Departure is less than two weeks away, and people keep asking me whether I’m excited, or afraid. Some days I wake up and feel incredibly positive about the whole thing: I can’t wait to leap elegantly on to my bicycle and get the it started. Some days I feel rather indifferent about the whole thing.
Then there are other days, when I wake up in the sepia half-light of dawn, trot off to the bathroom and give myself a good looking at in the mirror, and I’m absolutely terrified. I wonder what I’ve let myself in for, and think of all the things I will miss. I can’t help but think that it would be better to stay at home, buy a massive tele and an Xbox, and while away the next six months comfortably drinking tea, eating biscuits, and wallowing in the glow of Match of the Day, and my own pathetic unadventurousness.
But then I remind myself of the reasons I decided I wanted to do this in the first place. I think about all the things I’m looking forward to, the things I’ll experience, the people I’ll meet, and the first-hand view of the world I’ll acquire by peddling through it.
Here is the first part of an A to Z of the things I’m most looking forward to:
A: Adventure. I couldn’t resist beginning with this. It will, after all, be one hell of an adventure, which is the main reason for doing it. I want to look back at my life when I’m old and grey, grin, and say ‘yes, I went on adventures’.
B: Bay of Bengal. I don’t have a definite end point to my journey, but that first sight of the rising sun glinting off the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal will certainly be a destination to aim for!
C: Camping, in many different places. The awe inspiring places, the scary places, and every other place in between. I’m looking forward to spending many a night under the thin fabric of my tent!
D: Downhills! (I’m also really looking forward to cycling along the banks of the Danube river – the second longest river in Europe!)
E: Europe. I may be underestimating the European leg of my trip, but I have this fantastic image in my head of sunshine, green trees, blue rivers, good food, mountains and easy riding, but I’m ready to be proven wrong. I’m also looking forward to traversing my first continent by pedal-power.
F: Food, from a number of different countries, not to mention the culinary delights that I will be preparing on my very own camping stove!
G: Ganges, one of the world’s longest rivers, and flowing from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, will be a major milestone of my trip. I’m expecting it to make the mighty river Humber look rather feeble.
H: Home. The cynics will point out that I could just stay at home – it would certainly be the easier option! But I think doing things like this help you to appreciate the simple comforts of home all the more. Part of me is already looking forward to getting home for a nice cup of tea, because it may well be the tastiest one I’ll ever have!
I: Iran. I tempted to say India (which I’m also looking forward to), but I think Iran will be a particularly special experience given the limited exposure we have of Iranian culture in the UK. I’m looking forward to debunking people’s preconceptions, fueled by scare-stories prevalent in the newspapers which stop many people travelling to such amazing countries. Fingers crossed I can get the visa sorted out successfully!
J: Jumping from the bridge at Mostar. This isn’t quite as suicidal as it sounds. People have been jumping into the river from the bridge at Mostar, Bosnia, for hundreds of years, and it has become something of a bravado challenge and spectator sport. Whether I have the balls to jump in myself when I get there remains to be seen!
K: Killing mosquitoes with 100% Deet, before they give me malaria (okay, so I’m not looking forward to that too much)
L: Lincolnshire. A few years ago, I headed off on my bicycle with no real destination in mind to Lincolnshire, and had my first solo cycling touring/wild camping expedition, and had a great time along the quiet back roads and gently undulating hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds. I hope to enjoy this last section of familiar scenery before I move on to more unfamiliar lands.
M: Maps. I’ve always loved maps. I can spend hours looking at them, and drawing imaginary lines across them of routes I would like to one day travel. On my trip I will get to do this every day, and then travel those imaginary lines!
I’ll post N to Z as soon as I’ve thought of something I’m looking forward to beginning with X.