New starts

Every so often we start another journey. Indeed, embarking on my trip of a lifetime was a whole new experience, mentally as well as physically. It was a slowing down from a life lived in the fast lane to a new speed. I was now travelling at 15mph. Taking time to see better what was around me, living a day to day life rather than one ruled by diaries and appointments, finding space to think, reflect and just be.

I wrote my last blog noting that for a while- as I was now caring for my moma- life was in a bit of a pause. I was unable to travel far yet this was a major journey. It was a very precious time and one in which I continued to learn so much. Just as I have no regrets on leaving the rat race I also feel privileged to have been able to be here as I was needed. My mom sadly passed away at the end of 2015.

Now, a few months into 2016 I’m starting to look at what next. John, my cycle buddy and fabulous friend came to help me in the past year and we are now looking to set up our own business and move on. I’m currently writing a book of my experiences and starting to share tales from our journey at a variety of clubs and events. I’m also hoping to bring together both business and enterprise experience and cycle tour learnings through inspiring presentations.

John and I started our trip as strangers and we’re now embarking on new adventures as the best of friends. I hope we may also get a few trips away on the bike.

I’ll be back updating my blog and while I’m not currently out cycling the globe I hope you’ll continue to take an interest.

Pause

image

There are many situations in undertaking a long trip on a bike when we have to pause. They may be brief stops while undertaking bike repairs, becoming ill or waiting in relation to VISAs. We were lucky as we toured. Our ride was rarely halted while we were out of the UK. We had just the odd day of sqiffy tums, a day waiting just before a border in Thailand and time waiting on train bookings while in India.

However, our trip overall was built around pauses. Unfortunately my mom’s cancer diagnosis meant John and I came home every five months or so to ensure valuable family time wasn’t lost and neither too was our opportunity for the ride of a lifetime. As it turned out it was a great way to travel. As well as having more valuable time with family and friends, thereby sharing more of our experiences, it also meant we never took our trip for granted.

Right now the pause is bigger than ever. This is not just a pause from riding. It’s a pause from life…of a kind. John and I are both now full time carers for my moma. While this is a tough time it is also one full of richness, patience and love. It’s a pause from life in the sense that dreams and goals I have may be put on hold but in essence a reminder of the very fragility of human existence, the importance of achieving goals when you are able and the absolute value of family and friends.

I’ve learnt a lot while I was riding but boy, I’m learning an awful lot now. Take time to pause. Tell people you love them. Live life to the full but don’t be too busy just doing. Sometimes you just have to be.

Live your dream

Last time published a blog it was December 7th. My moma had just taken a turn for the worst and I had just arrived backing the Midlands, coming back earlier than anticipated for Christmas. On December 8th, following a visit from two lovely McMillan nurses she was admitted as an emergency into hospital. It was a big shock to us both and as a few weeks passed I was upset to think she was going to be in hospital over Christmas.

As it turned out I was chuffed to bits. Her kidneys failed on the 15th December and doctors were unsure she would pull through. After a sleepless night and many tears she made it. I noted this would be a difficult journey and following this night my perspective changed. Every day was a bonus; a moment to cherish. I was so happy to celebrate her 73rd birthday and Christmas – even it it was around a hospital bed.

Mom was finally discharged on the 7th January and by now John, my cycle buddy, had arrived to give me a hand.

As we travelled we were constantly on the move, rarely staying at the same place for more than a night. We were shown incredible kindness by strangers and we always encouraged others to live their dreams. Right now we couldn’t be in a more different situation. Mom is home but bed bound so getting out is tough. Thankfully it’s now the kindness of family and friends helping us through and a real positive for me to come from this experience is this affirmation of their importance. Their calls, visits and love mean the world. Everyone has been amazing and as my cycle buddy John continues to be here at my moms providing both company and practical support I don’t know what I’d do without him.

I look forward to a time when I can ride again but right now I wouldn’t be anywhere else and if there is ever a strong reminder this is it :

ONE LIFE. ONE OPPORTUNITY.

