First Time Out  

I remember the point that I first realised I would travel the world by motorbike. I had just met Mickey and he told me about his dream of a round the world trip. I remember laughing at myself when I thought it sounded like exactly what I needed. I knew I could never let everything go and leap into the unknown like that. But then a quiet voice spoke up, reminding me that that was then and this is now. Why shouldn’t I? I sat and countered the question with all the objections I could muster. What about my career, my friends and family, my safety and security? But beneath each excuse I could see fear at play. Fear based on a lack of control and the unknown. I slowly realised the only madness was staying in a place I wasn’t happy with. It surprised me back then how quickly I decided. But looking back, I realise the decision was a long time coming.

The road is a tough teacher 

Five months on and the road is not often easy. People say that the adventure starts when the plan ends. If this is the case, then our adventure is an all-time epic. My doubts return frequently. But I begin to understand the process, and how to flow with it all. Each day teaches me where the limits of my control lie. And I learn to work within these limits and surrender to everything else.

For the first three weeks, torrential rain hounded us. I felt insignificant and vulnerable in the face of it. I faced something of an existential crisis as it dawned on me that I no longer had a home and the external structure of safety and security I had always taken for granted no longer existed, and had never really existed. From now on I would need to find it in myself.

The exhaustion which came swiftly on the back of the daily physical and mental exertion compounded everything. Everything took so long. Not yet in a routine, we would spend a couple of hours each day struggling to pack up the bikes before riding round in circles for much of the day. To make so little headway after so much effort was incredibly demoralising. A few days into our adventure, I remember slumping, exhausted by my bike near the French-German border, begging Mickey to tell me why we were doing this to ourselves.

I wonder often if they understand the significance of what they gave us.


But through all this adversity, there were huge positives too. The kindnesses offered by strangers reaffirmed my faith in humanity and in what we were doing. Sometimes such kindness came in the simple form of speaking to us and making an effort to put us at ease in a difficult situation. In France we were forced to shelter from the rain and hail in a local restaurant in a small rural village. All eyes turned to face us as we dripped all over the floor and marked ourselves further as outsiders with our poor French. I remember feeling so out of place and uncomfortable. And then, the lady next to us greeted us warmly and struck up a conversation with us, persevering through our poor French until she had us at ease and chatting freely. Sometimes kindness came in the form of more practical help. A man in a garage in France offered to guide us to a nearby campsite after we enquired if there was one in town. A guy in Belgium gave us two days of his time to guide us through the green lanes of the country. A hotel in Germany opened early to give two weary travellers a bed, a man in Hungary translated and helped book us into a campsite. I could go on. There have been countless people who took a few minutes or more to go out of their way to show humanity and kindness to strangers. I wonder often if they understand the significance of what they gave us.

Shifting Perspectives  

After those first few weeks of unbearable failure, I suddenly found I could bear it. We’d been pushing to make ground when we should have been adjusting to the new situation and the weather. I’d been trying to force myself to enjoy a situation that just wasn’t enjoyable. I was labouring under old delusions that I could and should control my experience of things, viewing mistakes as failures rather than learning opportunities. To manufacture and impose an artificial reality and ignore the true reality is an exhausting, spirit-damaging process. Suddenly I hit a wall and couldn’t care anymore. I was too tired to care, I had nowhere else to go. And in that place I found the acceptance I needed. I allowed myself to hate it, to be bad at it, to dislike the rain and once I allowed it, I could let go of it all. No blame, no judgement, things just were as they were, and they were out of my control. And as I began to accept things as they were, and accept my response to them too, I found I could feel gratitude again. Gratitude for the hardship as well as the good times. Of course, this shift doesn’t make the challenges disappear. And I’m a long way from being well-practiced in my acceptance. But each time a challenge hits, I find I am more able to stay connected to my gratitude and contentment as I practice all that I’m learning a little more. It’s an ongoing process but the road is a good teacher.

We recently returned to the UK to deal with an expired driving licence. We’d desperately tried every other option we could but to no avail; we had no choice but to fly back. The delay was far longer than it should have been thanks to a freak mistake by the issuing department, causing us to miss our chance to see Iran. Our route changed substantially from what we initially set out to do as we adapted to this new reality.

It could have felt like failure. We were both so disappointed, but we could also see that it was beyond our control. We found the positives, we controlled what we could and we let the rest go. After all, time and freedom to visit family, bond with our young nieces and explore my childhood home should be appreciated for the gift they are, not clouded by what they are not.

I’m blessed to have next to me a man who already understands these lessons I struggle blindly through. I wonder daily where I would be without him. He is the one who holds my hand and challenges me to believe I can do it, never judging when I can’t, but always trusting that I can. He is the one who shields me from those who would reawaken and collude with that old voice that tells me I am at fault when I’m not enjoying it.

Alternate Realities  

So, now we live a life that is harder in many ways. We have less comfort and we lack the comfortable illusion of control over life and events. But it is also a life that is immeasurably richer for its challenges. We try to stay mindful and grateful and enjoy the moments, not the goals. We laugh, we cry, we fail and carry on. We protect one another from the judgement and harshness of the world, grounding and reminding each other what is true and important to us and why we’re doing this. We remind ourselves it is the ethos we strive to live, not the image or the outcomes of the situation, it is not for what others think of us. Sometimes this means we take what looks like a step back to the outside world, but it is always a step forward for us. Our path meanders but it’s our path and we know it’s true to who we are. This life scares me still. Just when I become comfortable the game changes again. We’re currently facing problems that could stop our travels in their tracks; we haven’t moved for weeks. After months of chasing problem after problem, letting commitments drop and readjusting plans we can’t know what will come next or what we will do. Constant change is the enemy of control but old habits die hard. But that’s the thing about this life. It forces me to submit. There is no illusion strong enough that could fool me into thinking that I am in control out here on the road. And each time I rail and push and exhaust myself into this knowledge, I’m forced to accept that fact anew. After that all I can do is have faith. Because after all, “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat”. And humanity is perhaps the only shot at meaning we have in this life.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.