01 Jun Tea and the Ill Prepared
With just under 2 weeks until departure, my self-billed adventure of ‘one man, one bike, one long ride’ has taken on the new guise of ‘one under-prepared chump, one box of components, one big problem’. As a master of procrastination I have, yet again, managed to stare through a computer monitor all day and sipped through gallons of tea. Without tea, man could probably be living on the moon by now but with its heart warming charms and taste in classical music, tea won over the human race many centuries ago and continues to delay man’s progress even today. It’s a surprise to me that the government hasn’t banned tea from the workplace in an initiative to save money spent on tea paraphernalia, increase time at the desk and reduce toilet breaks by half. Yes, I blame tea, that cheeky scamp with its love for scuba diving and urinating in the pool, for every last minute essay written, bus missed and overdue child; and it is tea’s fault that I am not prepared today.
In tea’s defense I am unsure whether cycling around the world is something you can ever prepare for. From the comfort of a suburban family home in central England it’s hard to imagine the November climate of Uzbekistan or barren landscapes of the Peruvian Andes, let alone know how to prepare for them. Beneath a giant map of the world upon which visa issues and rough dates of arrival are scrawled, my attempts to equip myself for the next few years lay scattered across the floor. A stove that burns anything from jet fuel to dinner ladies’ farts, a water filter that could filter the pope out of holy water and a tent so small and light I wouldn’t notice if I accidentally inhaled it. And can I use them? No. I am the man I have always avoided being, I am the man who has all the gear and no idea.
Although in having the equipment and still a couple of weeks before leaving, I at least have a fighting chance of surviving. As with every aspect of this adventure so far, the learning curve plots a huge mountain to climb before even the first pedal stroke has been turned. In the year that it has taken to get to this point, I have had to get a job, learn it and leave it, met amazing people and left them, I have learned how to write a website from scratch, publicise myself, coordinate media and raise sponsorship; none of which I would have imagined or could have achieved 12 months ago. Physical preparation is the easy part, essentially buying things and getting fit, however, if mental preparation exists, I don’t know that it is something I will ever completely grasp. A field of four leaf clovers, a warren of rabbits feet and the confidence to jump in at the deep end are a reasonable substitute but the combination doesn’t lead to a good night’s sleep. Whether mental preparation is a retrospective figment of imaginative story telling I am yet to find out, but only by putting myself into the situation and learning through it will my mind be able to accommodate the preparation required.
As friends call and visit to check on my progress, we sit drinking tea and discuss the merits of burning Naphtha over Kerosene. Nodding along, we know that I have no idea what they are, where you get them or how you would make fire out of them in the rare instance that I was given some. But in sharing a brew and a laugh, in being human and counter productive, we ease our minds and enjoy the moment. In the years to come I’m quietly confident that I will have much greater memories of cups of tea shared with friends and strangers than I will of choosing camping stove fuel.