In case you missed Part 1.
It`s easy to spot those unsatisfied souls who have had a glimpse at whats out there, those who have realised the riches beyond the last page of the guidebook. Those who have made mistakes and suffered but won; had their backs against the walls and feared the worse but have come through with greater belief in themselves and the world around them.
I remember when it happened to me. It wasnt a Eureka moment more a gradual realisation. I was cycling from London to Cape Town (a rash pub based decision) and set out through familiar England, I spoke French so France was okay, Italian is just French with wild hand gestures and the Italian for pizza is pizza so no problems there. I pedalled across the border into Slovenia and was on my own. Slowly over the next 8months, 10 000miles and 13countries I realised I was going to find somewhere to sleep, I was going to find food and water, I was going to get ill but I was going to get better. People are nice (on the whole), Im not going to be robbed/shot/beaten up every minute of every day or even at all and I am going to make it!
The two countries I was most worried about cycling through on that first trip were Syria and Sudan, Id read the news I knew the horror stories. I was scared but I was wrong. Syria remains one of my favourite countries and Sudan is the benchmark I now measure hospitality in a country by.
Having conquered these fears and had some problems on that first trip but came through alive and relatively unscathed I set about upping the ante I wanted to go to all the countries I was told I shouldnt go to. So the next trip was Korea to Cape Town: the Axis of Evil by Bike.
The UKs Foreign Office advised against all travel to parts of 22countries. Over the two trips I went to 12 of them: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo (Democratic Republic), Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda.
Now this was a bit extreme and I wouldnt ever recommend going against sane and sage advice but as an exercise in finding out the truth for myself then it was a huge success. I was arrested eleven times for various offences mainly based around me refusing to pay bribes; I got sunstroke, frostbite, cerebral malaria, amoebic dysentery and seven blood and stomach parasites, I was shot at and crashed into but I made it! I made it out alive and relatively unscathed!
Id worked out that people matter not politics. Id found out there was no real limit to human kindness and that I could go and survive and even enjoy most places. What I wanted to test next was me. Cycling 34 000miles over two trips in 24months was tough but I always knew there was more. I never got to the point where I couldnt carry on; I always had something left in the tank. Ive always been relatively conservative, I never gave my all for fear of not having anything left at the end and Ive had to work hard to train myself to give my all. This can come in many forms and can be achieved in many ways.
The traveller was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sight-seeing.
Be a traveller, be an adventurer.
- Make mistakes. Learn from them and then make different mistakes.
- Get lost-actively avoid the beaten track.
- Eat local, drink local, buy local, learn local.
- Get sick, get better. Get tired, get fit. Get hot, get cold.
- Hitch hike, climb, walk, cycle, trek, swim, raft, canoe, sail, ride a horse/camel/donkey.
- Tempt fate.
- Travel off the end of the map-discover whats over the horizon.
Due to the pace of cycling I always had lots of times to think out scenarios and plan out what Id do. This never fully worked but it gave me more confidence in being able to think on my feet. Id always over plan and then go with the flow.
There is no right and wrong to this only tried and not tried. Id hate to think that I left this earth with a rock unturned and a chapter unread. I fully intend to choke on huge chunks of life. I want to see a world whose beauty cant be captured on film, whose story cant be retold, whose effect cant be felt in the same way by anyone else.
“Quite possibly, what I call happiness may coincide with what others call the moment of imminent danger”. – Yukio Mishima
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Dan Martin cycled from London to Cape Town via the Middle East & the east coast of Africa in 2005-2006 and from Korea to Cape Town via the Axis of Evil and the west coast of Africa in 2007-2008. He is currently training for the Global Triathlon-a 3500mile swim from New York to France, an 8000mile cycle from France to Fairbanks, Alaska and a 5500mile run from Fairbanks to New York. Check out his website and follow him on twitter @danielmartinadv.
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