Sunday, October 5, 2014

Myths and Misconceptions About my Trip

Before my trip comes to an end, there are a few things I want to set straight.....some myth and misconceptions surrounding my trip. I have a list of memorable quotes from my trip that I will share at some point. They make for some great laughs! Other people are always fascinated to hear about my trip and the way they perceive what I'm doing fascinates me. They get fixated on details that I take for granted that don't seem to bother me, other times people's comments make me laugh, rarely do they offend me! However, before this trip comes to an end, I wanted to politely clarify and address some common myths and misconceptions regarding my trip.

You're really brave!....One tough young lady!
Brave, me?!?!? Growing up, I used to run down my hallway in socks passing all the enpty rooms on the way spooked that somebody or something would pop out at me. By the time I made it back to my room and returned to the family room, my heart was pounding and I was completely flustered. I don't consider myself brave at all, but I also don't like to live in fear! What fun is it to be afraid? I could easily spook myself out on this trip, camping alone in the forest, pitching my tent behind buildings not too far out of sight from people. Anyone could stop on the road in the middle of nowhere and do as they please with me. These thoughts have all crossed my mind of course, but briefly. Usually at the end of the day, I can hardly keep my eyes awake to look at the pictures I took that day, let alone worry about whether or not I hear an animal foraging in the bushes nearby. In fact, I'm no adamant on getting sleep, I wear ear plugs to bed at night. I don't want to know if something is going to come and get me, if they do, just let me sleep and rest until the very last moment possible, PLEASE!!!

Climbing a few of the rockies will help you get strong!

Instead of feeling scared and thinking that something could happen, I try to exude trust and respect to those around me and the people with whom I interact. I embrace an opportunity to meet new people, excited by what I might learn from them, gaining insight and perspective on life. Am I lucky that 99.9% of the people whom I've encountered on The Loong Way Home have been thoughtful, kind, and extremely generous? I don't think so! I give others the benefit of the doubt and think that other people naturally have good intentions. Am I innocent or naive?? Perhaps you might think so, how fun is it to live in a world filled with fear, threat, and suspicion?!?!

Sometimes you just gotta pretend to be tough!

Surely you must get lonely.....
Lonely? I don't have time to get lonely! Even on my longest days, after hours on end in the saddle pedaling I don't get bored. I never run out of things to think about or tired of sight seeing. My environment is constantly changing and so are my thoughts, which keep me stimulated and aware. I love being in motion! There is always something new and different to take in, observe, and reflect upon. Lots of times I think my brain is “off” and I look down at my bike computer and realize I've just gone 50 km without even realizing it! Do I remember what was going through my head? No! But just like that the time has gone by so quickly! When I stop for a break or to sight see, it's almost guaranteed that someone will approach me to ask a question and engage in conversation. In fact, I can almost predict who that someone will be and it happens in less than a minute out of the saddle. To tell you the truth, sometimes I could actually use a bit more alone time, which is why it is important to balance staying the night with a hosts and camping.

How many times was I the tourist attraction when I just wanted to see the real attraction like everyone else?
I really enjoy traveling on my own! At first, the idea of traveling solo made me feel foolish. Isn't there anyone who will go with me on my trip? But the deeper I got into the planning the more I realized that this was personal journey that I needed to do on my own. It was something intimate, my dream, my desires, and I wasn't going to let anyone stop me or change my course! At the end of this solo trip, I could easily see myself doing another trip similar to this, solo as well. If I find a partner in crime to join me, excellent, but I'm not going to stop doing what I love most just because no one will come with me! In fact, I would encourage everyone at some point in their life to travel solo. Do a weekend getaway alone, or an entire week-long trip, but take the time to be alone and get to know yourself. It's made me more confident, insightful, and happy.

One minute I'm eating my dumplings in peace, the next, there are people swarming asking me a million questions I can't understand!

