Words and photos: Beth Puliti
Originally published in Issue #40
Not everyone can do what you’re doing, you know.” I hear this a lot, and I get it. Not everyone can up and bicycle across a couple continents. Fair enough. But why aren’t people who can do it, and who want to do it, doing it?
There are innumerable reasons. But I’d venture to guess there’s one in particular that tops the list—one thing we tell ourselves over and over at the very inception of an adventure that keeps us from ever starting it.
It sounds like this: “I’m not ready.”
These three words hold so much power. They have halted countless would-be adventurers in their tracks, myself included. Think about it. We spend our days dreaming about bike touring in Southeast Asia, pedaling across the country, mountain biking the Great Divide route, or fill-in-your-own-adventure-blank.
But we don’t do it. We don’t do it because the mere thought of buying all the gear we’ll need, researching the perfect route, communicating in a foreign language and learning how to fix everything that could possibly go wrong on our bike is exhausting.
It’s more than exhausting. It’s overwhelming. So overwhelming that it paralyzes us. We feel the need to be an expert in bike mechanics, or map reading, or foreign languages before we begin any big adventure. So consumed are we by this desire to be the utmost prepared, that we make no actual progress in following through with our dream. There is always something we need to do to prepare ourselves before we begin. We never start because we’re never ready. We won’t ever be ready, and so we won’t ever start.
What is it the kids say these days? Oh, right. We’re playing ourselves.
It’s time to get over ourselves. Time to acknowledge that there is always going to be a bike mechanical we don’t know how to fix, a day where our map-reading skills lead us astray or a few more foreign phrases we could master. We can’t possibly predict everything that will happen at the onset of an adventure, but that’s OK. We’ll learn how to manage along the way. Never patched a tire, haggled for a fair taxi price or asked for the toilet in a foreign language? Maybe you won’t have to do any of these things. Maybe you’ll have to do them all. You better believe you’ll learn how to if and when the time comes.
People who do big things are faced with the same never ending pile of preparation as the rest of us. But instead of letting it freeze their forward motion, they ignore it. Because it’s the only way they’ll ever start. Nobody is ever totally ready. Some people just choose to go anyway.
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now.” – Actor Hugh Laurie.
Break Your Routine
You don’t need to quit your job, sell all of your possessions and cycle around the world to break the monotony of your every day. (Unless you want to, of course.) Work 9 to 5 and then go on a “microadventure,” as traveler Alastair Humphreys calls it, from 5 to 9.
“There are 16 glorious free hours between leaving work at 5 p.m. and returning the next morning at 9 a.m.” he says. You’re not going to reverse any sincere unhappiness you may have, Humphreys acknowledges, but it’ll restore some peace for the moment.
Beth Puliti is a writer and photographer currently traveling the world by bicycle. Read more at bethpuliti.com and follow along with her travels at @bethpuliti.