Have no regrets and don’t put off living your dreams.

Being home

I haven’t blogged for a while. Quite frankly I’ve not known what to say. Having flown home at the end of September my global bike trip ended. While I’d shed a tear on realising I would have to head home slightly earlier than anticipated I thought I was ready. Well, as ready as one can ever be. Were money no constraints I would still be on my bike. But it is, and I’m not.

This was how this blog continued as I wrote back in October.

There are reasons of course why being home is good and spending proper time with family and friends is of course too of this list but it’s also hard, and I’m struggling. I can’t move home properly until mid November when tenants move out of my flat. In the meantime, I’m staying with my ma.

She’s not felt so well this week, crippled with back pain and as I spent time preparing for a job interview I was finding myself becoming increasingly stressed. Nothing quite prepares you for parents getting older, roles twisting on their head while we all also just try to get on. Lacking in personal space and getting more and more tired as I stay up till the early hours…when my quiet time exists.

I didn’t finish or publish this update and it’s now December 6th. I returned to Edinburgh on 12th November, excited to see friends, my flat and Edinburgh, the beautiful city I am lucky to call home. John, my cycle buddy came too and it was brilliant to have his help and of course, his company. Sadly, he was finding the transition with being back really tough and after a few days he headed home. I was really worried.

Back in Edinburgh I had packing and unpacking to do as well as small DIY tasks to prepare my flat for sale. I was making good progress and while still unsure of exactly what I was doing next I was enjoying seeing friends and being home even if I was planning to move. Thankfully I had pushed on as just a few weeks later I am heading back to my ma’s. She is really unwell.

Nothing ever prepares you for these times. All we can do is be there and thankfully I am in a position where I have this time and flexibility. The bike tour seems much further in the past than the end of September and while gutted it had to end I am so pleased I am now here. The transition to “normality” after such an adventure was always going to hard but with such uncertainty and emotional ups and downs the next few months could be the toughest part of the journey.

The last few km

We have just 24km to go until we reach our final destination which will now be Kusadasi and it feels very very weird.

Having decided to end our trip slightly earlier than anticipated my feelings are in a real mix. I have loved riding and travel over the past two years yet already my thoughts are now on what next?

Right now I’m looking at jobs, dates and planning returning to my flat which I have only seen on brief visits in the past two years. I’m excited about being home with family and friends much closer yet thinking it will be weird not to be with my cycling buddy. I’ve ridden over 30, 000km but I’m looking forward to getting fit again and losing weight. Ironically, not being in control of your own diet so much means the additional bonus of losing a few pounds has not quite been realised.

To date, while we have been back to the UK a few times we have always still had the next tour in the diary. This time the next big date in my diary will be my 40th birthday and with a few months still to go between now and then, who knows exactly what I’ll be doing.

image

There are exciting ideas and a different “to do” list is emerging. First, I’m just waiting to find out if I’ll be living in the UK or an independent Scotland. These really are interesting times.

Coming home

And so the time to end our cycle tour has arrived.

Despite planning to ride home for Christmas all the way from Turkey we have unfortunately decided it was time to revise our plans. Thankfully, this was a decision we could make and not something we had to do due to issues back home. Given the way our dreams to bike the globe started we are both so pleased to have got this far and even more happy that family health issues are “stable”.

We didn’t know each other when we set off, having met just three times before flying out to Seattle. Quite honestly, the trip could well have been cut short much more quickly had we not got on. Fortunately, while quite different in many ways, we seem to make a good team. I’m sure we will now be friends for life.

The opportunity to travel, particularly by bicycle, is so much more than just a journey by way of distance. Slowing down, taking time and not simply rushing past all that we see is sadly, something few of us are able to do. My diary was always full and while for me, I would rather that than simply wasting away on the sofa, I do think I will return with a different perspective.

