Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hopping on a Plane

This is everything all packed and ready to go
From the beginning of my trip I knew that my intention was not to actually cycle all the way around the world.  In order to do that I would have had to start from the beginning and plan my route entirely different.  I had heard great things about cycling through Central Asia and read plenty of blogs from cyclists who had done it, but bureaucracy and extreme weather conditions make it more complicated and discouraging.  You have to time your trip so that you don’t hit winter while going through the desert, yet on either side, the climate and weather needs to be manageable as well.  Plus, having a passport from the United States throws in another hurdle as many times we require more official letters and approvals than other countries. 

My late summer start was not ideal for making my way across Central Asia and I was intent on working a full season for Thomson Bike Tours.  I also knew that if I waited to leave Barcelona until the end of August, I would be able to visit schools just as the school year started.  It wasn’t the safety necessarily that worried me in these countries for a solo female traveler, because honestly I think I would have been welcomed with open arms, but the isolation factor in case I needed help with my bike (obviously I need to improve my bike mechanic skills!).

Halil at Delta Bisiklet helped me get my bike all ready to go

However, the closer I got to Istanbul, the more unsettling the idea became of hopping on a plane.  Here I had cycled for over two months to reach 5,600 kilometers, and reached another continent, and now I was going to hop on a plane and go about 8,000 kilometers in a day!  It didn’t seem possible to me.  I kept thinking about everything that I was going to miss in between. My bike has been my loyal and only means of transportation for the past 2 months and the idea of taking a plane was disheartening.  I suppose the arrival back home in Barcelona of a fellow world bike traveler also influenced my last minute change of mind. Rodamon, made it around the globe on bike without skipping over any areas and cycling through 5 continents and almost 40,000 kilometers.

The morning I set off to Istanbul, I had this epiphany and I was 99% convinced that I could change all my plans, cancel my flight, process visas in Istanbul and just do it!   Physically, I knew I was capable of the challenge, even though the terrain would be more difficult than anything I had encountered so far.  When I arrived in Istanbul the idea was so present in my mind, I actually spent the entire afternoon looking into the logistics of changing my route.  I’m the type of person that gets overwhelmed easily with too many choices, which is ironic because traveling on bike, you have more choices than traveling by any other sort of means of transportation. By the time the evening rolled around, my head was spinning and I was beginning to feel nauseous. 

All of a sudden I was reminded about why I was doing my trip and what it meant for me.  I had dreamed of doing a long distance trip and I thought originally to cross the United States from east to west or vice versa.  However, this seemed like a foolish idea because I was located in Europe and so was my bike.  This is when I started thinking about how I could get from my current home, Barcelona, to my native home, Oregon, on bike, passing through some places that I found interesting and exciting to visit when the weather was at its peak for traveling.  New Zealand and Tasmania were on my list, exploring SE Asia, and also getting to know the National Parks in the western United States and Canada.  This is how I put my itinerary together for my trip as well as looking at the distances and the weather patterns for each of the regions. 

Next I took into consideration the teaching element because I knew I wanted to combine some sort aspect of teaching and working with kids during my trip.  I was hesitant on taking a sabbatical because, YES, I really enjoy my job that much! I didn’t want to be out of the classroom for a year or two.  Kids give me energy; we have the same level of curiosity and passion for living, doing, and exploring.  I love being around them and growing with them.  I’m also keen on discovering different teaching pedagogies to grow professional.  Therefore, the thought of being away from the school environment was daunting.  I didn’t know exactly how the teaching element of my trip would transpire and in fact at the time of my departure, I had one school visit organized, through a former colleague and friend at BFIS, who was now at The American School of Milan. 

As my mind was spinning that evening with the idea of canceling my flight and attempting the entire journey on bike, I was finally able to ground myself when I remembered what my trip was all about.  I admit I am a competitive person and therefore I never hesitate to sign up for some sort of crazy sport challenge.  But this year wasn’t about racing around the world and cycling through every country and continent.  I really would like to be home by next October and have some “down time” with my family for a couple of months.  The idea of visiting my family and friends back home in Oregon for a few months without any sort of obligations, are incredibly enticing. 

However, I know very well, that after a few months in Oregon, I will want to hop back on my bike and cycle some more.  I will have to wait for the following school year to start anyway to be back in the classroom, so you can guess what I might do to pass the months.  So yes, I am hopping on a plane now and headed over to Hong Kong.  Wish me luck, I don’t know what I was thinking buying my plane ticket into and island nation made up of bridges, tunnels, and ferries, that in no way seems “bike friendly”.  I accept my decision because I know in the back of my mind; there will be a part 2 to this bike journey, which answers a question I am asked frequently. “What will you do when you are done with this trip?”  I know a lot can happen between now and next October, but ideally after a my loong way home, there are several other regions in the world that I am skipping over now that I would like to explore on bike….so perhaps there will be The Loong Way Back as well!

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