When I left home in 2007, it was simple. I had 700 Euros stashed in my luggage, a current account containing £3700 GBP with a Visa Debit card to get at it, and a couple of emergency credit cards. I’d be as stingy as possible, because it wasn’t much! But it was all I had, and I aimed to make it home before I was in the red.
Now, my bank balance is actually higher than it was when I left.
I’m going to share with you some of the ideas I’ve learnt from others and put into practice myself in order to do this, lest you depart on a long, open-ended journey believing that your finances are limited to what you set out with.
Last week I travelled to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to meet Andy for a few days of mountain-biking in the Caucasus mountains to the north of the city.
Andy told me that many people outside the country still think it must be a ‘warzone’. This is probably due to the monumental fuss made by the international media over an incident last year which has become known as the 2008 South Ossetia war. The reality of this war was a few days of localised conflict on the borders of a region which has been fighting for independence for nearly twenty years, but this didn’t stop it being portrayed as the closest thing to World War III (with a good deal of anti-Russian spin for good measure).
Today, a tentative peace prevails. Ethnic groups arbitrarily united and divided by newly-drawn borders still struggle to accept their neighbours and find justice for past wrongs done against them, but it seems that most people would rather harbour their resentments and get on with the business of eating, drinking, working and having families.
We headed out of Tbilisi — me, Andy and his Georgian mountain-biking friend Dato — towards Zhinvali and the small mountain villages of Georgia; square, tin-roofed, wide-terraced houses of bleached wood and crumbling concrete. Vines pulsed with ripe grapes, chickens, calves and sows roamed the little pot-holed tracks, and the trees were just beginning to dust the ground with the oranges and browns of autumn. It was our last chance to go and explore these high, remote valleys before the onset of the harsh Caucasian winter that Andy and I knew all too well.
Travel offers enviable opportunities for developing creative skills such as photography. I’ve enjoyed taking these shots immensely, and I hope you enjoy viewing this whittled-down selection of what I think are my best snaps of all.
On Saturday the 19th of September Tenny and I were married in a small wedding ceremony in Yerevan. We had made a surprise arrival at the church on Armenia’s one and only cycle rickshaw with an entourage of bicycle activists leading and following us through the main streets of the city. After the ceremony we were back in the rickshaw for a few customary laps of Republic Square, before heading to the reception in a quiet part of town overlooking the city.
Every couple of months sees the announcement of yet another heroic long-distance solo bicycleodyssey, pitting man against the elements across the world’s great landmasses for months or years on end. Each of these projects is a noble one. Undoubtedly they will involve huge personal challenges — mental far more than physical. These riders are often setting themselves targets they don’t understand themselves. Three years ago, I was in exactly the same situation myself!
But as far as their audience is concerned — the liberal, intellectual, active, environmentally-aware crowd to whom they reach out for support — it’s old news.