Every now and again, I feel like taking a long break from life and going on an adventure.
Where I’m from, gap years are not that common, and unless your family has never had any money worries, you’re probably thinking of looking for a job right after graduating. Once you do, you hold on to it for dear life, because there’s not many jobs going on, and you feel like you should consider yourself lucky to have one. Travel? What travel? With what you’re making, a week in a beach resort in Egypt is probably the height of your dreams. Getting three or four weeks off? Forget it, you might as well quit. Then, there’s the societal pressure to settle down, get married, have children…
In short, once you’re a proper adult, there’s not much chance of you going on a proper adventure.
I’ve always felt slightly envious of those people who do crazy stuff. People who go quit their jobs to go to Malawi and build orphanages, or trek through Asia on a donkey, or some such. The wacky adventure I’d like to go on one day seems like a walk in the park in comparison.
See, I really, really want to ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. Alone.
In the grand scheme of things, the 874 miles is nothing. It’s perfectly doable in 2 weeks if you take it easy, less if you push yourself. It’s finding the time to do it that proves the most challenging. There’s always something else going on, some other trip planned already, and never enough annual leave to cram it all in.
But I promised myself I will complete it before I turn 40. So I still have a few years left.
The route, commonly known as LEJOG, is one of the most popular long distance rides in Britain, and takes you from the southwestern tip of the country to the northeastern one. I’m normally great with planning things, but I’ve never done a really long ride or a cycling holiday before, so even the thought of packing is daunting. How much stuff would I need? What should I leave behind? Should I camp it (probably not) or stay at local B&Bs and hostels (which sounds like a much better option)? When is the best time to go? Should I go hard and pedal like crazy, or take it easy and enjoy the experience? Should I do it for fun or for charity? So many questions, so many things to consider.
For me, the biggest challenge is doing it on my own. I’m very fond of travelling by myself, but a long distance bicycle ride is a whole other story. It takes a lot of resilience to keep on going, even when you’re knackered and you just want to rest your legs. To get in your seat, even though your arse is screaming in protest. To solve problems as and when they come, with no help from anyone. Yes, it’s terrifying, but also exciting somehow.
One thing I know for sure: I will do it, eventually. Because even though to some people completing LEJOG might seem like nothing major, to me it would be a massive achievement.
It’s all a matter of perspective.