November 30th 2011. My last day at work. A break, a breather, a rest after five busy years building up a new company and a desire for something new. This career girl was ready for a change.
In the last week of October, a colleague had told me of a talk being given by Mark Beaumont all about ‘The World Cycle Challenge’. Immediately the spark was lit. The talk was being held in Edinburgh on 10th November – my father’s birthday. And by now he knew I had a Plan A (new job in the highlands) and a Plan B (a grand adventure – something he would be less keen on). It was the revelation of the talk that confirmed his worst fears.
“Live the dream” was how Mark signed my book that night… and I was desperate to… but there was still a fabulous job opportunity on the table.
Unsure of a final decision, a good friend paid my deposit for The Word Cycle Challenge, confident I could always do a stage of the trip if the job came through. Heart and head were in conflict – I wanted it all. My second interview was on December 1st and I was already booked on a cycle trip to Sri Lanka leaving on the 3rd!
The final decision about the job came through by text whilst I was cycling… “unsuccessful”. I was of course disappointed yet also overjoyed. I was away with strangers and it was a strange mix of emotion but I was now completely free to live the dream. I was going to cycle the world.
Christmas passed and as January arrived the training started in earnest. Minus 4 in the Pentlands was proving a little chilly for outdoor riding so I found myself in spin classes twice a day. A Facebook group of others interested in The World Cycle Challenge was established and the excitement began. I was in the post office, sending a map of the route to my godson, when the call came through. Unfortunately it had been decided that The World Cycle Challenge had to be postponed. I was absolutely gutted.
2012 was all planned but that call had changed it all. However, if I were ever going to be successful in cycling 18,000 miles it would have to take more than one phone call to stop me! I was not sure how, but I was still determined to travel, with my bike, somehow and somewhere. Luckily, I was not the only one and the following day up popped a Facebook message that grabbed my attention. Another of the cyclists still wanted to ride the world somehow… could this be the solution?
We exchanged numbers and began to chat – about ourselves, the places we wanted to see and our ambitions. I wanted a challenge but not necessary a race. I wanted an adventure but didn’tt want to expose myself to unnecessary risk. It seemed we agreed and as time progressed, John (my new cycle buddy) and I started planning our trip… routes, climates, flights, costs, visas etc. We got on well and while friends and family were naturally even more nervous now, I felt confident this could work. We did however think it wise to meet and at the end of March we caught up in Bristol – for a bike ride! Heading out to Cheddar Gorge over Bristol’s biggest hill it was perhaps the journey home that gave me the confidence to go ahead. Having started the day in sunshine we came home through rain and hail so fierce it hurt. We even ended up in the airport drinking tea and taking shelter. Seeing how people deal with less than ideal conditions is by far the best test for travel!
I now had flights, a travel buddy and a plan to leave in July. Then I received another call. This next one was devastating. My mothers cancer had returned. It was secondary and initial diagnosis was not sounding promising. My dream felt like it was disintegrating again, yet this was no longer my main concern. I also now had a tough call to make. John was about to receive another cancellation call.
As time moved on and after further tests the outlook was looking much better. My mother also knew how excited I had been about the trip and while her health would always be the most important factor, we began to look for solutions. I was 36 and with hopes beyond a cycle trip, I knew it was now or never. So, in discussion with John we made alterations, re-planned and looked at how we could do a trip in segments rather than be away for 12 consecutive months. Being home for Christmas was now non-negotiable for me.
On July 7th we left the UK! Seattle to San Francisco, the warm up! Since then we have biked through Japan, taken a few days rest in Hong Kong and on September 9th, ironically the day The World Cycle Challenge had been due to start, we left Kathmandu to bike the Annapurna circuit in Nepal. Having taken our bikes over the highest and widest mountain pass in the world (the only people our guide knows to have done Thorong-la at 5416m with touring bikes and panniers) we have just been resting a few days in India and are about to head through Rajasthan. In January we start Cairo to Capetown and then… well, who knows… South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand…
While there have been a few tough days, so far so good – only 3 punctures between us, with bikes and riders fairing well. We are living the dream thanks to both the initial inspiration The World Cycle Challenge provided and the link it enabled us to make to just go do it. So, there’s a big thanks to my colleague who let me know of the talk, my good friend who paid an original deposit, to Mark and Crispin at The World Cycle Challenge, my folks for trusting me in this endeavor and to John, for also having the faith to live his dream too.
Finally, while riding I’m also aiming to raise funds for The Homeless World Cup – due to start this year, in Mexico on October 13th. If this story has inspired you then please show support through my web site fundraising tag.
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