We quit our jobs. We sold our clothes, possessions, computers and stereos. We shaved our heads, said goodbye to friends and families, got on our bikes and cycled off one Sunday afternoon with the mother of all hangovers.
We left everything we take for granted behind in pursuit of some endless quest for intrigue and adventure, some kind of idealistic mission to find meaning in the world. Now, 2 weeks after we left, how does reality stand up to the idea we spent so long preparing for?
Mind-blowing. Excruciating. Joyous. Frustrating. An immense mental challenge. The cycling is turning into the easy part. The decisions we have to make are more difficult – what food to buy, where to camp, which door to knock on for water? And the most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with so far is the gut-wrenching feeling of homesickness. I’ve never felt it like this before and I don’t like it. I know that I’ll see my friends and family again but it’s so far off!
I set off knowing that I was leaving behind a memory of Tom Allen at 23, embarking on a journey round a world he knew precious little about. I let go of opportunities and burgeoning friendships that can only continue, for the time being, in the intangible world of the internet and email.
We’re all in the same boat, feeling the same lost feeling and each dealing with it in our own way. The familiarity of this part of the world doesn’t help.
On the first night we found ourselves eating cheese and biscuits and drinking red wine with my primary school teacher from 18 years ago. Another morning, we ate scrambled eggs laid the day before by hens in the animal sanctuary we were camped at. We were given as many strawberries as we could carry, invited to sleep in a huge boat house, and given free entry to a summer festival in rural Belgium.
The homesickness is subsiding but the adventure has barely begun. I look forward to every day’s unpredictability – this is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done with my life. Let’s hope it continues that way.