Gremlins and Bridges

Take an optimistic dreamer with a warped sense of adventure and a deep streak of stubborn determination, stir in a little social conscientiousness, combine it with opportunity, and suddenly it becomes borderline normal to think that riding a bicycle across one of the largest countries in the world for charity is a great idea. 

That is how this happened.

Deciding to do the 2018 China Traverse was the easy part. The actual realities of undertaking this journey are, of course, a more challenging kettle of fish. And as departure day inches closer, those realities become increasingly more tangible… and more terrifying.

The sheer scale of the journey ahead hit me mid-conversation a while back, when I caught sight of a large-scale world map hanging on a friend’s wall. It rendered me a bit speechless. That, by the way, is no mean feat, but the sheer scale of China took my breath away. It was the first time I really got a sense for just how much earth space China covers. 

As the logistics of undertaking the 2018 China Traverse ramp up a notch, annoyingly, the little gremlins in my mind are also finding their voice. In quiet moments I find myself assailed with little doubts … will I be fit enough? … will I cope with the food?... is my gear good enough to cope with the weather? … will anyone be interested in following my journey? … how will I ever met my fundraising goal of 70 bicycles? … will I fit in with the @thelongwayhomenz girls? … what if I have a mechanical issue in the middle of the desert and I don’t know how to fix it...?

Rebecca (of @thelongwayhomenz) and I have a saying, about not crossing bridges before you get to them. We use it whenever either one of us is getting too caught up in trying to solve a situation before it has actually presented itself. We both seem to suffer from a tendency to race ahead and imagine all possible eventualities in our minds, spending an inordinate amount of time trying to think through all the things that could possibly go wrong. Given our respective professional backgrounds in operations management and analytics, we like to consider this ability a skill. But if I am being honest, while it might be useful in business, working through multiple contingency plans for your own life is really, well… a bit naff. 

Life has taught me that however you think things are going to go, they probably won’t. And that is the thing about crossing bridges too soon. You cross too many of them and you will likely not need a single one. Challenging things will happen in life. That is almost a certainty. But almost always, the things that happen will be completely and utterly different to what you imagined and your previously constructed solutions are rendered useless.

Things happen. Spanners will always end up being thrown in the works. But remarkably, when unexpected things happen in life, we tend to just figure it out. We have to. 

And we do. 

Life can seem stable and certain and our steps can feel steady and sure. Until it happens. Whatever it is. The change. The moment. The gradual drift. At some point we all find ourselves in positions we never expected, never prepared for, and most certainty never saw coming. And that, that is when it is ok to start looking for bridges.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no cowboy. I am not going to be undertaking this journey across China without a little due diligence. I will be learning about how my bike works and how to fix basic mechanical issues. I have spent hours googling and learning about the areas we are going through and the best routes to take. I’ve talked to others who have been on similar journeys. I will have travel insurance. I will be thorough and make the best decisions I can regarding the gear that I take. 

But despite all the planning and preparation, at some point I just need to get on my bike and start pedalling. 

I have no doubt that at some point on this epic journey I will strike situations I am not expecting. I will be faced with multiple challenges that I cannot foresee. And I guess in those moments, well… I will just have to figure it out. And while the noisy little gremlins in my mind are at times not easily shushed, I try and give them as little oxygen as possible. I am trying to take my own advice and not go crossing bridges. Trying not to imagine and invent too many possible eventualities. Instead I am trying to focus on simply doing what I can in the here and now. Training, logistics, gear prep.

And then, when the time comes, I suppose I will get on my bike …and just start pedalling.

(nb. Bridge: a structure built for the purpose of providing safe passage over a difficult obstacle)

China makes India look quite small. I try not to visualise this world map too much.