Travel, and the ability to take time out of “normal” life is truly a phenomenal experience. It provides space to reflect, a different scene to peruse and provides an entirely new pair of glasses through which one then views home, life and the rest of the world. We only ever seem to read bad news – it’s the negative stories that make the press. We were always asked if we felt safe and while perhaps we have been lucky, it is the kindness of complete strangers throughout the world that I will never forget.

The strapline for my blog, and indeed the title of the book I plan to continue writing on my return is “The world at 15mph” and while I’m aware I’ll need to speed up a little I will never forget that in one of my favourite sections of our tour we barely reached 4mph! Before starting this ride I was always looking for the next thing and, given it’s certainly part of my nature, I’m sure I’ll always be a bit like that but I hope I have learnt to be more in the here and now.

image

Cycle touring is not all about the destination and neither is is life. We don’t know what’s at the end but we can take time to enjoy the present. Neither of us know exactly what will happen next but then we didn’t know how the last two years would go either and it seemed to go ok….

image

30, 000km.

As we cycled into Konya, Central Turkey yesterday we celebrated as we reached another momentus milestone….we had reached 30,000km. Arriving a day earlier than expected we had also ridden 100 miles with full panniers and camp  gear. It was certainly not intentional – there just wasn’t anywhere to stay on route. While the scenery itself was quite uneventful and there were regular overbearing smells of roadkill we still had big smiles.

So, for this blog I have decided to do a wee trip down memory lane with a few key photos and highlights from our trip so far….hope you enjoy it. There’s a few pics in this one too.

On July 7th 2012 we flew to Seattle. John, my cycle buddy, and I had only met three times before so this would be a relatively easy ride down the coast to San Francisco.  The Oregon coast line was stunning, they made some great ale and we made a new friend, Tom, who would ride with us much of the way. We were pretty chuffed when we arrived at the Golden Gate bridge. John had never cycle toured before and we got on OK. Result.

image

image

With Japan as our next destination the challenges would increase as language and map reading would prove interesting. Still, we embraced the culture staying in traditional ryokans and love hotels and tried most of the available pot noodles. A fascinating trip all be it very hot, humid and hilly.

image

image

However, it was our next trip into Nepal that would be our biggest challenge of all. We were taking our touring bikes and panniers around the Annapurna trek route. No tarmac and still the end of the monsoon season. We edged along cliffs, went through rivers and waterfalls and crossed many a precarious bridge. Eventually we arrived at the mountain pass at Throng-la, 5416m. This was not for the faint hearted….or those afraid of heights…ie me.

image

image

Landslides

image

Waterfall

image

image

Heading over the pass

image

Thorong la

From Nepal we cycled over the border into India riding mostly in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I love the colours, history and food of India – a country I had visited twice before. Soon we learnt the rules of the road ie biggest and loudest wins and we became accustomed to chai drinking with crowds of locals.

image

This was the end of our first five month tour…next Africa. We were joining a group trip from Cairo to Capetown. It took me a while to adjust to losing my independence though having decided this trip was just different I eventually settled in. Run by Tour D’Afrique the trip also ran as a race and I eventually won a day…on the last day of road riding! Despite having to bus through Kenya given elections and taking a few days off from exhaustion this was a phenomenal ride. Along with the wildlife highlights included sandstorms in Sudan and riding naked for a day in Namibia. What a giggle. If only the kids in Ethiopia didn’t throw rocks!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Our third trip would take us to South East Asia though first we decided to ride through France and Italy to avoid the monsoon period. Leaving Epernay we rode over the Alps to San Foca in Southern Italy. On the way we would watch the Tour despite France on Alpe d’huez…obviously we had to ride it to. We were joined by Thijs, one of our fellow riders from Africa.

image

image

image

Soon we were in Singapore and had a route planned through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and back to Thailand. With shorter visas than anticipated and roads lost to landslides our plans constantly changed….but that’s the beauty of cycle touring.

image

image

image

image

Our fourth tour took us to New Zealand and Australia. We caught up with many friends – old and new – and enjoyed incredible rides and views. While the drivers were not so pleased to see us we were treated warmly by many. We both missed history yet the fact that these countries are much newer to habitation (aside from much earlier Aboriginal settlement) is what keeps the landscape more unspoiled.

image

image

image

image

While Australia was not my favourite country to ride the site at Uluru was mind blowing.

