On Sunday, April 1st, 2012, I will embark upon my maiden cycle touring adventure. I will be combining cycling with WWOOFing as I travel across Europe and maybe even farther afield some day. Here I explain my motivations behind the tour and the changes that took place in my life recently which have led me to this point. Thanks for reading and happy cycling :)
All Change Please, All Change
In October 2009, myself and my wife separated after realising we had grown apart and I found myself living alone and beginning to ask myself what I wanted from life. I began to think in-depth, for the first time ever, about what it was that really made me happy and just what I wanted to achieve in the future. Until that point, I thought I was happy just to drift along and let external influences shape the course of my life.
Other than moving to Ireland, I had never had to make any life-changing decisions and never experienced any of those moments of clarity, regarding my chosen career path, which some people seem to have. I never knew what I wanted to do when I left school and ended up picking a course in computing that I only really had a half-hearted interest in. I dropped out after a year and changed colleges to start a course in media studies but again, I had no particular goal in mind. After completing that course and following a couple of years away from study I took my media and design communications qualification to a higher level at university. Towards the end of this course the opportunity to move to Ireland presented itself and I took it. It came at an ideal time as I would soon need to pursue this chosen career path and move out of my mothers house.
Ireland didn't seem that different to England. I found a job and a place to live during a week long visit, a month or so before the end of my course and then settled into my new life with ease. I have always said, it doesn't matter where you choose to live once you are surrounded with family, friends and have a good job. I never felt one homesick got on with living happily. This period was a boom time for Ireland and I enjoyed the trappings of a having a couple of relatively well paid jobs for almost 10 years, until what was to become a global recession began to take hold. Within a couple of years I'd had to take a 35% pay cut and things were looking increasingly bleak. It was then that my marriage ended.
In August 2009, I rekindled my love affair with cycling and at the start of that month had completed my first ever 100km cycle. I even went cycling with Lance Armstrong! But, for a few months immediately after separating, I found myself feeling out of sorts. I was usually a jolly person but was struggling a lot during this time. I am not a particularly emotional person so dealt with it by keeping myself and my mind occupied.
After a visit home for Xmas 2009, I returned to Ireland and kicked myself into shape. I moved to a nicer house share with a great group of people and began to get out and about more. In the first few months of 2010, I joined a local social cycling group and joined the local cycling club. I was cycling more often and further than I had at any time previously, I was also getting fitter. Things were on the up. I reveled in the enjoyment that cycling was giving me I began to think about other cycling challenges - the first of which would be attempting to cycle 12,000km in 2011.
Every waking moment was spent cycling and I soon realised that cycling was the cure to all my ills and was making me happier than I had ever been. I was sharing my passion with two other work colleagues and we would cycle the local hills every Monday evening after work. I was also out regularly with both the social cycling group and the cycling club. Even though the pay cut had made life pretty tough, I could cycle for free and happiness was not costing me a penny. It was then that the idea of a cycle tour began to develop in my head.
I had just turned 36 and figured that if I could maintain the status quo for a few years, I could save a decent amount of money to allow me to cycle tour comfortably for a few years. I began to research cycle touring and just what was involved. I had also been given both of Alastair Humphreys' books for my birthday and could not put them down. I then started to buy as many books on cycle touring as I could find! My head was being filled with stories of travel and my own plans were beginning to take shape. Then, in May 2011, I got made redundant!
Best Laid Plans and All That
Just as I was beginning to get comfortable, the rug was pulled out from beneath my feet. I knew, from friends and colleagues who had lost their jobs during the previous couple of years, that work was hard to find in Ireland but I think by then I had come to realise that my time in Ireland was coming to an end.
That April, William and Kate had got married and whilst watching it I realised that Ireland no longer felt like home for me. In keeping myself so busy during the past 18 months I hadn't given it much consideration, but I think I was beginning to feel a little homesick. This realisation came as quite a shock to me as I have never felt particularly patriotic and living in Ireland I certainly didn't indulge in open displays of Englishness, in fact, quite the opposite. I think I had begun to lose my identity, it was either that or I had just reached the peak of everything I was going to achieve in Ireland
After the news about the job, which had loomed for quite some time, I tried my hand at freelancing for a while but with competition in the industry so fierce, I didn't have much luck. The odd job trickled in but not enough to make it worthwhile. I then had a big decision to make - do I settle down and find full-time employment or do I bite the bullet and go cycle touring?
Blue Pill or Red Pill?
Once inside the rabbit hole, I set about organising myself properly and began by selling lost of my things. In the film 'Fight Club' Brad Pitt delivers the line "the things you own, end up owning you". This was certainly true in my case and I began to take as much pleasure in getting rid of my stuff as I had done when purchasing it in the first place. It felt good to get shot of it all.
Take Me To The Future
Whilst continuing to freelance and undertake various other jobs for friends and family, I spent the rest of my time planning the cycle tour. I started a Tour Diary to chart my planning progress and will continue to update this weekly, during my tour, reflecting upon the new experiences I will hopefully be enjoying.
Now that this site is up and running, I will endeavour to blog and update it regularly as I cycle and wwoof my way around Europe. It's always lovely to hear from fellow cyclists and I would love to know if you find my travels interesting and find the information I have compiled here, useful. It would also be lovely to hear from anyone else who is on or is planning a cycle touring adventure of their own.
If you have made it here to the end, thank you for reading. I hope my story might inspire you to follow your dreams and aim a little higher to achieve your goals. I hope also that you might like to follow my progress as I cycle tour across Europe and maybe beyond :)