“Your ar** is going to get so sore”– a concerned friend
A girl cycling on her own across a vast distance (a route of 7000km or so) isn’t something you hear every day. People usually have something to say about it.
Here are some of the textbook responses I get when I someone hears my plan.
1. “That’s a long way.”
Yes sir, it is. Thanks for letting me know!
The tone of voice attached to this particular comment comes in a wide range, from awed disbelief (“What! That’s so far! That’s amazing!”) to detached condesencion (“You know that’s a really long way, right?”).
The disbelief makes me smile, partly because that’s one of the exact reasons I love getting on my bike: it shows you that seemingly impossible distances don’t require a car, just a readjustment of time frames.
The condescension makes me laugh with disbelief of my own. Imagine being someone whose automatic assumption is that I haven’t really taken into account the distance involved in my meticulously planned dream trip.
2. “Aren’t You Scared?”
The frequency of this comment genuinely surprised me. Do people really think the world is that scary?
Honestly, no, I wasn’t. I usually respond with my own question: “Of what?”
People’s answers reveal much more about their own preconceptions than they do about reality.
Statistically, my biggest fear by far should be traffic, though that’s never what anyone is thinking about.
Our natural resistance to the different makes us think that any foreign land is full of bogeymen, but anyone who has spent time in more than one culture will tell you that people are pretty much the same all over the world.
The logical extension of this is that most places in the world are pretty safe, as long as you take the same precautions that you would at home (lock up your bike, stay out of bad areas at night).
Of course I have worst-case-scenarios in the back of my mind that bubble up unpleasantly sometimes, usually at night in my tent. But that’s where they stay: at the back of my mind.
3. “Why Don’t You Go With Someone?”
Amazingly, it was quite difficult to find someone else willing to take 4 months off work to get on a bike and cycle for several hours a day with me. In a foreign country. In a pandemic.
Aside from that, though, travel with partners can be really hard.
I like the self-sufficiency and freedom of solo travel, and was happy to make a trade-off for that with occassional loneliness. Though that can get hard too. I have started talking to my bike.
4. “Won’t You Get Tired/Bored?”
I assume you also get tired from working all day; going shopping; playing sports; raising kids.
Getting tired is no reason not to do something.
And getting bored? No way.
5. “You’ve got guts.”
Aw, thanks. Personally I don’t think it takes much guts to do what I’m doing. Anyone could do this, I feel like saying.
But the praise still makes me smile.
An Honourable Mention
After he thought for a minute, presumably imagining his own concerns were he doing the same thing, one friend simply said: “Your ar** is going to get so sore.”
I fell about laughing at the time, but bloody hell, was he right.