What comes next?

An eternal question that faces me daily. I’m not talking about the mundane…

– clean the bike

– fix the shower

– do the washing

kind of to do list. Really I mean where is my next horizon? What am I aiming at? What am I inspired to do? How can I next push myself to do more?

– Sunday will be the longest ride I have done since the Wrexham Wedding Wander, a 200Km audax called the Great Escape. By the time I roll home I should have 300Km in the bag.

– In June I’m hoping to ride the 24 hour MTB race called Mountain Mayhem as part of a four man team.

– Come July I’m planning to ride the 900km down to Mt, Ventoux in three days to volunteer at the first control of the Transcontinental Race 2015, then I’ll be trying to haul ass back to the UK in a further three days. I’m not sure how on earth I will manage this yet but I still have a few weeks left to figure that one out.

– As for 2016, I am slowly chipping away at making plans for my most audacious adventure yet. Click here for a sneak preview.

These are the things that keep me awake at night, that equally fill me with fear as well as joy and excitement. They are the things that motivate me to commute across London day in day out, or to hack my way home across the southern counties in the pouring rain after a couple of training days at Head Office. They are the things that push me beyond what I once thought was possible, into that beautiful realm where life truly begins.

Second question, what comes next for you?

Do the Balkan hitch.

Petrol station close to the Bosnian border.

Petrol station close to the Bosnian border.

Sat here on the balcony at the house up on the hill this morning; coffee, muesli, birdsong- looking back on the week that was. And what a week. Back in November I read a book called “Besieged” by Barbara Demick, a first hand account of the struggles faced by people living in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 during the war in former Yugoslavia. It proved to be as fascinating as it was heart wrenching to read, somehow through all the years of history lessons in school this particular period had been reduced to a small foot note for me. After finishing the book and reading a bit more around it I knew I had to visit the place. And so it was that last Friday morning I set about hitch hiking to Sarajevo.

It took two days hitching, arriving on Saturday night, and another two to get back; I met a friend who had come from Croatia down there and the entire week was incredible. It’s the furthest I have hitched before by a long way. It seems like when you are hitching you are essentially stepping out into the world in a slightly compromised position- and it’s then between you and the people you meet along the way to make the best of it. Hitching is an amazing way to remind yourself of how beautiful the world is, and how good the people are that live in it. I think I am usually inclined to taking a first impression and sticking with it and the distance you create between people can help support that, but I found the opposite on this trip; I had to be as open as I could manage with complete strangers and the good will I found and friends I made in return was fantastic. I hope I can hold onto this.

36 floors up in Sarajevo.

36 floors up in Sarajevo.

Before leaving I had sought the advice of a great man that has been working out here for ten years now, he has more experience hitching than anyone else I know so I approached him in search of wisdom. I had planned to combine what he told me with the things I had noted along the way as some kind of “top tips” for my first post back. Unfortunately, due to a lapse in concentration in the penultimate hitch just as we got back into a familiar setting on Thursday evening, I left a bag of things in the car. Amongst them was my journal, and all my recorded thoughts from the week were suddenly accelerating away from me. So I’m left with just one tip for now; stay alert if you want to keep your stuff! I’m holding on to a faint hope that it comes back to me, I’ve never written so much on a one week trip before.

I can only recall snippets of what I originally wrote but it’s not so bad, the week has also kicked off a violent chain reaction of potential future plans. Thoughts, ideas, inspiration- keeping me awake at night with the excitement. It’s almost as good as being out on the road, I guess when the travel bug bites, she bites hard. And then the realist in me rudely interjects. pointing out my “limited resources and blah, blah, blah…” . Obstacles can be overcome, but only if you are willing to try. Right?

Thanks for reading, more thoughts and pictures to come!

A.

P.S. Thanks mum for the new kicks, think they will take me far.

P.S. Thanks mum for the new kicks, think they will take me far.

 

The future *is* exciting.

We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last night, it’s a beautiful movie and it stirred everything in me that likes to travel, take ground and seek adventure. The world is stunning and there is so much more to see.

And maybe the most beautiful thing is to get into the place where all you see are possibilities and opportunities, not the barriers and obstacles that stand in the way. I love to think this way, planning where and when and how- worrying about the details later on. But also to take a step back from the day to day of working with the poor in Romania, which often feels like hitting your head against a brick wall. Stepping away from the canvas and remembering again that I’m already in this story, that I made the choice to be here and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be living. Gaining the perspective to see the progress made in the last six or seven months. to see past the daily frustrations. The future is exciting, but so is the now.

P.S. Google “transfagarasan”

Real Life _ Viața Reala

Image

So here’s the deal, I’ve been trying for a while now to write about the first day we spent riding through the Swiss and Italian Alps. But I’m stuck in some embarrassingly pretentious place where I want it to sound like some epic narrative with deep philosophical undertones. Sadly this is somewhat challenging due to the short blocks of writing time I find myself with, and the limitations of my intellect. I’m hoping to get over this hang up fairly soon.

In a bid to stop this place from stagnating completely in the mean time, though, I thought I would throw out some thoughts on where I find myself right now. I’m working in a new area this year, leading a team of 7 with an amazing girl called Lucy. We’re an eclectic mix; two English, three Romanians, a Swede and an American speaking German.The A-team. Four days a week we drive to the nearest city, going to work in a Roma community living on the edge of a waste dumping ground, people scraping a living from the scrap iron they can find in the wasteland. We have a small plot of land on the edge of the community where we have two container buildings, one set up as our school building and the other a small office. It isn’t easy and you can’t always tell if what you are doing is having a positive effect, but we are doing our best to build relationship with these people and improve their lot in someway.

And a few lines about the place I live. Picture a small house in the centre of a vineyard, set part way up the ridge of hills bordering the village. We have to walk past some occasionally aggressive dogs half way up the track to the house, drive all our drinking water up from the village in jerry cans and we are currently fighting off an infestation of mice and rats. Rats make a lot of noise at 4am! But it’s worth it.  The sun setting over the plains to the west is a sight to behold almost every evening, I pray I never tire of it. Add to that the strength of the community we get to live in and you get a very special place. It’s often not a comfortable life, but it is a beautiful one.