There are, broadly speaking, two categories of Big Adventure.
Category One is the “blank slate” journey. It begins with a wholesome hatred of present circumstances; an acknowledgement of the stagantion of the protagonist’s life. This loathing catalyses a full-bodied response: burn each and every bridge, dispose of all tangible reminders thereof, and bugger off into the sunset. The desire never to be seen or heard of again is strong, and few concessions will have been made. And there is absolutely, definitely, no plan whatsoever to return. This is a fresh start. A blank slate.
Category Two is the “life on hold” journey. It is more likely to stem from an shortfall of adventure and risk and variety; a growing itch that cannot be conventionally scratched. A great deal of thought and planning is involved, because there are many things at stake here which will not go meekly to sacrifice. Primary amongst the budding adventurer’s concerns is the idea of the future; that the many things they do value will remain in place during and after the much-dreamed-of journey of a lifetime. Thus, the build up to eventual departure — to putting life on hold — is long and fraught.
- Once begun, all these trips will have far more in common than not. That’s regardless of motivation for leaving, and is true simply because life on the road has far more to do with the nature of the world than of the incidentals of the person subjected to its whim. Advice on the nuts and bolts of travel is broadly the same for all.
- The chances of Category One journeys reaching the starting line are far higher those of Category Two. This is because people of the former ilk have nothing to lose, and so there is no “should I”, just an absolute imperative to leave as soon as possible. Those of the latter, however, face a stressful and complicated series of obstacles to overcome.
- There are far more people in Category Two than Category One. Most of us are more likely to feel a nagging sense of missing out than a raging anxiety of discontent, because most of us don’t hate our lives entirely, rather just irritated by certain elements and disappointed by the absence of others.
It follows that there are a lot more people tied up in the seeming impossibility of launching their dream trip than people who’ve cut ruthlessly loose from it all and are living theirs already.
This has direct implications for me. I have been working diligently over the years to transform this blog from a more or less self-indulgent narrative about myself to a thing (I hope) of value to budding and experienced adventure travellers, particularly two-wheeled ones.
But the majority of advice I’ve penned is genuinely useful only for the small number of readers in Category One, or for those in Category Two who have already taken the difficult step of rearranging their life circumstances appropriately and are preparing to leave. It talks about bikes and tents and wild-camping and filmmaking, not about the savings and confidence-building and motivation and planning that must be laid down in foundation.
So I had a bit of a realisation last month when I sent a survey to members of my mailing list. The survey asked respondents to choose from a selection of new project ideas. Among them was one I’d hastily (and temporarily) titled How To Free Your Inner Adventurer.
It was described like this:
“A practical guide to rearranging your current life circumstances to accommodate a long-dreamed-of Big Adventure. This would tackle both abstract barriers (such as fear, indecision, career) and concrete ones (such as finance, mortgage, family).
“Importantly, it’d be built from real-life case studies of people who’ve already done this, and successfully so, from a broad spread of starting points. The resulting Big Adventure might involve a bicycle, but need not necessarily do so.”
Against other project ideas (including guides to the nuts and bolts of bike trip planning, travel blogging, and adventure filmmaking), this idea won by a huge margin.
It seems that a great number of you have one or more of big obstacles to tackle before you can hit the road. Your real concerns — even if you brush them under the carpet by reading about tents and touring bikes (go on, admit it!) — are to do with the implications of an enormous, multi-year, transcontinental, life-changing adventure. I know these implications well. I’ve been there myself. They are big and they are scary.
The potential impact upon your career, home, posessions, bank balance, mortgage, relationships, or all of the above, is far more frightening than the idea of simply getting on a bike and riding it, which is all that is really involved. You may also be held back by a perceived inability to fix a breakage, or find a place to sleep, or by other fears of what may go wrong, rendering moot the question of which touring bike or tent to buy.
Now, here’s a slice of irony for you.
Despite this being by far the most fresh and interesting project I could choose to work on; despite it being the big, glaring omission from all of the very good trip planning resources that already exist on the internet; despite it being the one idea that would be of the most help to the most people; and despite it being the idea that I most believed in and which fitted most closely with my mission to get more people travelling by bicycle…
It was also the idea that most terrified me. The idea that would require the most time, effort and sacrifice. The idea that involved by far the greatest unknowns.
Do these obstacles sound familiar…?
They are the same obstacles — fear, sacrifice, unknowns — that commonly prevent us from taking time out for a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
But I’m going to make this thing. This blog post, in fact, represents my ‘going public’ with a big, audacious and scary personal goal.
Going public, by the way, is one of the most powerful motivators there is. Motivation, in fact, is such a crucially important topic to understand when it comes to achieving significant change that there are likely to be whole chapters dedicated to the practical ways in which it can be employed.
Once motivation kicks in, it is all about momentum. And so I would like to end with a direct question to you; one which will do much to inform the focus of this project:
What’s the single biggest obstacle standing between you and beginning your Epic Bike Trip? How can I help you tackle it?
Answers in the comments.
P.S. It’s a little way off, but you can join my mailing list to be kept in the loop later on.