A little something for your listening pleasure this Thursday evening, now the nights are drawing in and those epic evening bike rides aren’t quite so tempting. (I apologise awfully, as always, to any alienated anti-autumnal Antipodeans. And also to any alliteration-averse Aussies.)
Today’s article comes from Alex Gandy, who just six months ago began cycling east (hence the title of his blog) from Istanbul. Half a year after taking the plunge, he’d like to share a few lessons from the open road, direct to you from a smoky internet cafe in downtown Dushanbe…
Compressing life down into what you can fit onto a bicycle has the remarkable ability to de-clutter.
Camping gear, clothes, food and water, some cash and maybe a few luxuries is as much as anyone would ever want to drag up a hill. With just the necessities, life becomes very simple. Just me, the outdoors, whatever road I choose to ride, and an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful roadside strangers for entertainment.
And then there’s the act of riding a bicycle itself, which always feels like much more than just an exploratory aide. Rolling slowly through a country, watching the scenery slip past to the rhythm of drawing breath and spinning pedals, focusses the mind on things that might have otherwise been a blur. Borders and cultures seem to blend, and the slower I go the more encounters decorate my days.
Each person I meet leaves a part of themselves impressed upon me, and I’ve grown to love learning from the spontaneous acts of kindness which crop up during my days on the road. I’ve been overwhelmed by peoples’ generosity. They’ve insisted on paying for meals, given me tours of their towns, offered their homes to sleep in, and repeatedly gone out of their way to ensure that my time in their country is as enjoyable and memorable as possible.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly six months since my wheels first rolled out of Istanbul and I began my bicycle journey across Asia. So much has happened since those first few pedal strokes that it’s impossible for me to sum events up in a brief update.
The odds had been stacked against me since birth. Always the outsider at school. Rubbish at teamwork as a student. Ditched by my cycling partner a few months into a round-the-world bicycle trip (which incidentally kicked off this blog 7 years ago).
In my mid-twenties I took a giant leap, compromising my personal freedom as a bicycle-mounted vagabond in the hope of something better: I got married. Some supposed this meant I would become a responsible adult and get a real job too.
But the career, mortgage and fixed abode remained artifacts of a lifestyle lived only by others. Instead, I gambled it all on telling a story. I blew my life savings spending two years writing a 100,000-word book, honing a single 79-minute piece of film to perfection, and learning all I could about publishing, distribution, and eventually entrepreneurship, for a small business is what it became.
As the Janapar: Love on a Bike project entered its third year, I was further from the conventional life formula than ever.
And this was still the case until a few weeks ago.
The video above was filmed on the 1st of July this year; six months to the day after I made a New Year’s Resolution to become fluent in Farsi in a year.
این فیلم اول ژوئیه ساخته شد، دقیقاً شش ماه بعد از اینکه قول دادم در مدت یک سال فارسی یاد بگیرم.
If you’ve read the original series of blog posts, you’ll remember that I was starting pretty much from scratch. I knew most of the alphabet and could get through a few basic greetings, but not much else.
اگر مقالههای اصلی مرا خواندهاید، یادتان خواهد آمد که تقریباً از ابتدایی داشتم شروع میکردم. تقریباً همه الفبا را میدانستم، و از بر چند جملۀ ساده میتونستم بر بیام، ولی بیشتر نه.
You’ll also remember that I am one of those people who have always claimed to be “crap at languages”, but that I felt it was time to stop ignoring the real reason I’d never mastered one: a deep fear of failure and ridicule. I could speak English perfectly well, after all — what was really stopping me?
همچنین یادتان خواهد آمد که من یکی از کسهایی هستم که همیشه میگویند «در زبانهای خارجی بدم»، اما احساس کردم وقتش است به این فکر پایان بدم و قبول کنم که دلیل اصلی وارد نبودن من در یک زبان دیگر، ترس از شکست و مورد خنده قرار گرفتن است. در هر صورت در زبان خودم عالی بودم، پس واقعاً چه چیزی مرا باز میداشت؟
Through language learning I wanted to surmount this personal obstacle, which would also open up doors for my next journey. There’s no better way (other than being open and friendly) to get under the skin of the place you’re travelling through than knowing the local language.