We’re on our last trip now…riding home from Turkey back to the UK.

image

image

The hospitality has been so humbling and Turkey really is a joy.

I have many memories and stories from the ride so far, thousands of photos to sift and new friends too. Here’s hoping the last 6,000 or so km will be just as much fun.

Here is one last pic….what a day this was….riding naked in Namibia!

image

A big thank you for all your support and encouragement so far. It means so much.
x

30, 000km.

As we cycled into Konya, Central Turkey yesterday we celebrated as we reached another momentus milestone….we had reached 30,000km. Arriving a day earlier than expected we had also ridden 100 miles with full panniers and camp  gear. It was certainly not intentional – there just wasn’t anywhere to stay on route. While the scenery itself was quite uneventful and there were regular overbearing smells of roadkill we still had big smiles.

So, for this blog I have decided to do a wee trip down memory lane with a few key photos and highlights from our trip so far….hope you enjoy it. There’s a few pics in this one too.

On July 7th 2012 we flew to Seattle. John, my cycle buddy, and I had only met three times before so this would be a relatively easy ride down the coast to San Francisco.  The Oregon coast line was stunning, they made some great ale and we made a new friend, Tom, who would ride with us much of the way. We were pretty chuffed when we arrived at the Golden Gate bridge. John had never cycle toured before and we got on OK. Result.

image

image

With Japan as our next destination the challenges would increase as language and map reading would prove interesting. Still, we embraced the culture staying in traditional ryokans and love hotels and tried most of the available pot noodles. A fascinating trip all be it very hot, humid and hilly.

image

image

However, it was our next trip into Nepal that would be our biggest challenge of all. We were taking our touring bikes and panniers around the Annapurna trek route. No tarmac and still the end of the monsoon season. We edged along cliffs, went through rivers and waterfalls and crossed many a precarious bridge. Eventually we arrived at the mountain pass at Throng-la, 5416m. This was not for the faint hearted….or those afraid of heights…ie me.

image

image

Landslides

image

Waterfall

image

image

Heading over the pass

image

Thorong la

From Nepal we cycled over the border into India riding mostly in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I love the colours, history and food of India – a country I had visited twice before. Soon we learnt the rules of the road ie biggest and loudest wins and we became accustomed to chai drinking with crowds of locals.

image

This was the end of our first five month tour…next Africa. We were joining a group trip from Cairo to Capetown. It took me a while to adjust to losing my independence though having decided this trip was just different I eventually settled in. Run by Tour D’Afrique the trip also ran as a race and I eventually won a day…on the last day of road riding! Despite having to bus through Kenya given elections and taking a few days off from exhaustion this was a phenomenal ride. Along with the wildlife highlights included sandstorms in Sudan and riding naked for a day in Namibia. What a giggle. If only the kids in Ethiopia didn’t throw rocks!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Our third trip would take us to South East Asia though first we decided to ride through France and Italy to avoid the monsoon period. Leaving Epernay we rode over the Alps to San Foca in Southern Italy. On the way we would watch the Tour despite France on Alpe d’huez…obviously we had to ride it to. We were joined by Thijs, one of our fellow riders from Africa.

image

image

image

Soon we were in Singapore and had a route planned through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and back to Thailand. With shorter visas than anticipated and roads lost to landslides our plans constantly changed….but that’s the beauty of cycle touring.

image

image

image

image

Our fourth tour took us to New Zealand and Australia. We caught up with many friends – old and new – and enjoyed incredible rides and views. While the drivers were not so pleased to see us we were treated warmly by many. We both missed history yet the fact that these countries are much newer to habitation (aside from much earlier Aboriginal settlement) is what keeps the landscape more unspoiled.

image

image

image

image

While Australia was not my favourite country to ride the site at Uluru was mind blowing.

