It’s three week until I board a plane bound for Romania to begin my bicycle journey to China, and one thing I know for sure, is that I’m not ready. There are in-fact many ways in which I’m not ready. The visas I need for the trip are still not processed, the equipment I need for the trip has not all been purchased, and perhaps most crucially, I still haven’t finished building the bicycle that I’m going to be riding there. What’s perhaps surprising about all of this though, is that accepting that you are not being ready is not a bad thing.
The primary concern in my mind at the moment is getting my bicycle finished, as without that the whole ‘bicycle trip to China’ aspect is going to be a lot harder. This is quite a big challenge as not only am I building a prototype of a new design of bicycle, it’s also the first bicycle I’ve ever built. Things are ticking over on this, and the pile of cut, bent, and mitred tubing on my workbench is reaching a satisfying height and lining up neatly with the drawings and plans. The ultimate welding together of it all will only take a day, so unfortunately until that point I’ve got to accept it’s going to keep looking like a big pile of tubes.
The route I’m taking is also becoming ever more fine tuned, with distances and number-of-days per leg getting mapped out. This isn’t even something I want to worry about, but the spectre of the stack of visas I’m going to need to cross nine international borders requires quite a bit of thought and paperwork. Uzbekistan and Iran are currently topping my list of difficult places to get a visa from, as I’ve found I’ve been delayed by the Iranian new year in my process for an application number. Once I get this, it still won’t be until I arrive in Istanbul that I can finally get the stamp that will allow me to cross into Iran.
What’s fortunate about this process, is that I know this is fine. That’s not to say that I’m sure I’ll get all the visa stamps in time, or that the bicycle construction will continue rolling on smoothly. What it means is that in order for me to have this adventure, there will be these unknown factors in there. You could try to plan a trip like this, for months or even years, but you would still reach a point where something happens unexpectedly and you must simply deal with it. The more you begin your journey with that attitude, the less stressful it will be when the time comes to do some problem solving.
Now I’m not saying that you could do a trip like this without planning it. The intricacies of the visa timings have needed some careful calculation and endless reference to other bicycle touring blogs about their experiences. Collecting those shared stories is very helpful, as it’s referencing similar situations that makes handling the unexpected more manageable. For example having completed several cycling tours already, the challenges of distance, finding food, finding shelter, and getting lost, also worry me less. Now having read the tales of people who have cycled similar journeys equally Iran has turned from bogeyman to an expected land of helpful hospitality.
With a journey like this, you’re always stepping into the unknown. If you weren’t, then your journey would be more a package holiday, carefully curated and guided, not necessarily worse, just absolutely different. We live in an age where we now have access to enough information about the world to pre-plan and research nearly every aspect of expeditions and journeys, but if you over-indulge in your research you not only kill the spontaneity and unexpected pleasures of your trip, you also harden yourself against being flexible and accommodating enough that when things don’t go to plan, you can change what you’re doing and roll with the punches.
Research and planning is great, but you must just accept that you’re never really, absolutely, completely ready for adventure.