huge part of my life. My parents. My friends. My friends have had babies who I have never met and they are a year old already!
- I’m ready. I’m just ready.
I also had to think about my limitations. While Priscilla did a great job of getting me across Australia she isn’t the best touring bike. The gear set up isn’t going to get me up the hills I will face and if she breaks I don’t know how to fix her, and now I am heading into areas where it is difficult to communicate with people and it is difficult to know who to trust, I could find myself in a very tricky situation.
Ultimately the best thing for me to do was take a break for my physical and mental wellbeing. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking going home means the end of the adventure, but there is nothing stopping me going back, and the end of one adventure just means the door is open for beginning of a new one…
LET’S GET SOCIAL
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