I remember looking out the back of the car window as we spotted another cycle tourist, quickly turning into ants as we kept driving. But their legs still ticking over, peddling up another hill, laden with their worldly belongings. They always seemed to have the same expression on their faces. That mix of what I imagined was tiredness mixed with elation, as they conquered another part of New Zealand’s less than forgiving landscape. Always rewarded with spectacular views, that would make it all so worthwhile.
I was a little bit fascinated and in awe at what seemed like a slightly crazy way of seeing a country. Why would you choose to see New Zealand by bike… Isn’t it unrelentingly hilly for the most part? Although not wide, isn’t it pretty long? And how do you carry everything?!
That was circa 20 years ago as we drove the 7.5 hours to the picturesque Coromandel (in New Zealand) for our summer holiday. Fast forward to 2015 and I now appreciate and understand why people choose cycle touring, as I completed my first solo cycle tour in Cuba. Or what I called my ‘mini personal experiment’.
I’d spent the last 18months or so getting more immersed in the adventure world after my gorgeous friend and adventure queen bee Anna McNuff introduced me to it. I started attending various adventure talks, through Tales of Adventure and Explorers Connect, hearing stories of epic adventures around the world that took months on end and where exploring countries by any means imaginable was pretty much the norm.
It was inspiring hearing people on a mission to truly live life to the full. But a pattern started jumping out to me which was one of quitting your job, leaving loved ones behind and being away for months on end. So I looked at these people in awe, inspired by their achievements, but feeling that I’d never be in the same camp as the desire to up and quit my life as I knew it wasn’t quite there.
As can sadly be the way sometimes though, it took a tragedy to shake me slightly and realise that I didn’t need to up and quit my life to have an adventure. I can dictate what my adventure looks like, that’s right for me. So I put the idea I’d had for a few years of travelling to Cuba into motion, pushing aside my previous excuses for not going – waiting for Mr Right / other friends to come / not enough money.
I knew I didn’t want to travel the standard way (well, the general public’s standard way that is!) and was curious about this cycling touring concept. I was contracting at the time and fortunately managed to negotiate a month off work, which seemed like just the right amount of time for a mini personal experiment. Enough time that I’d get a sense of whether I enjoyed cycle touring. And if I didn’t, I’d still go home with some amazing experiences and learn even more about what makes me tick.
I can safely say that it was in fact one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I can still feel the smile on my face and sense of pure freedom, as I cycled down more of Cuba’s roads. I got back to the U.K. knowing that it wasn’t my last cycle touring trip and that I’d started to understand what adventure looks and feels like for me.
Adventure doesn’t need to entail quitting your job and being away for months on end. You can define what adventure means to you – how you travel, where you travel, who with (if anyone) and how long for. Whether it be a weekend away, two weeks or two months, you can still push yourself out of your comfort zone, experience more of the world around you in a way that you might not have previously done and understand more about what makes you, and only you, tick.