Directly – ‘Why cycle through India and China?’ – or indirectly – ‘Are you crazy?’ – many of you have asked ‘Why?’.
You will, I imagine, feel me ask this too, exasperated, many times in future posts. So, with ‘Why?’, I start writing to you all. The glib response – ‘why not!’ – does contain a flash of truth, though the longer answer, born of persistent feelings and (perhaps) rational dreaming is closer to the truth.
The real answer though may end up being: I’ll tell you when I get back!
Sometimes ‘Why not’ may be justification enough: a change can be the continuation of an existing though perhaps unnoticed pattern – does it therefore really need a separate cause? Desiring development naturally leads to change, and we chase, or perhaps more accurately are pursued by opportunities which at times are too aggressive but at times we find ourselves able, and enthused to embrace.
Nevertheless, this choice demands further explanation: Hitchhiking from London to Morocco aged 19 proved a real adventure – the path was decided along the way; pulling myself from the best time of my life, during my course at Uni, to go and have the new best time in Madrid the following year felt like a similarly difficult though hindsight-validated choice. I have had these urges to push on and explore my horizons for some time.
It is of course not always the right time, but the natural changes that life brings, that we often try, strenuously to defend against, can also make things easier – though never easy! Often, I feel that the great challenge is accurately weighing the certain, painful losses change brings against the nebulous, fear-tinged, seemingly unnecessary, though usually enlivening gains. And we filibuster ourselves so effectively!
Luckily, excitement is a wonderful stimulant for action and this adventure definitely excites me: It excites because it is unstructured, challenging me to be self-reliant or scarier still, reliant on (foreign!) strangers; it excites me to explore the world, full of different bubbles, different ‘facts’, different ways of seeing them (as we have all recently been reminded); it excites me to hear of different stories and different dreams. Above all, it excites me because I don’t know what I will find. For me it is a real exploration.
And yet, real explorers of the past combined undoubted personal challenge with a broader voyage of discovery or world first. Is this part of the why? If so I have chosen poorly: cycling in India and China, I will be doing something which perhaps a third of the world’s population does frequently, considers mundane even. I think, rather, my aim is to discover little, but uncover much. For me, with much discovered, our challenge appears as much about reading the book of the world, cover to cover, as translating it for the first time.
As for other ‘Whys’, the concrete ones, overcoming the glut of options and the slippy slope to indecisive procrastination, now, at least, at last, I have answers to some of these:
Why now? Simply, aged thirty, and with aspects of my personal life presenting an opening the question becomes now or never, or at least now or later; and in a likely 50-year career, later feels late!
Why India and China? A third of the world’s population, two of the most ancient cultures, two vital, fascinating modern countries, two different perspectives, from each other and from mine – in short, two of the most ‘exotic’ places I could think of…oh and I like the idea that the Himalayas are on the way (or perhaps that should be in the way).
Why cycling? I hate cycling. The last time I rode a bike I fell off. But: it is quicker than walking, a positive given India and China are quite large; it is also more intimate, intriguing and discreet than a flashy car; and lastly, I do feel like a different physical challenge from that presented by London life would do me good – for once in my life.
And why alone? Because no one would come with me…or because I am bad company – you decide.