We’re on our last trip now…riding home from Turkey back to the UK.

image

image

The hospitality has been so humbling and Turkey really is a joy.

I have many memories and stories from the ride so far, thousands of photos to sift and new friends too. Here’s hoping the last 6,000 or so km will be just as much fun.

Here is one last pic….what a day this was….riding naked in Namibia!

image

A big thank you for all your support and encouragement so far. It means so much.
x

Flags, pride and independence?

Depicting a white crescent moon and star on a red background the Turkish flag is everywhere. Turkey is a proud nation though I would say it’s also not the only flag adorned place we have ridden through. Thailand, Malaysia, the USA and closer to home, Denmark, all show off their colours.

image

Back home the story is much more complex. We are a nation comprised of four countries with a population made up of individuals from all over the globe. We have our own traditions and have also accepted and shown tolerance for the beliefs and customs of others. I’m proud to live in a country like that yet I would be much more hesitant to hoist a flag. Sadly being proud to be British has been overtaken by the far right and flags only really seem to fly when there’s a football game on.

I am English, living in Scotland and right now the debate on whether Scotland should be independent dominates news and discussion. I’m really proud to live in Scotland. It’s such a beautiful country – rugged landscapes, dramatic scenery and buildings and history some of which of course is linked to previous battles on the ownership of land.

Many people are still debating on which way to vote. Some will of course go with their heart regardless of outcome – this is a chance they have been waiting on for a long time. For me, my head would tell me that economically there still need to be much more clarification and that unity is a better proposition. There are just too many unknowns. I am course also fully aware that I am English and in my mind that’s also equal to being British.

However….putting the unknowns to one side there is a strong part of me – a very strong part – that sees the potential for a more social and environmental vision, much more akin to the community I prefer and I can’t help feeling that this vote is also a real opportunity.  In addition to feeling there are too many unanswered questions, I fear for society outside of Scotland should it’s balance in UK politics be lost and I care greatly about this too. This is not just a debate for Scotland and I want the social and environmental vision of Scotland to be UK wide.

Only time will tell whether we are counting the cost of independence or regretting an opportunity to work towards a country with a greater vision for equality and a greater respect for it’s environment. Whichever way it goes I’ll still be proud to be English, proud to be British and proud to live in Scotland though I still won’t feel comfortable flying any of the flags and I can’t help feeling that’s sometimes just a little sad.

Hospitali-tea.

Have a cup of tea…have another one….love -er-ly cup of tea.

Oh my. I have never, ever known such hospitality. I really am turning down cups of tea.

My relationship with tea goes back a long time. I’m sure I probably even had tea in my bottle as a baby. My gran always had the kettle on and the teapot was always ready to be poured. While my day may start with a wee tipple from a coffee bean, once mid morning arrives you will never see me turn down a cuppa. In fact my tea drinking has even earned me the nickname “nanna Nao” after I shockingly turned down watching the rugby with a beer for a nice cup of earl grey. I’ve sampled tea in Darjeeling, tried the Ceylon in Sri Lanka and of course, have been to the obligatory tea ceremony while in China but I have never been “tea-ed out” until this current trip to Turkey.

While many will often think of raki (that clear aniseed headache inducer that tastes okay when you drink it here) as a key Turkish tipple it pails into insignificance compared the the social aspects of a Turkish cay (chay). Served black in small glass tumblers they drink it by the bucket load.

Since leaving Trabzon the welcome we have received here has been phenomenal. On our toughest ride day we were offered chay ….twice, bought lunch and were then bought dinner. We have stopped in shops that have not charged us, been invited into people’s homes and of course, get beeps and thumbs up while cycling along. This generosity to two strangers on bikes continues to overwhelm us and despite reading such awful stories in the  news it restores one’s faith in human nature.

image

So, we have actually now turned down tea. If we stopped at every invite we would never make it home for Christmas. We are often asked if we feel safe. Actually, we mostly feel humble.

Thank you Turkey. Your kindness is truly incredible.