از طریق زبان یاد گرفتن میخواستم به این مانع قلبه کنم، که همچنین دست یافتی برای سفر بعدی من میشد. بهترین طریق شناختن یک کشور جدید در زمان مسافرت، دانستن زبان محلی آنجاست.
If you are not familiar with the Persian language, it’s spoken by a hundred million people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as in parts of surrounding Central Asian nations, and of course in the substantial Iranian diaspora the world over.
اگر فارسی بهتان آشنا نیست، صد میلیون نفر در ایران، افغانستان و تاجیکستان فارسی صحبت میکنند، همچنین در بعضی از قسمتهای کشورهای همسایه، و در جماعت مهاجران ایرانی.
Why would I particularly want to learn Persian, though? Have a read of Week 1’s post, in which all is explained.
ولی چرا میخواهم فارسی یاد بگیرم؟ مقاله هفته اول مرا بخوانید، در آن توضیح داده شده است.
This video does not show me being fluent. It shows me as I was at the half-way mark of this mission, muddling through an unplanned 5‑minute conversation with my Iranian friend Saba. It’s full of mistakes and pauses, but it was a natural conversation nonetheless, and no struggle compared to my daily experience during the two months I spent in Iran earlier this year (trip report coming… one day… perhaps).
این فیلم نشان نمیدهد که من در فارسی روان هستم. نشان میدهد که من دقیقاٌ در وسط این تکلیف بودم، در حال مکالمۀ بدون برنامۀ پنج دقیقهای و در هم و بر هم با دوست ایرانیم صبا. پر از غلط و وقفه است، ولی یک گقتگوی طبیعی بود، و اصلاٌ در مقایسه با تجربۀ روزانۀ من در دو ماه اول این سال که در ایران گذراندم، مشکل نبود.
Why am I posting a video that 99% of readers cannot understand? I confess that it is for utterly selfish reasons. You see, at the beginning of this year I made a public commitment to this language-learning mission. It would be a new chapter in the exploration of the art of journeymaking that runs through all of this blog.
چرا دارم یک فیلم که نود و نه در صد خوانندهها نمیتوانند بفهمند منتشر میکنم؟ من اعتراف میکنم که کاملاً برای دلایل خودخواهانه است. در آغاز امسال عهد کردم که این زبان را یاد بگیرم. یک فصل جدید در داستان مسافرتهای من خواهد بود.
But I am in need of a proper kick up the backside. I’ve been procrastinating badly, having reached a plateau at an intermediate level of Persian, and my learning efforts have dropped off over the summer. But being held to account externally is one of the best motivators there is. And so this is a public renewal of those original vows I made on January 1st.
ولی یک کم کمک لازم دارم. دارم وقت میگذرانم. فارسیم هنوز در حالت متوسط است، و در تابستان کم آموخته ام. ولی انتضار مردم از من برای انگیزه گرفتن عالی است. پس این تجدید دوبارۀ وعدۀ من است، همانطور که در اول ژانویه دادم.
Motivation to accomplish something daunting is created very effectively by introducing accountability. You don’t need a blog like mine to do it; you could just tell everyone you know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it by, and you have immediately gathered a crowd who will hold you to account. It’s scary. But it’s extremely effective.
اگر در انجام کاری ترس دارید، میتوانید انگیزه بگیرید با جوابگو بودن نه فقط به خودتان. بلاگ مثل من لازم ندارید؛ فقط به همه بگویید چه کار میکنید و تا کی، و بلافاصله جمعیتی کافی خواهید داشت که بهشان جوابگو باشید. ترسناک است، ولی بسیار مؤثر.
It was in the summer of 2006 that I told my friends and family that I was going to cycle round the world, and on June 17th 2007 I set off on the ride that changed my life. The public commitment got me over all of the hurdles between the original idea and the all-important starting line — even though what happened next was entirely different to what I’d planned.
در تابستان ۲۰۰۶ بود که به همه دوستان و خانوادهام گفتم که دور دنیا دوچرخه سواری خواهم کرد، و در هفدهم ژوئیه ۲۰۰۷ به راه افتادم که زندگی مرا تغییر داد. تعهد من به مردم باعث شروع سفرم شد، حتی اگر اتفاقات بعدی کاملاً با برنامههایم متفاوت بود.
We all have hurdles to leap between where we are and where we want to be. What’s yours? Could you create accountability for yourself by going public with your plans?