Editor’s note: It’s great to have a peek into Al’s adventures. I got to know him briefly while we were both traveling the world by bicycle. There were very few of us back then attempting a global circumnavigation by bike. Even though we both did a similar thing, it is amazing how different his journey was.
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step out onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.Bilbo Baggins
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.Goethe
I would never have learned backgammon at a pavement café in Amman. I would never have drunk ‘tej’, Ethiopian mead, from a vase flask in a dim drinking den. I would never have heaved the helm of a yacht to run down the face of an Atlantic wave along the silver path of a full moon. I would never have camped beside the Straits of Magellan or on the banks of the Yukon. I would never have had my beard entombed in Siberian ice, eaten octopus in Tokyo or sat humbled in Samarkand’s Registan. I would never have ridden around the planet if I had not taken the hardest journey of all: stepping out of my front door and beginning the ride.
Over the last four years, I have pedaled, mostly alone, 45000 miles across 5 continents. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. The thrill of new experiences was tempered by numbing boredom and loneliness. The challenge of solo travel fought my lazy streak of dreaming of sofas and cappuccinos. Third World slums terrified me and then surprised me with gestures of welcome; I learned that everyone on earth laughs at something funny. Being totally fit, riding hard but comfortably over 4500m Andean passes with all your worldly possessions in a few small bags, no deadline to make, and no persistent phone demanding your attention: the vast freedom of a long adventure and the privilege of time and space to evaluate what is and what is not really important in life are the things I appreciate most from my adventure. I never thought when I began my ride that I would actually succeed. The essence for me was not whether I succeeded in the end. It was that I turned a dusty daydream into a reality and reaped the rewards from taking time out from our hectic 21st Century whirlwind to smell the roses, smell the coffee, smell the stinking industrial wastelands, smell our amazing world. In our era of email and Chinese takeaways, we glibly say that the world is a small place. That is nonsense: The world is enormous; certainly too big for a single lifetime.
I am fortunate that I took the chance to see a small part of it. With the journey done and only the memories remaining, I can also appreciate that ‘the end of all our exploring is to arrive where we started, and to know the place for the first time.’
Support Alastair by visiting his website or donating to his charity.
http://www.justgiving.com/roundtheworld. Update: This website appears to be archived.