It’s spring again (in Armenia, at least – still snowing in England, I’ve heard)! The last of the ice melted away a couple of weeks ago, and all over the country grass and leaves are emerging from flower-beds and trees. Winter is finally behind me. Sitting in my standard-issue former-Soviet-Union flat, complete with regular water failures, no heating or gas, and dodgy wiring, I can relax.
Everything I need is right here – a small 2-burner stove, a bed with a couple of duvets to keep the cold away at night, a shower that half-works during selected hours of the day, and occasionally-running water to wash and cook with. My travels so far have taught me that I can be happy – happier than I’ve ever been – without all the material possessions and commodities that make life ‘easier’, thus characterising the ideas of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ in my previous life. I’m hoping to host as many travellers passing through Yerevan as I can accommodate over the next few weeks, having been inspired to do this by the countless people who have helped me on my travels so far. You can do this too, wherever you live, through the Couchsurfing website. It’s an adventure in itself.
I’ve rented this place for 2 months, because the path I’ve chosen to follow dictates that it makes sense to do so. Can I still be travelling without moving? I think I can! My targets for the time between now and the end of May are simple: earn some money to refill the coffers, find a bicycle for Tenny jan, get involved in life and environmental activities here in Yerevan, and prepare for the next chapter of my journey and my life. When I leave this city and this country, I will not be alone. I’ll be cycling onwards from Yerevan with a new companion, one whom I hope to share my future with; someone who shares my dreams and is open-minded and optimistic enough to make them happen.
In some ways, this will be a fresh start. It won’t resemble the idea that Ride Earth started out as, but that’s because things change, and something as fundamental to my life as travelling the world – the world! – should not be put in a box with a label on it. I remember back to Istanbul, where, as the autumn drew on and we waited in vain for bank cards to arrive (they arrived last week after 5 months in the post), Andy and I discussed the direction we’d head in after leaving the city. Would we go with the original plan to cycle directly to Iran, or remain true to form, throw preconcieved ideas out the window, and do something completely different?
We knew that taking the route through the Caucasus was going to test us. We knew that we weren’t prepared for a long, deep-winter journey through high mountains. And we knew that the Black Sea coast was going to be a tough ride. Despite all this, we did it, we ignored the people who told us every day that it was too cold or wet or hilly to cycle, and look at what it brought to us both, in terms of our individual lives and the expedition as a whole! If you travel with your eyes, ears and mind open and keep yourself receptive to opportunities, able to feel what is a good or bad road to take rather than striving blindly onwards come-what-may, anything can happen, and it probably will.
As a result of these lessons, I’m not afraid to say that I’ve met the love of my life. It’s the most significant thing that’s happened to me since I got on my bike and pedalled away from 10 Main Street, Middleton, without any idea what the world would throw at me, least of all falling in love with a girl who lived in a small, overlooked Near-Eastern country called Armenia! Back at the start of the trip, I was somehow terrified and impossibly excited at the same time. Now, I feel the same mixture of feelings once again. My life has opened out before me in yet another new direction, one in which for the first time I can see lifelong companionship and family and not be afraid. It’s impossible to describe how this feels. I feel as though I’ve taken a giant leap forward in life and accepted a brand new set of responsibilities that I’d always previously dismissed as ‘for the future’.
My cycling activities might now be confined to Armenia for a few weeks, but it won’t be long before we hit the road again in search of new lands and adventures. Maybe Andy and I will be heading in entirely opposite directions, or maybe we’ll follow the same route. All is not yet clear, but either way, our readers will have not one but two individual stories to follow and enjoy over the next few years.