You can't be over 30, right?
I think people assume I'm under thirty because of my “younger” looking appearance, my energy, and the fact that people over 30 surely don't quit their job to go bicycle around the world! When people want to know my age, I always preface my answer saying I look younger than I am. I'm flattered that I'm perceived to be youthful, really. In fact, I've even been called “kiddo” on this trip and not just once! My favorite comment about my age came from a bike mechanic back in Hobart, Tasmania. “What is this, like a gap year for you?” A gap year is what the Brits do after high school before entering university. I found his question to be quite funny, so I came up with an equally comical response. “I'd say it's more like a mid-life crisis without the husband, kids, car, or house!” Except, The Loong Way Home really ins't that either. I never had some big epiphany, nor did I wake up one morning and say, “That's it, I'm going to cycle around the world!” I knew I was getting really comfortable in Barcelona, which isn't a bad thing, but I felt like I was missing out on a world out there to explore and discover. I was itching for a change, trapped in my daily routine. I was antsy to do something drastically different. Surely people over the age of 30 are responsible and don't just quit their jobs?!?! I've always struggles with conforming to society's norm. I can only go with the flow so long before I have to break free. Does it make me irresponsible? Not really, it actually works in my favor, making people think I'm younger than I am. Thanks for the compliment!

And don't forget to  surround yourself by kids, they help keep you feeling young!

Ouch! Doesn't your bottom get sore?
Actually, no, not really! I have the most comfortable saddle in the world: a Brooks no less. They say there is a break in period with these leather beauties, but I bought mine, put it on, and cycled around Corsica, France for 10 days without having any problems. I've never really had any problems and the longer I sit on it the more comfy it becomes, my butt cheeks rest perfectly on the triangular shape. Sometimes I have to tighten the leather by turning an adjustment screw because it starts to sag over time, but my saddle is more comfortable than most chairs! I've never had saddle rash from my Brooks and only once do I remember a sore bum, but that was caused by a new pair of bike shorts rubbing rather than the seat. I sware by the Brooks saddle, it has been wonderful! Since it is leather, I protect it from the rain with a shower cap on top, that is the only real inconvenience I've experienced!

An up close look at my beautiful and comfy saddle!

I never understood those people who can just leave their job and go travel....Are you independently wealthy?
I love this comment and question! I take their comment with a grain of salt and respond jokingly saying that I work in an extremely lucrative profession, teaching! It's very fulfilling profession that doesn't necessarily fill the pocketbook. People make this comment almost with a bit of disgust or resentment. But as my Dad always says, life is a series of choices. You choose how to live your life and I enjoy simplicity and a minimalist style. I don't need any fancy amenities, travel and food are the extent of my purchases, that go above and beyond my basic needs. Before leaving on my trip, I was full time teaching putting in well over 40 hours a week at school plus working crazy hours teaching private classes before and after school. Thankfully I have a lot of energy and I could keep up this crazy schedule knowing that it was a means to an end to save as much as possible before I left. I don't have a car, no house, no debt, which makes dropping everything and leaving relatively easy. In the grand scheme of vacations and travel, bike touring is rather inexpensive. Other than plane tickets and bike mechanics, food was my greatest expense, but then again, I didn't want to survive off of bread and cheese pedaling around the world.

You must know a lot about bikes!
I wish!! If I did, wow, I'd be one hell of a bike tourer! Would you believe me if I told you I had never had a flat tire in my entire biking career before I set out for this trip? I've done gran fondos, half Ironmans, and Ironman always looking down at my tires, ing not to puncture! I practiced how to change a tire in my apartment, but that has nothing to do with being out on the road. The first time I got a flat tire, I was put to the test changing it in the middle of nowhere in China with no one to help me. Before I left for my trip, I had good intentions to learn the basics about bike mechanics. I became a member of a bike Co-Op in Barcelona, hoping that it would give me the practical knowledge I needed for my trip. However, at that time, I didn't have the interest or confidence that I needed to really get my hands dirty and dig in, I was intimidated and scared, too insecure to believe I could actually fix something on my bike. I counted on my nice character to help me out along the way. I'm great at diagnosing the problem, hearing a noise and finding where it comes from, but fixing it is a whole other story. However, in the last month, I've become much more confident and my skills have improved. Recently I changed out cables, a cassette, and my chain.

