My last day at work is this Friday and the week after I’ll be heading to France to visit my family and start making my way to Spain on the 3rd of March. My trip is no longer an idea I mention casually. It is happening now. I am not pedalling yet but it is impossible to backtrack on my plans. A train ticket has been purchased, travel arrangements have been made with my family, an insurance has been selected, and lists of things not to forget have been compiled.
I try not to think much about the journey. I have no real routes planned. I had hoped to begin in Faro but it turns out to be too complicated without flying so instead I am starting in Irun, in Spain. I am thinking of following the Camino del Norte before descending into Portugal but this may change. So the preparations are done and all that is left for me to do is wait.
But still my mind doesn’t leave me alone. I think about being on the road. I do not ponder what I will see or what will happen. Guessing at answers would be akin to divination or lead to hours on Google Earth. Instead my mind pushes me to consider how I will cope on my own. I have no illusions of a bicycling idyll. I will get miserable. I will throw tantrums and yell at my bike and equipment. I will cry. I know that. This happened on a solo tour of ten days, how could it not happen on a solo tour of three months?
‘I felt a strange mixture of freedom and pointlessness. The self-containment of the solitary traveller gives you an otherworldly, off-to-one-side lightness of being. You have not the slightest bearing on the events. You cannot even converse about the business of the day, supposing you have heard it about on the radio. You do not matter. The irrelevance of the traveller, your absence of responsibility, most of the time, for anything but yourself is a strange condition. You might as well be a ghost.’ Horatio Clare – A Single Swallow
How will I cope? This is the one question I cannot answer with satisfaction or shrug away easily. And if I’m honest, it is the only aspect of this journey that scares me. So I avoid thinking about it. I stop my mind from forming assumptions based on the past, or guesses based on nothing at all, and hope for the best.
I do not know how I will react with days of my own company in countries where my grasp of the language is minimal. I repeat to myself that this is okay. I will manage as thousands before me have, and thousands after me will. And if all fun ends and there is no joy to be had during the days on the road, I can still turn back and head home early.
Pedalling Portugal will begin in March 2016. For more information about this upcoming trip, visit this page.