Imagine leaving your house. It’s another winter’s day, the sky a malevolent grey. Up to ‑1°C from ‑7°C last night. That’s warm, you think. The streets are frozen; slick ice and hardpack underfoot, great mounds of ageing snow shoved casually beside the pavements and alleys. Your breath condenses in front of your face, your body warm from the toasty interior of your home. You’re standing by your front door, and you have the choice to go back inside.
Now, imagine carefully the following scenario. You are not allowed back inside. For a month. One entire month, day and night. There will be no more heat sources available to you. No electric kettles. No slippers, central heating, electric lighting, entertainment system, shower, washing machine, tumble-dryer, airing cupboard. You must now live outside.
By day, you will have to generate your own warmth, by constantly, constantly moving. Stop, and you will quickly freeze. Move too fast, and you’ll sweat. And then you’ll freeze. Get snowed on, wind in your face — deal with it. And at night — you’ll have to sleep in the knowledge that for your eight hours of unconsciousness, you’d better have prepared damn well for any change in weather or plummeting of temperature. For a month.
From tomorrow morning, this will be my world. I make it sound dramatic for a reason: It’s scary. Whether you’re a hardened bike adventurer or not, it’s a daunting prospect. I’m scared.
Not of tomorrow itself, but of what it means to begin this thing. What of the day my thermometer bottoms out and I can’t see my hand in front of my face? It might not happen. I may never write that story, and still have a blast. Chances are I’ll go indoors occasionally, to buy food or (fingers crossed) to accept an overnight invitation. But up there, on the unpopulated inland plateaus above the Arctic Circle where I’ve set my bearings, the extremes of weather are real and very, very well worth taking seriously.
It’s started snowing outside. I’ll be making fresh tracks tomorrow. And if I’m scared of what I’m about to do, then it’s probably something worth doing. A life without risk, it is wisely said, is no life at all.