First flat tire of the trip
I met the most interesting mechanic the other day at a bike store in Olympia, Washington. He said, everyone is already 90% a bike mechanic, there is just another 10% you have to learn. I do understand what he means because tinkering with a bike is intuitive. It is all about creative problem solving, basic physics, and being a detective. But first, you have to want to learn. After pedaling 20,000 miles, I'm finally eager to take my bike apart and rebuild it, and learn all I can while adapting it just so to prepare it for another trip.

Are you doing this for a charity or to raise money or awareness?
Nope! I know that sounds selfish, right? That is exactly the point. I feel as if other people ask me trying to impose their opinion or make a statement that it isn't acceptable to do something just because it makes you feel good. Is it really that bad to put myself before others? Are they trying to make me feel guilty for not contributing or giving back to the bettering of a community?

Why do people think monetary donations are one of the only ways to give back to this world? Should I be riding for a cause or raising money for an organization? I got the charity question a lot in Australia and The United State and it made furious initially. When I said no, people looked at me with pity and sympathetically stated, “Oh, I see, are trying to find yourself!” I had to hold back my desire to laugh and instead I chuckled inside myself thinking, I found myself loong ago, don't you see? That's why I set out on my bike,.....because I do know myself well! I know what I like, what I enjoy doing, and I finally got the courage to just do it!

Specifically addressing the charity and fundraising issue, personally I think human interaction is priceless and many times more valuable than a monetary donation! You learn so much from other people and your contact with them. People I've met along the way say I'm an inspiration and admire me, which may be true, but the feeling is reciprocal. I can't even begin to tell you how I've changed and grown as a result of this trip and what I've learned from interacting with people from so many different countries and religions.

So you are going home right, settling down in Oregon? Or are you going back to Spain?
Where is the crystal ball?? I want to see what my future holds.....actually, I really don't, so please don't ask me! Even after 20,000 miles (30,000km) I still don't know where I'll end up! From the name of my trip it seems as though I would be going home and stay in Oregon. I call my trip The Loong Way Home so people automatically assume that I'm going home to be in Oregon when my trip finishes. Yes, I do want to spend some time at home visiting family and friends and enjoy some downtime, but I have a feeling after a few months I will be itching to set off again. Back to Barcelona? Barcelona actually feels more like home since I lived there for 11 years, but I also don't see myself staying there forever. I would love to use it as a home base before the following school year. Barcelona is an inviting place to be a tourist with sunny skies, delicious food, and an outdoor sport mecca. I could cycle to my heart's content, substitute teach, and visit friends, before going back to the “real world”. I warn you, don't take any of my plans for the near future seriously these days as my mind is scattered and all over the place as my trip winds down.

Starting to see signs for Oregon!!!!


  1. This was definitely my favorite post of yours! I literally just read every word out loud to Kevin cause we can both relate to every single thing you said! Saddle sores (or lack of), never getting lonely (when I was alone that is), independently wealthy (everyone is when you live on a bike!), no sponsors or charities... We are selfish too! Awesome post, fun to "connect" with other cyclists who think so similarity eve

    1. There is always a common understanding among tour cyclists, that is what I love the most in the this world and why I feel like I have an instant friend when I arrive at a warmshowers host. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. N if it's virtually! And the one difference was that people comment that "I'm too young to be doing this" so it seems no matter what you age people can't understand it! Happy trails, hope these last few weeks for you are wonderful!

    1. My last hosts were 73 years old! What an inspiration. When I grow up I want to be like them.

  3. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your insights and debunking so many myths. And maybe it will prevent so many questions when you do arrive. Looking forward to seeing you.

  4. Good post! I started making a list of FAQs a while back and your list is pretty much the same. I hate the charity question, only because people seem so disappointed and confused when I say no. I think bike touring is a funny and inefficient way to raise money for a charity, especially when those fundraising cyclists have large gas guzzling vehicles following them to and from their expensive hotels.

    I think I need to give the Brooks saddles another try!

    1. Really surprised you don't have a brooks saddle, it's like the cadillac of bikes, soooo comfy, your bum with thank you! I HATE the charity question, mostly because people underestimate the value of human interaction and think that money is the save-all solution!